If you are a fan of Japanese manga cartoons, you know some of it is of a highly sexual or erotic nature. Still, it’s just a cartoon, right? Not necessarily — at least, not in the eyes of the law.

US Federal law has a specific section of its obscenity laws to address this. Section 1466A deals with “Obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children.” It specifies that: “Drawings, cartoons, or paintings that appear to depict minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct are deemed obscene.”

You could face between five and 20 years in prison for a first-time offense if found guilty of producing, possessing, sharing or receiving such material.

You may think you are safe because the images in your comics are not of children. However, federal prosecutors may try to argue they are. They may try to convince a judge that the big eyes and certain other features standard when drawing females in manga cartoons appear to be depicting minors. Whether this is sufficient to suggest you are guilty of child pornography charges is a different matter altogether.

US citizens have gone to prison because of Japanese cartoons. In 2012 one serious anime collector chose to plea bargain and took a six-month sentence rather than risk years in jail. The authorities prosecuted him over physical comics, but they have charged others over the cartoon images on their laptops.

If facing these federal criminal charges, you must seek urgent legal counsel. Being convicted could land you on the sex offender register, as well as in prison.