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Tennessee Child Pornography Laws

In no place in the United States is child pornography legal. Tennessee penalizes the creators and owners of child pornography based on their conduct. The more involved the conduct, the more severe the consequences.

Unlike those of some states, Tennessee child pornography offenses don't rely on the age of the victim significantly. Thus, child pornography with a 17 year old can be treated the same as with a 4 year old. Also, prosecutors don't have to prove the age of the child in the pornographic materials, so appearing to depict children under 18 in a sexual manner is enough to be charged with child porn offenses.

The main provisions of the Tennessee child pornography laws are outlined below.

Code Sections

Tennessee Code Sections 39-17-1003: Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, 39-17-1004: Aggravated Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, and 39-17-1005: Especially Aggravated Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

What Is Prohibited?

Basic sexual exploitation of a minor is knowingly possessing material showing a child under 18 engaged in sexual activity or simulated sexual activity that's patently offensive. Sexual activity is considered any of the following:

  • Vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse
  • Masturbation
  • Insertion of any body part or object into another's anus or vagina (except for appropriate medical procedures)
  • Offensive physical contact of genitals, buttocks, or breasts
  • Sadomasochism
  • Offensive depictions of excretions
  • Exhibition of genitals, buttocks, anuses, or female breasts

This lowest level child porn possession offense is a Class D felony, unless there are more than 50 images or films, in which case it's a Class C Felony. If there are more than 100 images or films, it's a Class B felony.

For aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, a person must have knowingly promoted, sold, transported, or exchanged obscene materials showing a child engaged in sexual activity. Possession with the intention to sell or distribute is also considered aggravated. This is a Class C felony unless there were more than 25 images, then the offense is upgraded to a Class B felony.

If an individual knowingly photographs a minor for the purposes of sexual gratification, the minor is in a state of nudity, and the minor had a reasonable expectation of privacy, the individual taking the picture can be charged with aggravated unlawful photographing, which is a Class C felony.

Especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor is knowingly using, transporting, or permitting a child to engage in the performance or production of materials that show the child engaging in sexual activity. This is the offense for child porn creators. Each performance, film, or picture can be a separate charge and each is a Class B felony. Joint conviction with sex crimes is possible, even if from the same conduct. Depending on the conduct of the child pornographer, additional charges could be filed, including rape, sexual battery, continuous sexual abuse of a child, assault, domestic assault, and human trafficking.

The prosecuting attorney doesn't have to prove the actual age of the child involved for any of these offenses.


In Tennessee, the penalties for child pornography crimes listed above by felony class are:

  • Class A Felony - 15-60 years in prison and a fine not more than $50,000
  • Class B Felony - 8-30 years in prison and a fine not more than $25,000
  • Class C Felony - 3-15 years in prison and a fine not more than $10,000
  • Class D Felony - 2-12 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $5,000

Additionally, the assets of the wrongdoer could be seized. Under Tennessee Code Section 39-17-1008, the real or personal property used in commission of the sexual exploitation of minors can be forfeited. The proceeds will be sent to the state child abuse fund.


Tennessee law explicitly states that consent is not a defense to child porn offenses, much like statutory rape laws. However, other defenses may apply, such as innocence, insanity, or lack of intent (for example, you didn't realize when you purchased a porno that it was of children).

Note: State and federal laws change frequently -- contact a Tennessee sex crime attorney or conduct your own legal research to confirm the currentness the laws you are researching.

Research the Law

Tennessee Sexual Assault Laws: Related Resources

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