Exclusively Practicing Criminal Defense for
Two Decades
David Olshansky

Child Pornography

The issue of child pornography has come to the forefront due to wider awareness and greater concern from the general public. The State of Illinois has introduced a comprehensive set of laws that prohibit the making and distribution of images of children who are less than 18 years of age.

While the move is welcomed from every circle, there have also been cases where people have been wrongly charges under the Child Pornography laws. There have been cases where internet users unwittingly clicked on links that led them to child pornographic websites or watched some material under the impression that the actors or actresses were over the legal age.

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if a person is over or under the age of 18 years while viewing a video or image online and there are far more people who watch such material under the wrong impression than there are people who are actively seeking out child pornography.

State Legislation

Child pornography is covered by 720 ILCS 5/11-20. It covers children under 18 years old and people with severe intellectual disability. The law states that a person commits child pornography when he or she films, videotapes, photographs or depicts similar visual medium of a child, or mentally deficient person, in one of the following conditions.

  • Stimulating or engaged in sexual conduct, alone or with another person.
  • Stimulating or engaged with sexual organs.
  • Stimulating or engaged in masturbation.
  • Portraying the child, or mentally deficient person, as an object of lewd fondling or touching.
  • Engaging in an act of excretion within a sexual context.
  • Depicting the child or the mentally deficient person in any pose or setting involving a lewd exhibition in an undressed or transparently dressed state.

The charge of child pornography can be elevated to aggravated child pornography when the child involved in the act is under the age of 13.


Most child pornography offenses are charged as Class 1 felonies which carry a penalty of 4 to 15 years. The state prosecution may charge possession of child pornography as a Class 3 felony in order to get a conviction.

Aggravated child pornography is generally charged as a Class X felony as it is considered far more serious. The Class X felony can be punished by 6 to 30 years in prison.

Considerations for Child Pornography

We live in a digital age of computers and internet. In most cases where people were charged with child pornography, the prosecution relied on computers, mobiles and some kind of messaging service as evidence.

However, the problem with computers is that not too many people are good at using them or know exactly how they operate. Pop ups and hidden links have the potential to take people to illegal, under age websites by accident. It is even possible for images to end up getting saved in the storage which the user has not even viewed or tried to access.

Frequently, there is also the question of determining age. Some people and models appear older than they are. A person watching a pornographic video may be under the wrong impression that the actor or actress is over 18 years old while they in fact under age.

Recent Examples and Court Cases

Phillip Plechsmid, 23, was recently arrested for possession of child pornography videos on his computer by the police. His bond was set at $50,000 by the court.

The State attorney’s office had been investigating illegal child pornography videos and material online when they discovered a suspicious IP address in Illinois connected with child pornographic activity on the web. They began investigating the IP address and received a warrant to search Plechsmid’s home in May 2017.

Detectives entered his home, talked to Plechsmid and seized his laptop. Analysis of the laptop revealed a number of video of child pornography on his hard drive and he was arrested this month.

In a separate case a Belleville resident, Michael Roussel 23, was arrested in February on charges of possession and distribution of child pornography. The police had found images and videos of child pornography on his computer earlier.

The police claim that the images of the victims on Roussel’s computer are all believed to be younger than 13 years old. They suspect that the images were produced by the man when he worked with children as a martial arts and fitness instructor at an academy recently.

The investigations had started after a suspicious post appeared on Craigslist. An undercover agent contacted the poster and was able to obtain child pornographic material.

Possible Legal Defenses

Child Pornography can be tricky to defend, because there is a lot of negative stigma associated towards the defendant in a child pornography case. Even the most rational of people tend to become prejudiced when it comes to cases involving offenses committed against children and the defense must balance a fine line between disproving the allegations and appearing insensitive towards the problem of child abuse.

One possible defense against child pornography is lack of knowledge about the existence of the pornographic material. This could work in a case where the person charged with the offense was not actually seeking out child pornography online but ended up with the images or videos on their computer.

Another defense available someone charged with a child pornography case is to call the age of the model into question. Many actors and actresses in the porn industry rely on their youthful appearance to get roles. A competent defense team may be able to argue that the defendant believed that the actor appeared younger but was over the legal age.

In the case of relationships, a possible defense is bona fide inquiry. Consider a case where a person A meets another person B online who appears older than 18. A makes an inquiry about the age of B and B tells him or her that B is 19 years old.

Relying on this information, A seeks a romantic relationship with B. In a case where it turns out that B had lied about their age, and was in fact under 18, A can use this defense. It may be argued that A made reasonable inquiry about B’s age before proceeding with a romantic relationship.