On today’s Internet, it is nearly impossible to control the movement of some files from one computer to another. Pictures of child pornography can be stored on a computer even without the knowledge of its owner. Even so, if you are caught up in a sting operation and are charged with child porn offenses, your reputation can be heavily damaged, even if you are ultimately found not guilty.
Philadelphia’s Child Pornography Laws
Under Pennsylvania’s sexual abuse of children statute, it is illegal to make, possess or distribute child pornography. First, it is a second-degree felony to photograph, videotape or otherwise record a person younger than 18 engaging in prohibited sexual acts, which include all sex acts as well as nudity when it is used for purposes of sexual arousal or gratification. Violation is punishable by as many as 10 years in prison. Second, it is a third-degree felony to knowingly distribute child pornography or possess it for distribution. Violation carries penalties of as many as seven years in prison for a first offense. Finally, simple possession of child pornography is a third-degree felony with the same penalties on a first offense. On subsequent offenses, possession, whether simple or for distribution, can bring as many as 10 years.
Child pornography includes any book, magazine, pamphlet, slide, photograph, film, videotape, computer depiction, or other material depicting a child younger than 18 engaging in or simulating prohibited sexual acts and each image, picture, or video is considered a separate crime or count. In these types of cases, it is common for a person to be charged with hundreds of counts of Sexual Abuse of Children, one count for each depiction.
Child Pornography Defenses
Although each case is specific and only a skilled Philadelphia defense attorney can determine the best defenses for your situation, possible defenses in a child pornography case may include the following:
- Entrapment: Did police pose as minors and solicit sexually oriented chat with someone not ordinarily inclined to seek out child porn? This is commonly called entrapment.
- Mistaken Identity: Did someone else who used your computer download child pornography images without your knowledge or permission? Did several people share use of the computer? Computer forensic specialists can bring such important facts to light in support of your defense.
- Sex Addiction: Assuming you did access child pornography on the Internet, were you operating on the basis of a sex addiction that needs treatment?
- Password Breach: Was there a breach of password or non-use of your password? In those instances, a skilled attorney can present this information in your defense.
- Lack of Knowledge: Maybe you did not know what you were doing on the computer. If there are only a few images, or if they were stored in such a way as to suggest that you simply did not understand what the images were, it may be possible to demonstrate a lack of knowledge.
- The Material Does Not Belong to Me: This defense typically applies when pornography is found on a work computer, but it was downloaded by someone else. With a competent computer forensic expert, you usually can show that you did not download the material. A second example might be when the material appears on a personal computer courtesy of an angry spouse during a nasty divorce or child custody battle. The spouse may “plant” such material on a personal computer and then make an anonymous phone call to the police.
- The Material was Illegally Seized: If the warrant to obtain the material was illegally obtained, for example by providing false information to secure a warrant, the ends do not justify the means and your attorney can and should file a Motion to Suppress such evidence.
Megan’s Law in Pennsylvania
Megan’s Law requires those convicted of certain sex crimes, including child pornography offenses, to register as a sex offender. Sex offender registration comes with a major social stigma that can be crippling. Pennsylvania’s version of Megan’s Law recently changed, adding even more severe legal consequences to the already serious social ramifications. Under the updated law, it is easier for prosecutors to get convictions on multiple counts, leading to extended prison terms and very onerous registration and reporting requirements.
Contact a Philadelphia Child Pornography Defense Lawyer
If you are arrested or charged with child pornography, it is imperative that you call an experienced Philadelphia child pornography defense attorney as soon as possible so you can begin to build your defense. Contact The Zeiger Firm today at (215) 546-0340 for a free consultation and let us help you.