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Utah Child Pornography Laws

Under both federal and state laws, it's illegal to produce, distribute, or sell child pornography. Utah criminalizes child pornography under the Sexual Exploitation Act. This act prohibits the sexual exploitation of minors (people who are less than 18 years old). This article provides a brief overview of Utah's Sexual Exploitation Act as it relates to child pornography.

The Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

The Sexual Exploitation Act defines child pornography as any visual depiction (including a live performance, photograph, film, video, picture, or computer generated image) of sexually explicit conduct where:

  • The production of the material involves a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct
  • The visual depiction is of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct, or
  • The visual depiction has been created to appear that a minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct

Additionally, the act defines "sexually explicit conduct" as actual or simulated:

  • Sexual intercourse between people of the same or opposite sex (including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal)
  • Masturbation
  • Bestiality
  • Sadistic or masochistic activities
  • Lascivious exhibition of the genitals, pubic region, buttocks, or female breasts, or
  • Explicit representations of the defecation or urination functions

Code Section

Utah Criminal Code section 76-5b-201: Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

What's Prohibited?

  • Knowingly producing, possessing, or possessing with the intent to distribute child pornography
  • Intentionally distributing child pornography
  • Intentionally viewing child pornography
  • (If the person is a minor's parent or legal guardian) Knowingly consenting or permitting the minor to be sexually exploited


Second-degree felony. Punishable by imprisonment for between one and 15 years, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

It is a separate offense for each minor depicted in the child pornography, and for each time that the same minor is depicted in different child pornography.

Affirmative Defense

It is an affirmative defense to a child pornography charge that no person under 18 years old was actually depicted in the material or used in the producing or advertising of the visual depiction.
Lack of Knowledge Isn't a Defense

It isn't a defense that the accused didn't know the age of the victim.

Distribution of Intimate Images

Offenders who distribute child pornography may also be guilty of the related offense "distribution of intimate images." In Utah it is illegal to intentionally distribute (with the intent to cause emotional distress or harm) any intimate image of a person who is less than 18 years old if:

  • The offender knows that the minor hasn't consented to the image being distributed
  • The intimate image was created under circumstances where the minor had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and
  • The minor experiences actual emotional distress as a result of the image being distributed

It is important to note that this law doesn't prohibit the distribution of child pornography, but rather prohibits the distribution of "intimate images." Utah's criminal code defines intimate images as visual depiction of genitals with less than an opaque covering, a female breast with less than an opaque covering (or any portion of the female breast below the areola), or an individual engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Distribution of an intimate image is a Class A misdemeanor for a first offense, and is elevated to a third degree felony offense for a second (or subsequent) offense.

State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding Utah's child pornography laws contact a local criminal defense attorney.

Additional Resources

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