What is Illegal to View on the Internet?

Learn what you can and cannot view online according to state and federal child pornography law

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With so many sex crimes in the news based on so many things, you may be wondering what is illegal to view on the Internet. That's an important question since Internet use can lead to sex crime charges, which can result in fines and even prison time.

Viewing Adult Porn Is Not Illegal on the Internet

First, you should know what constitutes porn, or pornography. In Texas, it's considered to be written or visual material which depicts sexual or lewd acts that are meant to cause sexual arousal.

Next, you should know that viewing such porn on the Internet is not illegal in itself. That's a good thing, even for those who do not search for porn on the Internet, since porn content often can pop up accidentally in random searches or within website ads on an innocent user's computer, tablet or phone.

Even so, in order to view porn on the Internet legally in Texas, a person must:

  • Be 18 years or older, which constitutes an adult under Texas law
  • Only view material depicting consenting adults aged 18 or over
  • Not give pornographic material to minors under age 18

Thus, it's legal in Texas for consenting adults 18 or over to possess, purchase or view pornography, whether via the Internet or other means, as long as such material depicts consenting adults who are over age 18.

Viewing Child Porn Is Highly Illegal on the Internet

Though viewing porn on the Internet can be protected by law, the legality of selling, buying or viewing porn on the Internet also depends on the circumstances. For instance, possessing or promoting child pornography is illegal under Texas Penal Code Title 9 Sec. 43.26, as well as under federal laws.

Violation of such laws can lead to extensive prison time, fines and lifelong registry as a sex offender.

Even prominent persons have learned how serious child porn charges can be. Actor Mark Salling, who starred for six seasons in the cast of Fox's Glee, faces four to seven years in prison for possessing child porn on his computer, along with at least $50,000 in fines and lifelong registry as a sex offender.

Texas Child Porn Laws

Under Texas law, it is illegal when a person "knowingly or intentionally possesses, or knowingly or intentionally accesses with intent to view, visual material that visually depicts a child younger than 18 years of age at the time the image of the child was made who is engaging in sexual conduct."

Depending on the circumstances, such offenses can be considered first degree, second degree or third degree felonies, all of which can lead to years of prison time. Child porn sentences, especially, can be unreasonable.

Federal Laws Targeting Internet Porn

Several federal laws targeting Internet porn in general and child porn in particular have been struck down by courts in recent years as unconstitutional under the First Amendment, even though child pornography is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. Overall, recent cases have favored those who assert that federal control of Internet pornography amounts to censorship.

Even so, there remains an important distinction between viewing porn and downloading porn. Keep in mind that law enforcement authorities often have the means to track an Internet user's IP address and other Internet connections. If they find that illegal content such as child porn has been downloaded—which is a crime—it can be difficult to establish innocence.

However, merely visiting a website which shows pornography of any kind can be difficult to prosecute. Thus, in terms of what is illegal to view on the Internet, simply watching porn on the Internet is much safer legally than downloading porn.

Defense Against Internet Porn Charges

 Experienced and knowledgeable legal support is especially important when Internet child porn charges are involved. If you face an unfair arrest for Internet porn, particularly child porn, you should be exploring your defense against Internet porn charges. In that case, Houston child porn defense attorney Neal Davis can help.

A skilled computer crimes attorney is well aware of the seriousness of charges relating to possession of child porn on a computer. These can lead to severe punishments even for a first-time offender.

At the Neal Davis Law Firm, we focus on helping persons facing charges involving illegal viewing or downloading of pornographic images on the Internet. If you or a family member faces such a charge, notify veteran Houston criminal defense lawyer Neal Davis today for legal help in Harris County, Fort Bend County or Montgomery County.

When you do, you'll get a legal review of your case that is completely confidential, and for which you have no obligation. Then, you'll be advised of your best course of action to defend charges of illegal viewing on the Internet.

Neal Davis has helped many clients get their charges reduced or even dismissed before trial, and he may be able to help you, too.

Get skilled legal help from Neal Davis today – and get results.

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