Legal access to otherwise illegal materials in the US

I asked a question in the now-closed thread about rape videos that went unanswered, so I’m reposting it as a separate thread (mods, I hope that’s ok)

If you want to study submachine guns in person, you can theoretically file for a Class III permit with the BATF and get submachine guns from federally licensed gun brokers, manufacturers or even in an online auction.

If you want to study effects of MDMA you theoretically file for a DEA license and get really expensive E from a chemical supply company (For example, Sigma-Aldrich has MDMA for close to $80 per 10mg if you have a DEA license).

If you’re an academic who wants to, for example, study some aspect of child pornography, what kind of sanction can you receive and is there a legal source of confiscated child pornography?

Along the same lines, what if you’re a researcher who wants to study purity of street MDMA. How exactly do you get a hold of street MDMA legally?

All researchers are answerable to some sort of ethics board or oversight. I can’t imagine anyone would get permission to simply buy or obtain child porn or street MDMA. However, various agencies would have such things stored as evidence from raids or arrests. With sufficient security clearance from whatever the relevant agency would be (e.g., the FBI, maybe) and a thorough, ongoing screening of your research protocol, you might be granted limited access.

Just to muddy the waters, there is currently a defendant in a child porn case in Philadelphia who is the subject of a motion to deny him access to review of the material he was charged with possessing. Apparently he was a little too focused on the material. So there’s someone with a (theoretically) legal interest in child porn who cannot have access to it.

We have an infamous case going on here in Georgia right now, the Genarlow Wilson case. When he was 17, he received consensual oral sex from a 15 year old girl, and was videotaped by his buddies. At the time, that was against the law, and he was charged with child molestation and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The law has since been changed, which would change this offense from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Under the state’s open records law, the District Attorney provided copies of the video to some members of the state general assembly, the press, and others. The feds are now accusing the DA of distributing child pornography. Methinks the waters are a bit murky in this area.


Just a WAG but I am sure there are police vaults full of the stuff if you have the right license and submit the right paperwork to the right agency.