Facing child pornography charges can be devastating to you, your family, and career. This type of charge often brings with it shame and embarrassment. At Sweeney & Associates, we have represented adults and juveniles, women and men, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters who have been charged with child pornography related offenses. If you have been charged in a child pornography related case, you need an experienced firm that knows the laws and computer forensics. Even if you are guilty there are things you should do to avoid a minimum mandatory sentence or a Level 3 Sex Offender status. We can help you!
Law enforcement uses many tools in their fight to combat child pornography. Some of those tools have been kept secret until recently. Below is a description of some of the more common ways law enforcement could end up knocking on your door:
First Way. You were in a chatroom, on Skype, or interacting over a message board and requested an explicit image of a person under age 18. Imagine its 2am and you cannot sleep so you enter a chatroom and strike up a conversation with a female who claims to be fifteen. As you talk, you ask her to send topless photographs and she complies. The chatroom randomly takes snapshots of the images being sent back and forth and flags this image as possible child pornography. The image is then sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (or NCMEC) which then directs the image to the appropriate law enforcement agency to follow up. The law enforcement agency will then track down the IP address, owner of the residence associated with the IP address, secure a search warrant, and knock on your door. When the police knock on your door, they will proceed to search your residence including your computer and phone looking for any child pornography images.
Second Way. You use 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. Law enforcement will routinely conduct searches using popular child pornography search terms and when they find a file with those terms in the title, they download it, obtain the IP address of the computer associated with the file, then locate the owner of the residence associated with the IP address, and obtain a search warrant. The police will then search your residence for any computers, phones, or other devices that could store child pornography.
Third Way. You request explicit images from your girlfriend/boyfriend who is under 18 years old or you send them explicit images and you are under 18 years old. Children in middle school and high school often find themselves facing child pornography charges because they shared explicit photos/videos of themselves.
Fourth Way. Recently in the news it was reported that the FBI paid Best Buy’s Geek Squad as informants because when they would find inappropriate material, i.e. child pornography, on the computers of customers brought in for repairs, the employees would contact the FBI and the FBI would pursue criminal charges against the owners of the computers. This also happens to a lesser extent with any mom and pop computer repair shop. Most computer repair employees who find child pornography on a computer they are fixing will report it to the police.
There are three main statutes in Massachusetts governing child pornography. If you are convicted of a child pornography offense you will be required to register as a sex offender with the Sex Offender Registry Board, submit your DNA sample to the state’s DNA database, and wear a GPS electronic bracelet while on probation or parole.
Production of Child Pornography
Under M.G.L. c. 272 § 29A Posing or Exhibiting Child in State of Nudity or Sexual Conduct, a person convicted of production of child pornography faces imprisonment in the state prison for a term of not less than ten years nor more than twenty years.
Dissemination of Child Pornography
Under M.G.L. c. 272 § 29B Dissemination of Visual Material of Child in State of Nudity or Sexual Conduct, a person convicted of dissemination of child pornography faces imprisonment in the state prison for a term of not less than ten years nor more than twenty years.
Possession of Child Pornography
Under M.G.L. c. 272 § 29C Possession of Child Pornography, a person convicted of possessing child pornography faces not more than five years in state prison or not more than 2.5 years in the house of correction for a first offense.
Importantly when it comes to child pornography charges a person under the age of eighteen cannot consent to being photographed or videotaped in a sexually explicit manner. This explains why middle school and high school age children can find themselves facing child pornography charges because even if s/he sent the photos or videos voluntarily, the law says they are incapable of consenting.
There are also many nuances when it comes to child pornography offenses. For instance, just because the person under age eighteen is nude, it does not mean the law regards the images as child pornography. There are many factors the court considers when determining whether the images are considered child pornography including the depiction of sexual behavior, whether the person is in a setting associated with sexual activity, whether there is sexual suggestiveness, or whether the breasts or genitals are a focal point. For example, images of nude children in a National Geographic magazine are not considered child pornography because even though the children are nude, the images themselves are not sexual in nature.
The internet is not the anonymous place it used to be. Law enforcement has penetrated the dark web to track down people trading in child pornography and has vast resources at their disposal to find and arrest people involved with child pornography. There is often a months-long delay between when the images were shared or downloaded and when law enforcement knocks on your door with a search warrant. That leaves the issue of who was using the computer when this happened. The police interrogate you to lock that issue up before you get an attorney or have time to think about who may have had the computer. Often people accept responsibility to protect a family member who may need some counseling. If you think you, or someone in your household, may have committed a crime contact us before law enforcement shows up.
If the police knock on your door with a search warrant, remain silent! You do not have to speak with the police. The police need to prove you were the one that shared or downloaded the images, do not guess or confirm it was you!
If the police ask for your consent to search your computer, iPad, or phone, say no! You do not have to give your consent. If the police threaten to get a search warrant, let them get one! They understand that is their job.
If you have been charged in a child pornography related case, you need an experienced firm that knows the laws and computer forensics. We understand the devastating affect this type of charge can have on your family, employment, and personal life and will guide you through the process as we fight the charges against you. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.