Defense Attorneys for Child Pornography Charges in Clearwater
Law enforcement officers in Clearwater, Florida, aggressively pursue child pornography offenders. Prosecutors, too, vigorously argue for convictions on child pornography charges as well. Law enforcement and the state’s attorneys fight to eradicate child pornography offenders by instituting wide-sweeping stings and seeking draconian prison sentences. Judges in Clearwater also take child pornography charges seriously and often impose long terms of incarceration.
The black market trade of images and videos of children posed in the nude or while in sexually suggestive positions endangers children. Consequently, the police and prosecutors in Clearwater pursue child pornography offenders to protect children from exploitation. Children who have run from their homes, who live in abusive situations, or who have become addicted to drugs often become prey for men and women to create sexually explicit content of children.
People with a prurient interest in viewing child pornography create a market for others to produce and distribute child pornography. The alleged offenders frequently distribute images though the internet. Offenders have been known to use the “dark web” to host images for others to download and store on their computers and mobile devices. Additionally, there are websites accessible through the use of the internet which allow people to have access to illegal sexual encounters with children and the opportunity to create child pornography.
Notwithstanding, Clearwater law enforcement officers face new challenges every day when investigating child pornography offenders because of the speed at which technology advances. Those challenges will lead the police to tiptoe the line between good police work and violating people’s rights to acquire evidence of a crime.
Musca Law: Fighting to Protect Constitutional Rights in Clearwater
Musca Law’s Clearwater defense attorneys are the last line of protection between an offender and the might of the government. Without attorneys who passionately fight to protect criminal defendants from the tyranny of the government as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Florida State Constitution, then people charged with any crime, let alone possession of child pornography, would be thrown in prison based solely on the infamy of the charge rather than proof of guilt.
The Clearwater child pornography defense lawyers from Musca Law, one of Florida’s most pre-eminent criminal defense firms, understand that being charged with possession, creation, or distribution of child pornography is not only embarrassing but can ruin a person’s life, especially when that person is actually innocent. Musca Law’s Clearwater child pornography defense lawyers also know that people can make mistakes, and those mistakes could land people in peril of losing their liberty.
Musca Law’s Clearwater child pornography defense attorneys could help you, no matter in what situation you find yourself. If you think you are under investigation by authorities or have been charged with offenses related to child pornography, then you need to act quickly to align yourself with the lawyers who will fight exhaustively to protect your rights and achieve the most desirable outcome for you and your family. Start your defense today by calling Musca Law at (888) 484-5057.
Clearwater Child Pornography Charges in Pinellas County
The investigating law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys will seek the most serious charges available to them when pursuing a child pornography case in Clearwater. The police need to acquire sufficient evidence that gives them probable cause to issue the particular charge. Probable cause is a very low legal standard when compared to the beyond a reasonable doubt standard needed to convict anyone for a crime in the U.S. However, the police and prosecutors have the ability to take out charges that are supported by probable cause, even if they lack sufficient proof to win a conviction. Therefore, police and prosecutors often “overcharge” cases by issuing more severe charges than they could prove or taking out a substantial number of charges.
Possession of Child Pornography
The state’s attorneys bear the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to win a conviction. The burden rests solely upon the government to prove all of the elements of possession of child pornography. The government cannot win a conviction if they fail to prove possession and not both possession and the existence of an image satisfying the definition of child pornography.
Florida law defines an image as child pornography when the image depicts a child under the age of eighteen in the nude or engaged in sexual activity.
Possession in Florida can take two forms: actual and constructive. Actual possession is the present physical control over an object. Constructive possession is more nuanced. Constructive possession means that a person has control over an object even though the person does not physically control it. Proof of constructive possession requires the government to prove that the person knew where the item was, had the ability or opportunity to exercise dominion and control over it, and had the intent to do so as well.
The potential penalty for possessing child pornography in Clearwater, Florida, is five years in the state penitentiary as a third-degree felony. The authorities can charge one count of possession of child pornography for every image discovered by police. Additionally, the judge could sentence the offender to up to five years in prison for each image and order the sentence for each image be served consecutively, or “from and after” each other.
