The Internet has made almost every aspect of life easier for many people. We can shop at home, communicate with friends and colleagues instantly, download music, order food, and meet potential romantic partners all from the comfort of our couch. Legitimate websites with sexually suggestive or pornographic material are also available, and many adults lawfully engage in the viewing of pornography every day. Unfortunately for law-abiding citizens, the wrong click of a mouse or the exploration of a forum in which people post and share pornographic material could potentially result in criminal liability for the possession, distribution, dissemination, transfer, display, sale, or exhibition of child pornography under Pennsylvania law.
Both federal and state authorities aggressive enforce laws related to child pornography, and a conviction for violating these laws can result in significant legal penalties. For this reason, anyone who is accused of an offense related to child pornography or is aware of the fact that they may have inadvertently violated the law should retain legal counsel as soon as possible. To schedule a consultation with Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Brian Zeiger, call our office today at 215-546-0340.
How can Internet Browsing Result in Criminal Liability?
Browsing the Internet in the privacy of your home may seem like a relatively low-risk activity. It is important to remember that the Internet is not a well-regulated place, and people can post content to forums and websites that may be of questionable legality. There are several ways that casual Internet browsing could result in a person being exposed to potential criminal liability for offenses related to child pornography. Some of the more common are detailed below.
- Visiting forums or message boards with questionable content – One of the main ways in which Internet browsing could result in the possession of child pornography is through visiting a forum or other site that allows people to post images or other content directly to the site. In many cases, these forums are not moderated, meaning that anything can be posted by any member. Importantly, even if you recognize that what you are seeing may be illegal, most browsers stored cached copies of images, meaning that even if you close your browser a copy of a pornographic image depicting a child may be stored as a hidden file on your computer.
- Using file sharing applications – Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing has long been utilized for illegal activity by the denizens of the Internet. Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of P2P sharing that was eventually shut down due to copyright concerns was Napster, which was shortly followed by other services such as Limewire and Kazaa. These services allow users to share files directly with one another, meaning that you may not be aware of what exactly what you are downloading when you select a file to add to your library. Additionally, many of these services run in the background even when they seem to be closed, meaning that a person could potentially be sharing illegal files with others without even being aware of it.
There are often defenses available in Internet child porn cases
Importantly for people who are accused of child pornography related to Internet usage, both state and federal child pornography laws2 require that a person actually know that he or she is engaged in criminal activity. What they actually must “know” is extremely fact-dependent, but in many cases it is possible for a skilled defense lawyer to argue that while certain files may have existed on a person’s computer or other electronic devices, he or she did not have the requisite knowledge to result in criminal liability.
Call a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer today to schedule a consultation
Allegations of criminal misconduct related to child pornography are extremely serious. In many cases, even accusations of possessing or distributing child pornography can do irreparable harm to a person’s reputation, and a conviction can often result in a lengthy jail sentence and mandatory registration as a sex offender. At The Zeiger Firm, we are committed to helping people accused of serious crimes protect their legal rights and their freedom. To schedule a free consultation with a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney, call our office today at 215-546-0340.