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Investigations for child pornography crimes often begin when a law enforcement officer discovers the sharing of child porn images on a peer-to-peer network. The law enforcement officer can then obtain a warrant for the IP address where the material was downloaded.
A suspect might not know about the investigation until law enforcement officers enter their home or office with a search warrant to seize computers and other physical evidence. When they serve the warrant the officers will talk to people in the home or office to obtain information that can be used against the suspect. A person is not required to answer such questions and can instead invoke their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and their Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Once the person invokes their rights, a law enforcement office is not allowed to continue the questioning. If the officer does continue the interrogation, the person can simply remain silent and not answer questions.
Many people don't invoke their right to remain silent and instead end up admitting to one or more elements of the offense, including the fact that the suspect has previously used that computer. In many cases, the officer is not even required to read the Miranda warning to the suspect because the questions asked are not considered "interrogation" or the person is not in "custody."
Additionally, law enforcement officers often use complicated sting operations to manufacture these crimes. If the sting operation traps someone not otherwise predisposed to commit the act, then an entrapment defense can be raised.
Hiring an attorney early in the case helps ensure that rights are protect and no incriminating statements are obtained. An attorney can also help you fight for a lower bond after the arrest. Your attorney will represent you at every stage of the case, including the first appearance, the arraignment, and motions to suppress or dismiss through a final resolution with a plea or jury trial.
In many of these cases, the more prepared the attorney is to win at trial the more willing the prosecutor is to reduce the charges or offer a better plea deal. If you are under investigation for any charge related to possession of child pornography, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Skinner Law Firm. Michael Skinner has offices in the borough of Media in Delaware County and West Chester in Chester County, PA.
Viewing, possessing, or distributing child pornography is a third-degree felony in Pennsylvania. The production of child pornography is a second-degree felony. Each of these offenses comes with serious penalties including the potential for long periods of incarceration, hefty fines, and a lifetime designation as a sexual offender.
The penalties are especially harsh in these cases because each image of child pornography can be charged as a separate offense. In the past, more than 300 images were found in a single case. If the person is convicted of the crime for each separate image, the multiple convictions do not generally violate any prohibition against double jeopardy.
For this reason alone, the possession of child pornography often comes with a harsher penalty than acts of child molestation. Another reason for such harsh sentences is that prosecutors often have an easier time proving child pornography than child molestation.
To be charged with viewing child pornography, the viewing must be purposeful and deliberate. A person cannot be convicted under § 6312 of viewing child pornography if the viewing was accidental.
Some images of people under the age of 18 years old are not considered "child pornography," even though the images might show a child or young person that is nude. Viewing, possessing, distributing or producing the image becomes a crime only when the child is depicted for the purpose of sexual gratification or stimulation of any person who might view the image.
A person must be 16 years of age or older to legally consent to sexual conduct. However, for purposes of Pennsylvania's child pornography statute, if a person makes a video recording or takes photographs of a person under the age of 18 years old engaged in any prohibited act, the crime can be charged as a second-degree felony under § 6312(b).
An important issue in many of these cases, especially for images showing people between 14 years old to 18 years old, is proving the age of the person in the photograph. Pennsylvania law provides that age can be proven like any other element, through direct or circumstantial evidence. Although such testimony is not always necessary to the prosecutor's case, prosecutors might attempt to call an expert to testify about his or her opinion concerning the age of the person depicted in the photograph.
In fact, Section 6312(b)(2)(e) concerning evidence of age provides: "In the event a person involved in a prohibited sexual act is alleged to be a child under the age of 18 years, competent expert testimony shall be sufficient to establish the age of said person." In other cases, the defense will put on such expert testimony to show doubt about whether the person depicted is over or under 18 years old.
Being mistaken about a child's age, even if the child lies or makes misleading statements about his or her age, is not a defense for a charge of § 6312(b) for photographing, videotaping, depicting on computer, or filming sexual acts. (See § 6312(e)(1).)
Furthermore, for prosecutions under Section 6312(d)(1), the child depicted must be an actual child instead of a computer-generated image.
Crimes for child porn in Pennsylvania are prosecuted under Section 6312, "Sexual Abuse of Children." Section 6312(b) does not apply to the following:
The term "prohibited sexual act" is defined under § 6312(b)(2)(g).
The term "intentionally views" is defined as the "deliberate, purposeful, voluntary viewing of material depicting a child under 18 years of age engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such act. The term shall not include the accidental or inadvertent viewing of such material."
Title 18, Section 6312 of the PA General Assembly — Visit the website of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to find the statutory language contained in Title 18 of the Consolidated Statutes of Pennsylvania under Section 6312 for "Sexual Abuse of Children." The statute contains definitions, and prohibitions against photographs or videos on computers, the dissemination of such photographs and videos, grading of child pornography crimes, evidence of age, mistake as to age, and exceptions.
Chester County District Attorney's Child Abuse Unit — The Child Abuse Unit prosecutes those engaged in the exploitation of children through pornography in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies and the Pennsylvania State Police. Several PSP officers are trained and experienced in identifying child pornography and will review evidence seized during a raid while executing a search warrant at a home in West Chester or Chester County, PA.
If you are under investigation for any type of child pornography charge in Delaware County, PA, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Skinner Law Firm. Our attorneys are experienced in fighting serious felony offenses, including offenses that are sexual motivated.
Related offenses include possession and dissemination of child pornography, and criminal use of a communication device. In these cases, during the execution of a search warrant, officers will often seize digital recording devices, media storage devices, computers and external hard drives. Contact us to find out more about the penalties, punishments and defenses to these serious charges.
Call us at (610) 436-1410 to discuss your case. We can begin your defense today.
This page was last updated on Friday, January 15, 2016.