Child Pornography Charges Defense Lawyers in Orlando, Florida
Florida takes child pornography-related crimes seriously. Recent headlines indicate that law enforcement in the State is working aggressively to find and arrest people suspected of this crime. Police often use controversial methods in these investigations, including sting operations that are often criticized as being too close to entrapment.
Just this year, the State arrested seventeen people on child-pornography charges, including employees for Disney World. The headlines are salacious, and news outlets jumped on the story. Police and prosecutors know that they can improve their image by convicting people of child pornography-related offenses.
However, sometimes, the charges are false or exaggerated. Regardless of why a person is facing the charges, it is imperative to take them seriously. With something as inflammatory as child-pornography, prosecutors are motivated to seek the harshest possible legal penalties. Failing to put forth a solid defense can result in severe consequences.
If you are facing child pornography charges, you need to seek legal counsel immediately and start working on a strategy to defend against the accusations. Remember, even after a prison sentence comes to an end, some of these charges can result in a person needing to register as a sex offender. The impact on a convicted person's job and social life can last long after the other punishments are over.
The attorneys at Musca Law have experience handling all types of criminal defense cases. Contact our office today to speak with a seasoned Orlando criminal defense attorney in a free and confidential case review session. No matter what the charges accuse you of, the law ensures that you have rights. Our attorneys are standing by to make sure that those rights are protected throughout the legal process.
Charges Related to Child Pornography
Child pornography charges in Florida fall into several different categories. The charges that you are facing will determine the severity of the consequences and the defenses available in your case. Below are the crimes that fall under the umbrella of child pornography under Florida state law.
Possession of Child Pornography: When people think about the crime of child pornography, this is the most common charge that comes to mind. Possession charges may be filed against any individual who has even one image that falls under the definition of child pornography. A person who downloads a qualifying image or has the image within their belongings can face up to five years behind bars. These images include anything that depicts an individual under eighteen engaged in any sexual conduct.
A person facing possession charges might not only face Florida charges but could end up facing federal criminal charges as well. If the suspect shared the image, the charges increase, and the person can face up to a fifteen-year long prison term.
Exposing Minors to Pornography: This crime involves the accused showing pornographic content to a person under eighteen years of age. The material itself need not depict minors; instead, it is the act of showing that pornographic content to the minor that is the crime. A person convicted of exposing a minor to pornography may face a prison term of up to a year. Additional penalties include a $1,000 fine and possibly needing to register as a sex offender. People who commit this crime more than once may face enhanced sentences, which may include longer prison terms and higher fines in addition to other penalties.
Distribution of Child Pornography: When a person knowingly distributes, as in disperses, directs, produces, or advertises images or videos of minor individuals engaged in sexual conduct, prosecutors will likely charge that person with the distribution of child pornography. This crime comes with a possible prison sentence of fifteen years, as well as fines and other penalties.
Manufacturing of Child Pornography: People accused of manufacturing child pornography face a maximum prison sentence of fifteen years, fines and required registration as a sex offender. Manufacturing includes producing or directing pornographic images or videos that depict minors. A person who solicits minors to create these images or videos can also face this charge.
Each case will involve factors that can impact the severity of the charges. It is essential to speak with an experienced Orlando Child Pornography Defense Attorney to understand what the charges mean in your individual case.
Charges that Prosecutors Often File in Conjunction with Child Pornography Charges
When prosecutors charge someone with a crime, they will often try to include any related offenses that could be included. This is even more likely with charges for child pornography, where public pressure often motivates the State to take the harshest approach possible.
Here are some charges that defendants in child pornography cases might find themselves facing:
- Statutory rape;
- Fondling of a minor;
- Lewd Behavior involving a minor;
- Sexual battery involving a minor;
- Other sex-related criminal conduct involving a minor.
Minors are not legally considered to have the mental capacity to consent to sexual acts. This means that anyone engaged in any of this conduct with a minor is likely to face criminal charges. There are defenses that can be raised in these cases. By speaking to an attorney about your individual situation, you can learn which defenses are likely to apply.
Criminal Penalties and Sentencing
Sentences for criminal child pornography charges in Florida are severe. Some of the likely sentences and penalties are as follows:
- Prison sentences ranging from five to thirty years;
- Life sentencing for people who qualify as repeat offenders;
- Sex offender registration;
- Hefty monetary fines;
- Restricted access to places where children are;
- Possibly restricted access to the accused own children; and
- Trouble finding housing and employment because the criminal background is public information, and many people refuse to hire or rent to sex offenders.
Prosecutors in Florida are not known for leniency when it comes to prosecuting individuals accused of child pornography-related offenses. If you are facing these charges, expect the State to seek serious penalties.
Charges for Federal Crimes
As previously mentioned, people who are charged with child pornography crimes can be charged both for state offenses as well as for federal offenses. If the accused used the internet or mail to share images or videos, then federal charges may follow. Federal charges may result in extended prison terms, monetary penalties, and required registration as a sex offender.
People in possession of content that is considered masochistic, sadistic, or that depict children who are younger than twelve can face enhanced punishments.
Enhanced Sentencing and Aggravated Charges
Charges for child pornography often come with mandatory minimum sentences. This means that the judge is obligated to sentence the person to a certain amount of time in prison. However, the minimum is just that; it is the minimum. Sentences can be much harsher, depending on the circumstances. Aggravated charges mean that something in the facts of the case upgrades the charge and the resulting penalties. Here are some scenarios where prosecutors might seek enhanced sentences:
- The accused has four or more qualifying images;
- The accused is in possession of a video depicting minors engaged in sexual conduct;
- The accused has images that include bestiality, sadomasochistic abuse, or sexual battery;
- The images in the accused’s possession depict a minor below the age of five.
