Is there a statute of limitations for viewing child porn online as a minor in the state of California? More specifically, if an individual (now 24 years old) viewed said material several years ago before he turned 18, could that individual be prosecuted now?
Incidentally, in this hypothetical situation, the individual cannot remember the exact age he was when viewing the porn online, and the computer used in the activity is gone. No images or video were intentionally saved to the hard drive, and there appears to be no real way to trace the activity, other than the individual's confession.
2 Answers from Attorneys
Yes, if the offense occurred as a juvenile it would possibly still be a juvenile offense. But also possibly he could be tried as an adult. Is this a case of the guilty fleeing where no one pursueth? Or did Your Friend blab to the cops?
In the first place, "viewing" child porn has been held not a crime. See the case of Tecklenburg v. Appellate Division-Superior Court (2009) 169 Cal.App.4th 1402, distinguishing "viewing" which is not criminal under Penal Code 311.11, while "possession" or "control" are criminal.
If it were criminal, a first offense would be a misdemeanor, not a felony, and the statute of limitations would be one year. See Penal Code section 802. Note however, PC 311.11 makes no exception for minors - persons of any age could be guilty of possession (but NOT viewing).
Finally, this is not the sort of thing that a prosecutor would spend time and scarce resources to prosecute.