The federal authorities have the ability to prosecute possession of child pornography as well. If the images are transferred via U.S. mail, electronically via the internet, or by other means, then the U.S. Attorney’s Office serving Clearwater could seek a federal indictment because they would have jurisdiction as well. If convicted of possessing child porn in federal court, the offender faces a prison sentence not to exceed fifteen years in federal prison.
Exposing Minor Children to Pornography
Florida police can bring this charge when an individual shows images or videos that meet the definition of pornography to a person under eighteen years of age. There is no requirement under Florida law that the image is child pornography to be guilty of the crime. The crime is complete when the person shows any pornographic materials to a person under 18 years-of-age.
Exposing Minors to Pornography is a first-degree misdemeanor under Florida’s statutory scheme. The maximum possible penalty in Florida for a first-degree misdemeanor is incarceration for no more than one year in the county jail with a fine up to $1,000.00.
A conviction for this offense has potential consequences for a person’s future. The convicted offender must register as a sex offender in Florida if convicted of Exposing Minors to Pornography. Furthermore, the government could seek enhanced penalties such as longer terms of incarceration and higher fines for subsequent convictions of this charge.
Distribution of Child Pornography
Distribution of child pornography is an offense that carries a potential fifteen-year state prison term and a fine of not more than $10,000.00 as a second-degree felony in Florida. Any person convicted of this charge will also be required to register as a sex offender.
The gravamen of the charge of distributing child pornography is the act of dispersing, advertising, directing, producing, or distributing child pornography. The act may be perpetrated by any of those methods.
Manufacturing Child Pornography
Manufacturing child pornography is also a second-degree felony in Florida. Manufacturing child pornography, similar to the distribution of child pornography, is a crime that involves producing or directing the creation of pornography involving minors. A person could be guilty of manufacturing child pornography by producing or creating still images or by creating videos. Furthermore, a person can be convicted under this section if he or she solicits another to participate in the developing or production of child pornography.
As a second-degree felony in Florida, a conviction of this crime is accompanied by a possible fifteen-year incarcerated prison sentence and a $10,000.00 fine. Registration as a sex offender in Florida may also be required.
Sentencing scheme for Child Pornography Crimes in Clearwater
Judges sitting in Clearwater courts consider crimes associated with child pornography to be serious offenses. These judges will hand down significant incarcerated sentences if the accused suffers a conviction. Florida law does not restrict judges’ discretion when passing a sentence on an offender. Therefore, a judge enjoys the distraction to run committed sentences consecutively, meaning one after another to punish all criminal acts fully. For example, assuming a person is convicted of five counts of possession of child pornography, then the judge could sentence the defendant to 25 years in prison or five years from and after on each count. Additionally, the prosecutors could bring one charge for every individual photograph. Thus, if a person who has 200 photos depicting child pornography is convicted of possessing each one, then the judge could conceivably sentence the offender to 1,000 years in prison.
The scenario is not too far-fetched. Judges sometimes impose sentences for each conviction rather than sentencing for a class of crimes. Prosecutors could also use their discretion and seek only one charge to represent the class of crimes rather than one criminal count for each photograph or video.
Federal Child Pornography Crimes and Punishments
A person who uses the mail or internet to commit a crime invokes the jurisdiction of the federal law enforcement authorities. “The feds” do not pursue minor cases, generally. They go after the most serious offenders or those offenders who hold the public trust like a police officer or firefighter in possession of child pornography. Of course, they are not limited to pursuing those offenders.
Federal law enforcement officers have concurrent jurisdiction with Clearwater investigators. Agencies like the FBI could investigate the same criminal behavior and “adopt” the prosecution from the state authorities or indict someone after they complete an investigation.
Federal criminal charges relating to possession of child pornography have the potential of leading to lengthy incarcerated prison sentences in a federal penitentiary. Any images that show a child under twelve, or depict a child engaged in masochistic, unnatural acts, or performing sadistic acts could lead to a judge imposing harsh sentences. Furthermore, anyone charged with possession of four or more images of child pornography, possession of imagery showing minors sexually engaged with each other, or any image depicting a child under five could face severe prison sentences that run for a decade or longer.
