Manga and anime cartoons are hugely popular around the world — including with avid collectors here in the United States. The art forms often depict graphic, fanciful sexual encounters and nudity.

The 2003 PROTECT Act, which was designed to prevent child abuse and the sexual exploitation of children in any form, prohibits the possession of sculptures, paintings and drawings (like cartoons) that show minors involved in sexual conduct without any “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

That’s a pretty broad definition, and the artistic value of something is largely subjective. In 2010, a 40-year-old comic book collector ended up taking a six-month plea deal in federal court rather than subject himself to the possibility of a 15-year prison term because he imported and owned a variety of Japanese comics that contained images of children having sex and depictions of bestiality.

It’s important to keep in mind that the comics were legal in Japan — and there was never any evidence that the collector ever viewed or possessed pornography involving actual children. It’s also important to remember that you can be prosecuted for similar cartoon images that you merely downloaded from the internet — no matter how widely available they may be. Many people mistakenly assume that images that would be considered genuine child pornography wouldn’t be so easily available.

Accusations that you are in possession of child pornography are very serious. A conviction — even with a plea deal — can destroy your future and follow you forever. If you’re being accused of any offense related to child pornography, it’s essential that you seek experienced legal guidance right away.