Beating federal child pornography charges is not easy. If you are being investigated or have been charged with a child pornography offense in Dallas, you should immediately reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney. A conviction could result in severe criminal sentences that would change your life forever.
How does Federal Law Define Child Pornography?
Federal law defines child pornography as any depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor. A minor is anyone under the age of 18. The age of consent in the state that the individual was charged is irrelevant.
Child pornography includes photographs, videos, and computer-generated images, as well as undeveloped film, undeveloped videotape, and electronically stored data that can be converted into a visual image of child pornography.
What are the Federal Child Pornography Laws?
Under 18 U.S.C. § 2251, 18 U.S.C. § 2252, and 18 U.S.C. § 2252A, it is illegal to possess, produce, distribute, or receive an image of child pornography using or affecting any means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce. It is also a federal crime to induce or entice a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of creating visual depictions of such conduct.
An individual can also be federally charged if he or she attempted or conspired to commit a child pornography offense.
What are the Penalties for Federal Child Pornography?
A person convicted of a federal child pornography offense faces severe penalties, including lengthy prison sentences, substantial fines, and restitution to the victims. The exact sentence will vary depending on the nature of the offense. Some factors that would increase the sentence include:
- The images are violent, sadistic, or masochistic;
- The minor was sexually abused; or
- The offender has prior convictions for child sexual exploitation.
During sentencing, the defendant’s attorney may be given the opportunity to present his client’s full history to the court. The lawyer can introduce background information, such as mental health issues, addiction problems, and childhood trauma. If the defendant is undergoing mental health treatment, reports from providers can be introduced. These facts can help to mitigate the sentence and show the court that the defendant is more than what he is being convicted of.
There are several collateral consequences of a federal child pornography conviction, including that you must register as a sex offender. Registration will result in your photo, address, age, and other information appearing in a database available to the general public. Additionally, your reputation with your family, friends, and community will be harmed, and employment opportunities will be affected.
Defenses to Child Pornography Charges
The federal government prosecutes child pornography aggressively, and these charges are complicated to defend against. Every case is unique, but there are several defenses that a skilled attorney could present on your behalf. Below are some common defenses to child porn charges:
- The content was not child pornography
The government must prove that the individual in the film or image was under the age of 18. If the individual is 18 or older, it is not considered child pornography. Additionally, the image must be sexually explicit to be defined as pornography. Sexually explicit conduct is defined broadly, but nudity does not automatically equal porn.
- The evidence was obtained unlawfully
Police and other government officials cannot violate constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment. Warrantless searches that do not fall under an exception or searches that go beyond what is authorized in a warrant are illegal. Defense attorneys can use computer forensic experts to show that the government did not lawfully search your computer. If evidence is obtained illegally, it should be suppressed, which may lead to lesser charges or a dismissal.
- The child pornography was not knowingly possessed
You cannot be convicted of child pornography if you did not knowingly commit the offense. Your attorney could argue that the pornography was inadvertently obtained and quickly destroyed or deleted. There are several ways that a person could come into possession of child pornography accidentally. For example, computers running peer-to-peer file-sharing software may share illegal files without the knowledge of the computer’s owner.
The amount of child pornography on the computer, the defendant’s internet search terms, and the way the contraband was stored on the computer can all be used as evidence when presenting this defense.
Dallas-Fort Worth Federal Child Pornography Attorney
If you or a loved one are being investigated or have been accused of federal child pornography charges, you should immediately reach out to a local Dallas criminal defense attorney. Being convicted of a child pornography offense can be life-altering, and a strong defense can make all the difference in your case. Philip D. Ray is an experienced criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor based in the Dallas-Fort Worth who will provide you with a skilled and aggressive defense. Call The Law Offices of Philip D. Ray at (469) 588-6770 for a consultation.