In this digital age, the amount of content online is eternally growing. As part of this unrestricted growth of content, unfortunately, there is also inappropriate digital content that features violence, abuse, and even abuse related to children. It is much easier to access child pornography than it was in the past. With these trends are increased federal and local laws in North Carolina, which govern the kind of content that can be uploaded, distributed, and consumed.
If you have been charged with unlawfully possessing, consuming, or distributing child porn or other kinds of sex crimes associated with the digital space, the options for your case can be ambiguous. The consequences of being prosecuted for such a crime are severe and can include required sex offender registration, long prison sentences, and large fines.
At Edwards Law, PLLC, we have extensive experience in helping clients navigate child pornography defense cases and determining what their next steps are in order to protect their future. Our firm realizes the gravity of such charges and the severe restrictions that can be imposed on an individual once they are registered as a sex offender. A criminal defense attorney from our firm can fiercely represent you in court and do everything they can to work towards getting your charges reduced or dropped.
In the United States, child pornography is a serious crime federally. It is important to remember that First Amendment rights do not protect an individual’s right to own or produce child pornography. Such content victimizes and exploits vulnerable children and is, therefore, punishable to a high degree. On the federal level, there are many laws governing the consumption, distribution, sale, receipt, and purchase of such content.
Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 2252, specifies that child pornography crimes are a federal issue and do not fall under state jurisdiction. Under this part of the U.S. code, the heavy penalties related to the viewing and distribution of child pornography are explicitly laid out. The subsections specify how using the computer to engage in the interstate transport of commerce of child pornography is a criminal offense.
Section 2256 of Title 18 defines child pornography as any content that displays a minor taking part in a sexually illicit manner. This means that the child doesn’t have to be directly engaging in sexual activities to make it illegal. For example, if it is a photo or video of a naked child that could be considered suggestive, then it can be considered to be child pornography.
It is also important to note that any data or material that does not necessarily take the form of an image of child pornography, but has the potential to transform into such content, is considered to be child pornography as well. This means that any electronic data that can be a child pornographic image or undeveloped film or video roll are child pornography.
Title 18 of U.S.C. Section 2252 also includes the specifics of the illegality of browsing for, downloading, and sharing pornographic videos and photos featuring minors. Not only is it illegal to try to distribute or sell child pornography—it is also a federal crime to possess it.
When it comes to defending a sex crimes case, this can be difficult due to the severity of the crime and the existing emotional charge and taboo associated with such cases. Usually, individuals who are defending their case against charges of possession will use the defense that the content was downloaded from the internet without their knowledge.
For example, they may receive a file from an account posing as their friend or family member and accidentally download the illicit material. Or, they may be in the process of downloading a TV show or movie, and this file could contain child pornography that they were not aware of. Therefore, it can be argued in court that the crime cannot be charged since the defendant did not have the state of mind available to commit such a crime.
Another defense is the case in which child pornography is found on the device or computer of an individual, but they argue that they did not download the content, and therefore someone else did it without their knowledge. Such an example could be when there are multiple accounts or users on a device, and another user does the downloading, but the defendant is held responsible.
Another defense is probable cause. This means that authorities need to have enough initial evidence in order to conduct surveillance of someone’s browsing history or get a warrant to access their device. If the defendant’s lawyer can prove that this initial evidence was not sufficient, then the obtained evidence cannot be used against them in court, and the charges could potentially be dropped.
The lowest child pornography crime, which is considered to be the possession of child pornography content, is a felony offense. If you are prosecuted for such a crime, you can serve a maximum of 10 years in prison. In the case that the child depicted is younger than 12 years, the maximum sentence is 20 years. If you have a prior criminal history as a sex offender, then the minimum sentence is ten years, with the maximum time in prison being 20 years.
A possession case of child pornography can also be technically classified as a case of ‘receipt,’ which means that the minimum prison sentence is five years, and the maximum is 40 years. This means that if a defendant pleads guilty to receipt, they will need to spend a minimum of 5 years in prison.
Making child pornography is a more severe child pornography crime. It is considered to be ‘sexually exploiting children’ and includes taking a sexually explicit photo or video of anyone under the age of 18. Even if the individual was unaware that the person was not 18 or older, they could still be charged with this crime. The mandatory minimum sentence is 15 years.
In the state of North Carolina, accessing child pornography or viewing it online is breaking the law. If you view child pornography online, then this will usually be charged as possession since no one is allowed to view or use child pornography. Possessing or viewing child pornography is a serious crime that can result in heavy penalties.
Google has implemented protocols in order to work with law enforcement when it comes to illicit, illegal content, such as child pornography. They have procedures in which they are working closely with the police to flag and report child pornography. They have the legal jurisdiction to share such illegal instances of illegal content viewing or possession with the authorities.
Incognito mode is a method of browsing the internet in which other users and many websites are not able to see your information. Certain information, such as cookies, history, and other critical data, is not stored on the device. Incognito mode does provide privacy and limits local tracking, but it does not mean that your browsing cannot be traced by authorities who have the mandate to do so. Your browsing activity can still be traceable in certain circumstances, even if you are browsing in incognito mode.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, is the federal law enforcement agency that prosecutes severe crimes, which can include the viewing, possession, and distribution of child pornography. The FBI and similar agencies can use surveillance methods and techniques to collect information about internet activity and browsing; however, they are not actively surveilling all search histories and trends.
Federal child pornography crimes are usually felonies. It is strictly illegal to view, send, receive, distribute, produce, or edit such content. Being prosecuted for child pornography crimes can lead to long-term prison sentences, large-scale fines, and being registered as a sex offender. While not all federal child pornography crimes are felonies, they are all considered to be extremely serious crimes.
If you are currently dealing with charges related to child pornography, you might be wondering what your options are. At Edwards Law, PLLC, our defense lawyers will listen to your concerns about your case and go through all of the evidence being held against you. Based on the facts and situation, our lawyers will work out an optimal defense to use any weaknesses in the prosecution to your advantage.
Our team has experience with complex child pornography cases and knows the details of federal child pornography laws, which can help you with your difficult case. If you are facing these serious charges, do not wait until it is too late. Contact us today to learn more about how you can get started taking back your legal situation.