Defense Strategies for Pinellas County Child Pornography Charges
Facing child pornography charges could have far-reaching consequences beyond anything that happens in a courtroom. The charge of possession of child pornography, standing on its own, invokes a harsh response from people, and they often jump to conclusions that the person charges is a sexual deviant. The person charged with child pornography-related offenses could lose his or her job, face restrictions on whom they could associate, and where they could live. Furthermore, the family members of the person charged could suffer embarrassment and be ostracized from their community groups because one of their family members faces possession of child pornography charges.
The Clearwater child pornography defense lawyers with Musca Law are lawyers you could turn to if you are facing child pornography charges. They understand that fighting relentlessly to protect their client’s constitutional and statutory rights is more important than what uninformed members of the public think about the charges. Experienced child pornography defense lawyers embrace the fact that they are the only ones who will step up to the plate and present a vigorous defense for a person charged with crimes relating to child pornography.
Each case turns on the individual facts and the individual involved. Close consultation with the client and a thorough understanding of the facts surrounding the case will reveal a defense strategy that serves the best interests of the person charged. A seasoned and knowledgeable child porn defense attorney will develop a case strategy designed to defeat the case at trial or negotiate the best plea offer of both in some instances.
The defense of child erotica contests the nature of the imagery at issue in the trial. Child erotica is not unlawful to possess in Florida, although perhaps distasteful to many. The difference between child erotica and child pornography lies in the actions performed by the children (again, under eighteen years of age). Child erotica depicts a child naked or semi-naked, and could even in a sexually suggestive manner, but is not engaged in a lewd or lascivious act.
The child erotica defense is highly technical. An expert witness could be required to testify that the imagery depicts erotica. Presenting such testimony could help win an acquittal in the case.
Unknowing or Unwitting Possession
Possession, as discussed above, must be knowing and intentional. Opening a file with child pornography in it accidentally is not a crime. If an individual locates a file and deletes it immediately can have an affirmative defense to the crime. For example, downloading a file from the internet suspected to be from a reputable source could be corrupted with illicit photos and then opening the files, all while not knowing what is in the file is not a crime. The case for the defense is much stronger if the person immediately deletes the questionable image.
The police can track the image through software they use and find it on a computer. Most people think that moving an image to their computer’s trash bin deletes the image. However, steps must be taken to remove any trace of the image permanently. Unfortunately, performing the correct procedure is beyond the capabilities of the average computer user.
The prosecution shall always bear the burden of proving knowing and intentional possession. Arguing that the defendant unwittingly possessed or transitorily possessed the illicit imagery, which is another common defense to child pornography, could convince a jury that the government failed to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt and win an acquittal for the accused.
The Images Depict Adults and Not Children
The subjects must be under eighteen to qualify as child pornography. The state must prove that element of the crime. In some cases, the government could prove the age of the child circumstantially. However, in other cases, the age of the person involved could be old enough to consent to appear in the image or video.
A person facing child pornography charges could track down the people in the video and learn their true ages or attack the government’s failure to prove the element of the charge and win a not guilty verdict.
Evidence seized by law enforcement officers in violation of the constitution cannot be used at trial against the accused. The police must adhere to the strict procedural guidelines to search for another’s home and belongings. Failing that, the judge should throw out or suppress the evidence obtained. Additionally, any statements made by the accused in violation of the Miranda warnings or statements made to police that were coerced, cannot be admitted in court to prove the guilt of the person accused of the crime either. Therefore, aggressively pursuing pre-trial motions to suppress evidence is beneficial for the accused. Even if the court rules that the officers did not violate the rights of the accused, arguing the motions could expose weaknesses in the government’s case that could assist the accused in winning an acquittal after a trial or give the defense leverage to negotiate a favorable plea bargain.
Clearwater Child Pornography Defense Attorneys Ready to Fight for You
Call Musca Law today at (888) 484-5057 and schedule a free initial consultation to learn how our law firm can protect your rights. Do not delay. Your liberty is too valuable to wait and see what happens.