Federal Child Pornography Charges
For a good reason, the federal laws regarding child pornography are extremely tough. The investigators who go after anyone accused of such a crime typically do so rather vigorously. If you are accused of this crime, your reputation and very livelihood are at stake. Given the stigma that is associated with just being accused of such a crime, you will need to be represented from the beginning by a qualified and experienced attorney who can look out for your best interests. You need an attorney who is well versed in, among other things, forensic computer evidence and dealing with criminal matters in a federal court.
Federal Offenses Related to Child Pornography
Child pornography is often a federal crime because it involves multiple jurisdictions. By the time a person is accused of these charges, federal agents have quite possibly been working on the investigation for months, all without the accused even knowing about it. There are several different federal agencies that work to enforce existing child pornography laws, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
There are different tactics that each of these agencies will use to investigate potential child pornography violations. In some case, an undercover agent might scour the Internet or computer servers looking for any files that have been shared on peer to peer networks. They are looking for filenames that might indicate child pornography is found. If a file is found, the agents will then use almost any means at their disposal to track down where the file originates from and who has downloaded it onto their own electronic devices. They may get subpoenas from Internet Service Providers in order to access this user information.
The two primary federal statutes that relate to child pornography are Title 18 – Sections 2251 and 2252. These go into detail about what you are or a loved one is facing if brought up on such charges.
- Possession of Child Pornography – Federal law is quite clear that no person is permitted to knowingly be in possession of child pornography. The key distinction there is ‘knowingly’, which is why you need a solid defense attorney on your side. Also, there are some technical terms that are related to child pornography that need to be understood. It refers to any depiction of a child under the age of 18 who is involved in some type of explicit sexual behavior. Penalties are more severe if the minor in question is under 12 years of age.
- Receipt of Child Pornography – In this case, the accused is believed to have received child pornography by way of some form of interstate commerce. This can include via the mail or a computer or other form of electronic device. The person must be proven to have knowingly received the images in question. There is a mandatory minimum sentence of between 5 and 20 years, depending on the age of the victims.
- Distribution of Child Pornography – A charge under this statute means that the accused is believed to have distributed child pornography to others, usually via a peer to peer network or via email or the Internet.
- Production of Child Pornography – This is the most serious charge as it also involves the physical and sexual abuse of children. As such, it is punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years, with a maximum of between 25 and 50 years.
Any of these charges are serious. It goes without saying that a conviction almost always involves a mandatory minimum sentence that is quite severe. In addition to a prison sentence, there is often a financial penalty and court ordered restitution that must be provided to the victims. Any person who is convicted will also need to register as a sex offender for the rest of his or her life.
You will want to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately upon learning of being charged with any form of federal child pornography violation. The penalties are simply too severe. There are many defenses that can be considered when such a charge is brought against you or a loved one, but time is of the essence. Do not delay.