Orange County Child Pornography Defenses
When an accused person is suspected of child pornography-related crimes, that person has the right to defend against those charges. There are numerous possible ways to defend against these charges, and the right defense for any case will depend on the facts and circumstances particular to that situation. Some commonly used defenses for this crime include:
Child Erotica: An image that is classified as child erotica is not considered illegal. It can sometimes be challenging to determine whether an image is a legal erotica image or illegal pornography. Erotica may show children who are naked, and can even be suggestive, but not lascivious enough to warrant prosecution and conviction for child pornography. Your attorney will be able to say whether this defense might be applicable in your situation.
Unknowing Possession: Electronic data can be tricky, and hackers and viruses can infect a person's computer without that individual's knowledge. If a computer virus or hacker placed the images on a person's computer against that person's will and /or without that person's knowledge, then the individual can raise this defense.
Transitory Possession: Similar to the above defense, a person can receive these images or videos without their consent or without their intention. People often try to delete these images as soon as they know what the images are depicting. Of course, deleting something from a computer does not mean that it is necessarily gone. The images might be in the cache or saved as thumbnails. In these cases, the individual can raise this defense against the charges.
Substantial Assistance: When a defendant provides assistance to law enforcement in the course of the investigation, and that helps lead to another investigation, conviction or arrest, then the defendant may be able to secure a reduced sentence. The individual in this situation is not denying the charges, but rather making a deal with law enforcement in which he or she provides them with valuable information and earns a lesser sentence in return. This might be especially useful if the person providing the information is charged with a lesser offense than the person that he or she provides information on.
Adult Depiction: In some cases, the images may appear to be of minors, but are actually showing adults engaged in sexual conduct. If this is the case, then the images are not illegal, and this defense can be used to fight the charges.
Good Faith Reporting and Destruction: This defense is only available to individuals who have three or fewer images in their possession. If this person has just three images or less, he or she can say that he or she made a good faith effort to destroy the images or to report them to law enforcement officers. Anyone who has four images or more cannot use this as a defense.
Illegal Evidence Collection: Most convictions for child pornography crimes occur after law enforcement officers collect evidence from the accused person’s computer or other electronic devices or of the suspect's home or personal property. These searches must be done with a warrant. If police conduct such a search without first properly obtaining a search warrant, then that search and the evidence collected in the course of that search will be unlawfully gained and, therefore, subject to exclusion from any resulting charges.
Sting operations often look a lot like the NBC Dateline series "To Catch a Predator," which aired as a twelve-part series until 2007. On the show, reporters targeted adults who were using internet chat rooms to connect with and to try to meet with underage individuals for sexual purposes. Some people were critical of the series stating that the suspects often were baited into the arrangements when they might never have attempted to arrange such a meeting on their own. Many critics say that while these operations are often successful in finding people to convict, investigations should focus on active and aggressive predators, not people who the investigators are able to bait.
"To Catch a Predator" was canceled after one of the men baited by the show committed suicide. However, the recent sting operation that led to seventeen arrests in Florida indicates that police are still willing to use similar methods. The operation, like the television special, involved officers setting up and arranging meetings. The undercover officers used programs like Facebook Messenger to communicate and arrange staged rendezvous. When the suspects arrived, the police placed them under arrest. The accused individuals are all men, some as young as nineteen and others in their seventies.
The arrests indicate that Florida law enforcement is proactively and aggressively investigating child pornography-related offenses. The State is clearly ready to invest in locating perpetrators and trying them to the fullest extent of the law.
The somewhat controversial investigative methods used by officers are just one more indication that suspects need to protect themselves and their rights.
If you are facing child pornography charges, our attorneys will review the circumstances of your case, including the investigation that led to your arrest. We will work tirelessly to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the entire process.
A Note on Teen Sexting Charges
Smartphones are basically ubiquitous at this point, and most teens, and sometimes even younger children are in possession of these electronic devices. Phones that can take photographs and videos led to the now-common issue of "sexting." The problem with sexting teens is that they are creating and distributing images that qualify as child pornography. Of course, when two teens exchange naked pictures of one another, child pornography charges seem harsh. The law now recognizes that sexting images between teens are a less severe offense than possession of child pornography in most other circumstances.
It is critical, however, for teens and parents to understand though that sexting among teenagers is still illegal, and that serious criminal consequences are possible in these situations. A first-time offense will likely result in misdemeanor charges. In some instances, teens may face more serious charges. This could result when a teen becomes a repeat offender or has committed many offenses. The charges can, in some cases, rise to the level of a felony. If you or your teenage son or daughter is facing these charges, it is vital to speak to an experienced Orlando Criminal defense attorney to understand what is at stake and the best options for defending against the charges.
In many cases, teens may avoid trouble by reporting the images to a responsible adult such as a parent, teacher, or police officer. This defense is only available so long as the teen did not share the images with anyone else before reporting them.
While teen sexting laws may seem harsh, it is essential to understand the law and the risks teens are facing when they exchange such images.
Contact Musca Law Now and Protect Your Life and Liberty!
Anyone facing child pornography charges will likely be frightened and have a lot of questions. The charges can be embarrassing and overwhelming, but it is important to understand that you do not have to face these accusations alone. The experienced Orlando criminal defense attorneys at Musca Law are ready to stand up for you and your rights. We will work with you to develop the best defense strategy for your case. We offer a free and completely confidential consultation to our clients. Contact us today at (888) 484-5057 to speak with one of our attorneys and to learn how we can help.