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Child Pornography and the Changing Legal Landscape

Someone that we all know as a brother, a father or a good friend is sitting right now at their computer and thinks that the internet is a vast place and their online browsing can’t be traced. They log into a chat room and start talking with a teenage girl. Soon enough the anonymity of the internet takes over and the girl poses topless. He takes a screen shot and saves it while asking her to send others. Maybe he joins another chat room where he can download and trade pictures of underage children posed in the nude. Sooner or later that brother, father or friend is going to get a knock at his door and it will be the police seizing his computers and charging him with various child pornography counts that carry minimum mandatory jail terms and the nightmare begins for him AND his family.

At Sweeney & Associates, we have represented many clients in child pornography related cases. We have represented juveniles and adults. We have represented husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons. We have represented clients in juvenile court, district court, superior court and federal court. We understand the impact these types of cases have on family and friends and keep this in mind as we fight the charges on your behalf.

Prosecutions for child pornography and internet related crimes are becoming increasingly common. While the laws continue to evolve based on the advances in technology, technology is still evolving quicker than the laws. The highest court in Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court, recently decided two cases which will have a far reaching impact on how easy it is for law enforcement to obtain a search warrant to search a residence.

In many child pornography cases, successfully challenging the validity of the search warrant is the best way to win the case. The SJC’s new case decisions in Commonwealth v. Molina and Martinez have made it much easier for law enforcement to obtain search warrants. The SJC stated in Martinez that a search warrant for an address associated with a certain IP address was sufficient even though the name of the internet subscriber and the person who leased the apartment were two different people. An IP address traced to a physical address is all law enforcement needs to obtain a search warrant. In Molina, the SJC stated a search warrant was valid even though the internet subscriber was not the sole occupant of the apartment and five other names appeared on the apartment’s mailbox. The police did not have to tie a specific person from the apartment to the images disseminated on the internet in order to get a search warrant.

Many individuals who come into possession of images of child pornography do so through the use of peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent or Ares. These file-sharing programs allow people to possess, distribute, and trade images of child pornography. Most of these programs are set up to allow one user to download images from another user’s computer. Recently, the SJC stated in Molina that allowing another user to download images from your computer is considered dissemination of child pornography. Even though you take no affirmative action to send the images to another person, the fact that you have a file sharing program that allows other users to access your computer contents and download images of child pornography is enough to convict you of dissemination of child pornography. Under M.G.L. c. 272 § 29B, a person convicted of disseminating child pornography faces a minimum of ten years in state prison. This means that if you have a file sharing program on your computer and allow other users to access images of child pornography stored on your computer, you can be charged with dissemination and will face at least ten years in prison.

Law enforcement is getting more and more sophisticated when it comes to tracking down internet users that possess and distribute child pornography and many of the file-sharing programs have separate programs that law enforcement uses to track down users. For example, there is a specific Ares version of the software that law enforcement uses to track other Ares users known as Roundup Ares. In Martinez, the SJC listed the information investigators using Roundup Ares find out about Ares users including (1) the user’s IP address, (2) whether the user possesses and is sharing a particular file, (3) the “hash value” associated with a particular file, (4) the user’s Ares username, and (5) the version of Ares software that the user’s computer is operating. The internet is not the anonymous place it used to be. Law enforcement has even penetrated the dark web to track down people trading in child pornography. If you seek out or disseminate child pornography it is only a matter of time before the police knock on your door. When they do, contact us at Sweeney & Associates, (mail@RSweeneylaw.com) to receive the zealous representation you need to fight the charges. And remember, you have the right to remain silent when the police want to question you so do it!

At Sweeney & Associates, we have represented countless individuals facing possession, dissemination, and production of child pornography charges. Every case is different. Some cases can be challenged based on an illegal search warrant or statements given in violation of Miranda. While in other cases, the best result comes from a plea agreement. We have been able to work out plea agreements involving probation, and no jail time, in a majority of our cases. We have also successfully negotiated pleas where the District Attorney’s Office agrees to dismiss the dissemination of child pornography charge so that the client no longer faces a 10-year minimum mandatory prison sentence.

If you have been charged in a child pornography related case, you need an experienced firm that knows the laws and computers. We can help you! See our reviews and you will see reviews from clients that have been more than happy with the outcome of their particular case. Contact us at Sweeney & Associates today for a free consultation. You can contact us at (617) 328-6900 or reach us by email at mail@rsweeneylaw.com.

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