Like the rest of the county, child pornography investigations in Chester County are aggressive and devastating. Even accusations ruin lives. Someone identified as a child porn suspect or a person of interest will quickly find themselves an outcast, unemployed, and exposed to penalties, like prison and mandatory sex offender registration.
However, child porn charges are frequently aimed at the wrong person. The IP addresses that law enforcement invests so much time and money into tracking down can be manipulated. Servers and file-sharing networks can list inaccurate users, refurbished and second-hand electronics may contain illicit materials without your knowledge, and unfortunately, people make false claims about others to benefit themselves.
Unlike in the court of public opinion, prosecutors must prove all the elements of a child porn case beyond a reasonable doubt. While this may be little immediate comfort if you are being investigated, it is critical to clear your name. By working with an experienced sex crimes lawyer, you can raise important issues, tell your side of the story, and protect yourself.
Call (610) 436-1410 for a free and confidential consultation with attorney Skinner.
Laws prohibiting child pornography are found under 18 Penn. Cons. Stat. § 6312, titled “Sexual Abuse of Children.” This prohibits any person from intentionally viewing or knowingly possessing material, including digital photos and videos, that depict a child younger than 18 engaged in a sexual act or simulating a sexual act.
It is also illegal to produce such material and disseminate it. Disseminating could be as simple as forwarding an email or text message.
Producing child pornography is a second-degree felony. This is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Disseminating, intentionally viewing, or knowingly possessing child pornography is a third-degree felony for a first offense. This is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. A second or subsequent offense is a second-degree felony.
In addition to prison and fines, a person convicted of a child porn offense must also register as a sex offender. For child porn possession, an offender must register for 15 years and 25 years for producing or disseminating it.
A critical part of the law is your state of mind at the time. This is called the mens rea. Essentially, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you viewed the material intentionally or knew the possessed material contained young people engaged in sexual acts.
The mens rea often comes into play because, especially in an era where most prohibited material is digital, circumstances can easily arise where a person does not know he or she possesses the material. For instance, it could be attached to an email that you downloaded without knowing. A person who trafficks in child pornography could hack into a person’s server or cloud to store files for distribution, unbeknownst to the owner.
It’s important to keep in mind that the defense does not have to prove these scenarios occurred. It is the prosecutor’s job to prove they did not occur.
If any reasonable doubt exists that any of these circumstances existed, your child pornography defense lawyer could raise the possibility to show the jury the reasonable doubt that exists.
It can be tempting to try and explain how illegal images found their way onto a computer you owned, but that is best left to an experienced lawyer. Despite your best intentions, your statements may be misinterpreted and anything you say to law enforcement can be used against you.
Attorney Mike Skinner knows how these cases work, where to look for flaws in the investigation, and what it takes to get child porn charges dismissed or avoided completely in the early stages. Let attorney Skinner examine your situation and advise you on your next best steps. Call (610) 436-1410 for a free and confidential consultation.