Unlike some states, California law does not differentiate between the possession of a few pornographic images of minors or many. Under California Penal Code Section 311.11, you could be charged with a felony for knowingly possessing any amount of child pornography.

Understanding Child Pornography Laws (California Penal Code Section 311.11)

California child pornography laws are made up of one or more “elements” that define the crime. Though in this blog we are specifically dealing with one law (California Penal Code Section 311.11) and its correlating crime of possession of child pornography, we are actually dealing with a series of elements that define the crime. First, let’s look at the elements of the law and how the prosecution attempts to use it in order to convict you of this crime.

California's child pornography laws are very strict. Call Wallin & Klarich today.
California’s child pornography laws are some of the most strict in the country.

California Penal Code Section 311.11 says that it is illegal to “knowingly possess or control” pornographic matter involving a person under the age of 18. The main element to consider is the definition of child pornography. In order to convict you, the prosecution must prove that the material in your possession:

  • Depicts a person engaging in or simulating sexual conduct, and
  • That person is under the age of 18

The pornographic matter can be in nearly any form, including film, photographs, videotapes, or computer generated or computer stored images. The matter must depict real or simulated sexual conduct.

Punishment for Possessing Child Pornography

Per California Penal Code Section 311.11, possessing any amount of child pornography is a felony that is punishable by up to one year in state prison or county jail, and a fine of up to $2,500. 1

Under PC 311.11(b), if you have been convicted of any previous child pornography offense, are a registered sex offender, or if you have a previous conviction for attempting to violate child pornography or child sex abuse laws, your punishment will be enhanced to include a two, four, or six years in prison.

There are two situations in which the number of child pornographic images possessed is taken into consideration by the court. The first is having more than 600 images of child pornography where 10 or more of those images involve a minor under the age of 12. The second situation involves having any images involving sexual sadism or sexual masochism of a child under the age of 18. The law defines sexual sadism as the infliction of pain for sexual pleasure and defines sexual masochism as intentionally experiencing pain for sexual stimulation or gratification. If either of those two situations apply, you could be sentenced to up to one year in jail and fined up to $2,500.

California law requires that anyone convicted of a child pornography offense register for life as a sex offender. Failing to register when required to do so is illegal and you can be charged with a separate crime if you fail to register.

Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

If you or a loved one is facing a child pornography charge, it is critical that you speak to an experienced sex crimes attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully defending clients facing child pornography charges. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich sex crimes attorney near you no matter where you live or work.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.


1. [http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&sectionNum=311.11.]

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