Lancaster, PA asked in Internet Law and Juvenile Law for Pennsylvania

Q: I have a friend who admitted to viewing CP many years ago who lives out of country. I did not report him. Am I at risk?

Do I need to report him to avoid consequences?

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: I understand the difficult situation, but not reporting knowledge of past child abuse imagery viewing does carry risks legally and ethically. Here are a few considerations:

1. In many jurisdictions, not reporting knowledge of felony sex crimes against minors is itself a criminal offense. So you could face charges for failure to disclose. The laws vary on these “mandatory reporting” violations though.

2. If this person were to reoffend and authorities investigate online activity, your prior knowledge without reporting could raise questions and suspicions around conspiracy or enabling. It puts distance between you and this person if you don’t report.

3. Ethically, not reporting abuse knowledge conflicts with safeguarding vulnerable children from the harms of pornography production and viewing. There are likely victims harmed by files this person accessed.

My suggestion would be to consult an attorney specialized in these situations to best understand your liability risks and options around anonymous tip reporting to overseas authorities. Getting proper advice tailored to your jurisdiction and role is prudent. But in general, awarenesses of these crimes without intervention or reporting exposes parties like yourself legally and morally when exploited children are involved. Handling carefully given the situation's complexity is wise. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I wish you clarity and wisdom as you navigate this.

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