Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Pennsylvania Child Pornography Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Child Pornography Laws

Pennsylvania criminalizes many activities related to child pornography through its sexual abuse laws. State law prohibits the photographing, filming, and videotaping of a sexual act involving a child under the age of 18, regardless of whether the sexual act is real or simulated. A prosecutor must show that the defendant knowingly engaged in photographing, filming, or videotaping of the sexual act; however, the prosecutor does not need to prove the defendant's knowledge of the child's age.

Pennsylvania state laws also prohibit the dissemination of child pornography materials. A prosecutor may open a case against a defendant who shares, sells, distributes, or exhibits materials or recordings that include children under the age of 18.

See FindLaw's Crimes Against Children section to learn about similar crimes.

In addition, Pennsylvania law punishes the voluntary viewing or possession of child pornography within an individual's own home or another setting within the defendant's control. The prosecutor must show that the defendant kept pornographic photographs, books, videotapes, films, or computer files showing children. The prosecutor must also prove that the defendant intentionally viewed these materials or knowingly kept the materials in the defendant's possession.

Penalties and Sentences

Photographing, filming, or videotaping child pornography is a second degree felony in Pennsylvania. A conviction may result in a sentence of imprisonment for up to 10 years.

The punishment for the distribution of child pornography or for the viewing, possessing, or control of child pornography depends on whether the defendant has previous convictions for the same offense. A first offense is a third degree felony, which may result in a term of imprisonment for up to five years. Any subsequent offense will be a second degree felony and punishable by a sentence of imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Mandatory Sex Offender Registration

Pennsylvania laws require the registration of sexually violent predators with the State Board to Assess Sexually Violent Predators. While possession of child pornography might not necessarily qualify a convicted offender as a sexually violent predator, at least one state court has found that multiple convictions for sexual abuse of a child based on child pornography charges might be enough to require registration.

Federal laws also prohibit child pornography violations. An accused offender may face charges in federal district court in addition to, or instead of, charges in Pennsylvania state court.

Below you will find detailed information about child pornography charges in Pennsylvania.

Code Section

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. 7621
  • Material possessed or brought into Pennsylvania for an educational, government, judicial, or scientific purpose
  • Accidental or involuntary viewing of prohibited pornography materials

Note: The defendant's mistake regarding the child's age or the child's misrepresentation about age maynot be used as defenses to a child pornography charge.


Misdemeanor or Felony as noted above

Mandatory Sex Registration?

Yes, see above.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Pennsylvania Criminal Laws Related Resources:

Facing Child Pornography Charges in Pennsylvania? Get Legal Help

If you're facing child pornography charges, you'll want to understand both the law and the consequences surrounding a plea or conviction. Particularly, you'll want to understand the requirements to register as a sex offender if convicted. The best way to get a better understanding of Pennsylvania child pornography laws and how they apply to your case is the get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney near you today.

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex cases usually require a lawyer
  • Experienced lawyers can seek to reduce or eliminate criminal penalties
  • Sexual assaults & sex crime convictions often have long sentences and lifelong consequences

Get tailored legal advice and ask a lawyer questions. Many attorneys offer free consultations.


 If you need an attorney, find one right now.

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options