In Los Angeles, child pornography charges can be prosecuted in state court or federal court. Federal law allows you to be charged for producing, distributing or simply possessing child pornography. Federal prosecutors tend to be well prepared and tough in court—and federal charges carry severe penalties. If you have been charged, you need to speak to a Los Angeles federal child pornography lawyer.
The Simmrin Law Group can help you. We work with attorneys who have built their whole careers on federal cases. Our legal team understands the kind of computer data, browsing history and sting operations used in child pornography cases, and we know how to build a defense that will hold up in court. Let us give you a free consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
What federal charges can I face for alleged child pornography?
The United States Code prohibits any “possession, receipt, distribution, copying, or advertising of images containing sexual portrayals of minors.” In this context, “minors” include anyone under the age of 18. Most federal pornography cases are prosecuted under 18 USC 2251 (sexual exploitation of minors) or 18 USC 2252 (material depicting sexual exploitation of minors) . However, there are a variety of specific charges that can be brought under different federal laws.
Some of the most common charges related to child pornography include:
- Possession of child pornography
- Distribution, and receipt of pornographic images
- Importation of child pornography from a foreign country
- Production of child pornography
- Sexual exploitation of a child or minor (often added on top of production of child pornography)
- Transporting a minor across state lines for purposes of production of child pornography
- Charges involving soliciting a minor for sex, transporting a minor for sex, or kidnapping a minor for sex
What makes federal child pornography charges different from state charges?
Many child pornography cases start out as investigations by local or state-level authorities, but develop into federal cases. This is because local law enforcement often lack the dedicated cyber teams to investigate child pornography cases, and may ask the FBI or other federal agencies for help. The FBI is the most common federal agency we see handling these cases. Once feds are involved, the charges filed are almost always federal.
Federal cases are different in several ways:
- Your case will be in federal court rather than the Los Angeles Superior Court
- The penalties may be more severe
- The prosecutor is backed by a thorough investigation from an agency like the FBI, which has the resources to build a strong case
As a result, prosecution rates are high. Defendants who win their cases usually hire experienced lawyers who have spent significant time working on federal cases. A regular criminal defense attorney without federal experience will not being the same level of knowledge to the case.
What about “sexting” with a teenager?
This is a difficult area for the law. Sexting, including sending naked pictures, has become very common among teenagers. It is possible to be involved in a consensual, caring relationship with a teenager and this may lead to receiving nude photos. In some cases, teens also send sexual photos unsolicited, even when no relationship exists. Unfortunately, sexting can be construed as distributing child pornography, and simply receiving the picture can count as possession of child pornography.
The same is true of making a video of yourself and an underage partner, even for private use and even with your partner’s knowledge. In this case, it counts not only as possession but as “producing” child pornography.
Law enforcement understand this and it has become normal to seize and search the phone of anyone arrested for child pornography. Law enforcement does not show mercy just because the pictures were sent voluntarily, or even unsolicited.
What if law enforcement seized my computer or phone, or say they tracked my online activity?
Seizing a computer is common, and it usually means they will perform forensic research on the device(s). In many cases, this will allow them to turn up traces of files that you thought were deleted. Law enforcement, especially the FBI, will put substantial resources into reconstructing exactly what images, videos, or other files you may have had on your devices, and what websites you visited.
In general, law enforcement can only verify your browsing history if they have one of your devices in their custody, but this is not always true. There are situations where they may be able to confirm that your IP address (which identifies your device) visited a certain site, especially if they subpoena data from the website, the website’s hosting company, or an internet service provider.
Be aware that, unfortunately, devices may not be returned ever or may not be in the same working condition when they are returned. Even in a best case scenario you will be without the device for months.
Today, almost all child pornography cases involve computer evidence. This is why it’s so crucial to have a lawyer with experience on this kind of case.
What are the penalties for federal child pornography charges?
It depends on the charge and the circumstances. However, penalties generally include all of the following:
- Prison time
- Many offenses have a 5-year minimum sentence
- Producing child pornography carries 15-30 years in prison
- Large fines
- You will be required to register as a sex offender, possibly for the rest of your life
Penalties will be more severe, with longer prison sentences, if you are a repeat offender, if the minor was abused or harmed, or if the images are sadistic or violent.
Additionally, the victims (the child or their family) may sue you in many cases.
What is the “affirmative defense” in a child pornography case?
This is a defense used in many child pornography cases where all of the material was digital. This defense essentially says, “Yes, the content was on my computer, but without my consent.”
This can happen many ways. Sometimes files can be placed on your computer without you ever knowing it, especially when you don’t keep strong security precautions on your device. This is a way for other people to store their pornography on your device without your knowledge, to cover their own tracks. Usually it is a total stranger—basically a hacker.
In other cases, a website you visited may install malware on your site, or a file you downloaded (especially from file sharing/torrent services) may contain lots of other data you didn’t know you were downloading. There are cases where entire collections of child pornography have ended up on someone’s computer without their knowledge—and the FBI tracked it to the computer owner, not the person who put it there.
It’s not illegal to be the victim of malware or hackers, but you have to provide evidence. Experienced lawyers have cyber professionals they can turn to to build this kind of defense.
In other cases, the affirmative defense isn’t appropriate at all. Your lawyer will choose the right defense based on the facts of the case and the evidence involved.
Talk to a Los Angeles Federal Child Pornography Lawyer for Free
The feds do not spare any resources in prosecuting child pornography cases—and one conviction can ruin an entire life. Don’t let this happen to you. Let the Simmrin Law Group be your heavy hitter. We will give you a FREE consultation and start building your defense. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.