Because child pornography is illegal under both Maryland law and federal law, residents of this state can find themselves accused in both state court and in federal court.
In either court, a person will face severe penalties.
In Maryland, simply possessing one image of child pornography can land a person in prison for up to 5 years. While Maryland law defines this crime as a misdemeanor, other jurisdictions may treat it as a felony conviction.
For those who have at least one prior conviction for the same offense, the person will face a felony charge and up to 10 years in prison.
Fines running in the thousands of dollars are also possible.
It is important to keep in mind these penalties only apply to the possession of child pornography. Distributing illegal pornography, even by sharing computer files, can lead to much harsher penalties which could result in a de facto life sentence.
Federal law punishes the possession and distribution of child pornography in interstate commerce, which one can think of as over state lines. With modern technology, it is fairly easy to fall under federal jurisdiction, since child pornography is frequently distributed over state lines via computer networks.
The federal law also punishes the possession and distribution of such materials on federal property, which would include, for example, computers of employees in federal office buildings.
For a first offense, the penalty is 10 years in prison, but will be enhanced to 20 years if the child in the pornography is under 12 or appears not to have reached puberty. Someone with a prior conviction must go to jail for at least a decade and can face up to 20 years in prison.
Again, fines are possible, and someone actually engaged in distribution of child pornography will face more severe penalties.
Of course, after any conviction for a sex crime related to child pornography, a person will feel severe consequences long after they do their time. They may have to register as a sex offender and will likely have a hard time finding a job, maintaining a professional license and the like.