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Should Therapists Be Required to Report on their Patients If They Access Child Pornography?

January 16, 2020

The law may prevent people from seeking help for sexual compulsion or addiction.

Should Therapists Be Required to Report on their Patients If They Access Child Pornography?

California — like all states — has criminal laws that harshly penalize individuals who access child pornography. Under these laws, it is a crime for a person to send, transport, duplicate, print, exchange, advertise or possess child pornography. It is also illegal to hire or persuade minors to participate in making child pornography. These crimes may either be charged as felonies or as wobblers, which means that they can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case.


The goal of these laws is to protect children from abuse. A person who is convicted of a crime related to child pornography will be subject a range of sanctions. In addition to incarceration, a conviction under California’s child pornography laws will require a person to register as a sex offender.

In 2014, California updated a law regarding mandatory reporting of child abuse. This law is the subject of a lawsuit by a group of therapists who treat sexual compulsion or addiction. Under the new law, mandatory reporters — including therapists — are required to not only report instances of child abuse and neglect, but also downloading, streaming and electronically accessing child pornography.

According to the therapists, this law violates patient confidentiality and discourages patients from revealing that they downloaded or otherwise viewed child pornography. They argue that in order for therapy to succeed, patients must be candid with their therapists. If mental health professionals are required to report their patients to the police if they admit their problems, then they will be less likely to seek help. Recently, the California Supreme Court sent the lawsuit

While this lawsuit is between the group of therapists and the state, it has the potential to impact anyone accused of a sex crime, particularly those related to child pornography. If the goal of the law is to protect children, then the state should encourage individuals who may struggle with sexual compulsions or addition to seek help. As a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, CA can explain, treatment for these issues can be an integral part of a successful resolution.

The lawsuit was dismissed by three lower courts before the California Supreme Court reinstated it. The case has been sent back to Superior Court in Los Angeles County, where the Attorney General and the Los Angeles County district attorney will have to prove that this type of mandatory reporting protects children.

Crimes involving sexual offenses — particularly those related to children — can be incredibly difficult. An allegation alone is often enough to significantly damage a person’s reputation and livelihood. A skilled criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, CA can fiercely advocate for a person accused of accessing child pornography — protecting their rights and their freedom.

At the Chambers Law Firm, we handle a range of cases, including those related to child pornography. We offer free initial consultations, where we will explain your options. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule an appointment with a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, CA.

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