Penalty for Possession of Child Pornography OKd by Assembly

Times Staff Writer

Possession of child pornography would be a crime under legislation passed overwhelmingly by the Assembly on Thursday and sent to the Senate.

Approved on a 62-2 vote, the bill by Assemblyman Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) would apply to the possession of any matter depicting a person under the age of 14 engaging in or simulating sexual conduct.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. July 1, 1989 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday July 1, 1989 Home Edition Part 1 Page 3 Column 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 50 words Type of Material: Correction
An article Friday on a bill to outlaw the possession of child pornography incorrectly stated that Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Los Angeles) was one of two Assembly members to vote against the bill. Friedman did not vote on that measure. Assemblymen John Burton (D-San Francisco) and Robert J. Campbell (D-Richmond) were the two who voted against it.

The offense could be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony and would be punishable by up to three years in state prison and a $5,000 fine.


“This is the only way we can stop the harm that is being done to children,” said Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach), co-author of the bill. “This should dry up demand for child pornographers because they can’t sell (pornography) if no one is willing to take the risk of possessing it.”

Although several statutes outlaw production, selling, distribution and advertisement of pornography involving children under the age of 17, mere possession of the material is not now against the law.

Polanco sought to make possession a crime last year, but his bill failed in committee in the face of opposition from civil libertarians. This year, the measure was changed to more clearly separate child pornography from pornography picturing adults, which is legal.

The age at which a youth could be considered the subject of child pornography was lowered from 17 to 14 in the possession bill. And, unlike last year’s bill, the current version would require prosecutors to prove the “knowing possession” of child pornography to obtain a conviction.

The bill would apply to developed or undeveloped film, negatives, photocopies, filmstrips, slides and videotapes. It would exclude drawings, figurines, statues or any film rated by the Motion Picture Assn. of America. It would not be necessary to prove that the matter is obscene to establish a violation.

The bill is sponsored by the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles and by the Los Angeles county counsel’s and Los Angeles city attorney’s offices.

The only opposition to the measure came from Assemblymen Terry B. Friedman (D-Los Angeles) and John Burton (D-San Francisco).

Burton said the bill would establish a “dangerous precedent” by making possession of written or pictured material a criminal offense.