Legal Question in Criminal Law in California

This is a question on simulated child pornography.

Simulated child pornography is illegal in the United States.

However, in Japan, simulated child pornography is legal.

Suppose you are a student traveling in Japan and watched a Japanese pornography that is illegal in the United States, will extraterritorial jurisdcition apply and you can be charged with watching the videos?

USC Title 18 2251(c) and 2260 (a) describes extraterritorial jurisdiction for producing or distributing illegal pornographies abroad or possessing them with an intention of importing them to the US. It does not say anything about "consuming" illegal pornographies outside the United States.

To give it another spin, suppose you were in Australia and watched Japanese pornographies that are illegal in both Australia and the United States and you were prosecuted for it. Will it affect your legal status in the United States in any circumstances?

Asked on 7/17/13, 8:08 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman
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When you are in another country your actions are governed by the laws of that country. With few exceptions, American laws don't apply to you outside of the U.S.. (There are some exceptions for various acts taken in other countries which have consequences in the U.S.)

Note that this works both ways. You generally can't be prosecuted in the U.S. for doing something that was legal where you did it but that would have been illegal here But you also won't be protected by U.S. law if you do something in another country that would have been legal here but is illegal there.

Note that your punishment would be governed by the other country's laws. So if you commit what would be a minor crime here but is considered a major crime there, you will be sentenced under their laws.

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7/17/13, 12:59 pm

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