Federal Crimes

Clicking on the wrong link while surfing the Internet can bring up images that, once viewed, remain on your hard disk drive even after they are erased. Possession of child pornography is a crime in both state and federal court. It is more often charged as a federal offense, which is punishable by a minimum of five years in prison, even for a first offense. If one of those pictures or video clips is on your home computer, laptop, or cell phone, then you are implicated. You may be arrested and charged for a sex crime involving a juvenile. If convicted, your name will included on North Carolina’s sex offender registry. The details of your conviction will be public knowledge. Images of child pornography are not protected under First Amendment rights, and are illegal contraband under federal law. Section 2256 of Title 18, United States Code, defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age).  Visual depictions include photographs, videos, digital or computer generated images indistinguishable from an actual minor, and images created, adapted, or modified, but appear to depict an identifiable, actual minor.  Undeveloped film, undeveloped videotape, and electronically stored data that can be converted into a visual image of child pornography are also deemed illegal visual depictions under federal law. Overview of Federal Child Pornography Crimes. Possible defenses:
  • Our client relied on documentation that the model was of legal age. The website that provided the pictures or video certified that all its models were at least 18 years old, and our client reasonably relied on that claim.
  • The subject matter isn’t pornography; it’s art. The video is an animated cartoon that doesn’t depict actual humans, or the images show culturally or historically important artifacts.
  • Illegal search and seizure. Law enforcement officials made important errors against our client’s civil rights when confiscating his computer, and any evidence from that device has to be ignored.
  • Entrapment. A police investigator, pretending to be a teenage girl online, enticed me into accepting or trading the images in question. I never would have done so if I hadn’t been pressured in this way.
  • Those aren’t our client’s image files. He shared his computer or cell phone with others, who may have downloaded the offensive material. The police arrested the wrong guy.
  • The files were placed on our client’s hard drive in error. He mistyped an Internet address and ended up at a porn site in error—one that stored images on his hard drive without his knowledge. Or the images were sent to him as an e-mail attachment. Our client did not have the intent required for the criminal charges against him.
  • The files were placed on our client’s hard drive in an extortion effort. Our client’s computer is infected with a computer virus or malware worm that hides unremovable pornographic images on the hard drive. The virus’s designers then threaten the user that he will be reported to the authorities unless he pays a fee. Such ransomware attacks have become increasingly bolder in recent years.

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