Federal child pornography laws are designed to protect society’s most vulnerable; children. This is why they are as harsh, and anyone caught with child pornography faces legal ramifications. However, with the evolution of technology, it is easy to accidentally view the material or distribute it even without your consent or knowledge.
If charged with watching or distributing the illegal material, you can get convicted, which might result in serious jail time for child pornography and other possible punishments. If accused, you need to know three things:
- What the federal law qualifies as distributing child porn
- Jail time and other consequences
- Possible legal line of defense for a child porn charge
Pornography is an industry that has several categories, and while creating and distributing it is legal, child pornography isn’t. The charge becomes a federal offense if:
- The material was distributed online
- It was mailed internationally or across state lines
- The material physically crossed the state in the form of photographs or on memory devices.
Jail Time for Child Pornography Distribution
You can be sentenced in both federal and state courts for child porn, but the charges will apply to the state’s specific laws, which will define the possible sentencing, including jail time. In Florida, child pornography possession and distribution is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of five years in jail, five years in probation, and up to a $5,000 fine.
If the defendant is a first-time offender, the judge may sentence them to a sex offender probation with the possibility of a maximum of five years in jail. The rules are different for anyone charged with four or more counts of child pornography possession and distribution.
If charged with four or more counts of child porn, you will be sentenced according to Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code unless the court finds grounds for a Downward Departure. Downward Departure is a two-step process whereby the court has to decide whether the evidence available supports such a sentencing and whether it needs to impose the process.
The minimum mandatory sentence that the court can impose under a Downward Departure is a maximum of one year with an additional four months for every additional count. On the other hand, producing child pornography is a second-degree felony punishable by a maximum of 15 years of jail time.
Under Florida Statute 775.0847(2), a person found in possession of more than ten images of any form of the illegal material has committed the crime of Aggravated Possession of Child Pornography. Likewise, the person will also get tried for Aggravated Possession of Child Pornography if any of the images contained the following,
- A child younger than five years old
- Sadomasochism involving a child
- Sexual battery and bestiality involving a child
The crime is considered a second-degree felony punishable by a maximum of fifteen years in prison, fifteen years probation, and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Sex Offender Registration
If convicted of possession of child pornography, the court will place you under sex offender probation. You will also be considered a sexual offender, and the court will impose a mandatory regulation under this classification. Anyone considered a sex offender has to comply with state and federal laws on sexual offender registration.
The registration may last for 15 years, 25 years, or a lifetime, depending on the severity of the case. Registration requires basic information about the defendant, including your name, age, date of birth, physical description, place of work, and address.
You will also need to provide information about your offense, when it happened, and the victim’s age. Depending on the classification, you may have to report every three, six, or twelve months to the sheriff’s office to have your picture taken. The image is accessible to the public.
Potential Defenses To the Crime
If charged with possession of child pornography, it’s best to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Our team of experienced defense lawyers can employ a wide range of strategies to help you win your case and avoid incarceration for the offense. Some of the potential defenses that a lawyer may use include:
Illegal Search and Seizure of the Materials
The whole case is built on law enforcement officers searching your property, mobile devices, and computers and seizing the illegal material. Usually, officers have a warrant for any search and seizure of devices. If they procured the warrant illegally, your lawyer might challenge the legality of the whole process.
Child pornography is based on the images being of children. If the pictures or videos actually have an 18-year-old person or older at the time of creation, a lawyer may be able to establish that the element wasn’t met. Even if the person in the photos appears to be underage, the charge shouldn’t be pursued if they were an adult.
Lack of Knowledge
Another great line of defense is geared towards the defendant’s mental state. For the prosecutor to have a case, they need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you “knew” about the material in your person. There are many situations where you may not have known about the possession or were in transitory possession.
For example, if you unwittingly sent another person an image but deleted it immediately after realizing its contents. Still, the prosecution might use the temporary possession argument to prove their case. Alternatively, if a thumbnail remained even after erasing the image, your lawyer may argue that you didn’t intentionally view the residual thumbnail image or never knew it still existed.
In other instances, a lawyer might argue that the images were sent into your computer through a virus or a hacker, thus your lack of knowledge of the material ever having existed in the first place.
Contact a Skilled Defense Attorney Today
Child pornography charges are tough to navigate, which is why you need a sex crime lawyer who has your best interests at heart to minimize the chances of a ruined reputation through a conviction. If you or anyone you know is facing jail time for child pornography, get in touch with a defense attorney from Meltzer & Bell today to set up a consultation and get the wheels rolling on your case.