Child Pornography Defense Lawyers in Panama City, Florida
Panama City law enforcement officials have taken on numerous alleged offenders who have been accused of child pornography crimes. Often, federal prosecutors are involved in child pornography cases as content uploaded or downloaded to or from the internet may involve conduct out of the state of Florida. Both Florida state prosecutors and federal prosecutors are zealous when investigating child pornography cases, often seeking the maximum penalties allowable under the law.
At the end of last year, federal prosecutors charged a Panama City police officer with multiple child pornography crimes for allegedly soliciting and distributing videos that depict teenage boys engaging in sexual acts. No matter who the accused person is, prosecutors will be equally aggressive in seeking a conviction, whether the charges a person is facing are Florida state crimes or federal crimes, or perhaps both.
Any child under the age of eighteen who has been depicted in a photograph or video in a sexual manner deserves to be rescued from a horrible situation. Many offenders are serving time in jail for a legitimate reason. However, because of the sensitive nature of child pornography crimes, any accusation involving a child pornography crime can result in charges and potential conviction. Some individuals are accused of crimes they have not committed. A variety of factors can result in false accusations, whether a person has accidentally clicked on a link to a child pornography site or a person other than the accused used the accused person’s computer to possess, produce, and/or distribute child pornography.
Whether prosecutors have a good case or not, they will fight to seek a conviction of the accused individual. As such, anyone facing child pornography criminal charges in Panama City will have a significant challenge to overcome when defending him or herself in court. However, with a qualified Panama City Child Pornography Defense Lawyer, accused individuals have a better chance of reaching an outcome in court that is fair given the available evidence and likely outcome at trial.
The Panama City Child Pornography Defense Lawyers of Musca Law Can Help You
Musca Law is a well-known law firm comprised of highly skilled trial lawyers who devote their legal careers to defending the rights of clients facing severe crimes in Panama City and throughout the rest of Florida. The Panama City Child Pornography Defense Lawyers have decades of combined experience in the courtroom against the same prosecutors year after year. Musca Law knows what the prosecution will do and how to defend against a prosecution’s case in court.
While Panama City has numerous trial attorneys who are successful in court, not every trial attorney has the specialized skill of handling felonies at the state and federal level. At Musca Law, our attorneys only handle criminal matters, including some of the most severe crimes that can result in substantial jail time of up to life in prison. No matter the nature of the crime, Musca Law devotes the necessary energy, resources, and advocacy skills to ensure all clients are receiving superior legal representation. After all, constitutional rights are on the line, and accused individuals deserve the best representation possible.
Child Pornography Criminal Charges in Panama City, Florida
Child pornography encompasses numerous crimes that are often charged in conjunction with one another. Whether in hard copy format or electronic format, child pornography can lead to severe crimes that can change a person’s life forever. Under Florida law, Statute Section 847.001(3), child pornography is defined as “any image depicting a minor engaged in sexual conduct.”
The definition of child pornography can involve conduct that ranges in severity from possessing one image of a teenager being depicted in a sexual way to producing films and distributing them online. Regardless of how serious the conduct is, any person accused of a crime involving child pornography should expect to receive the harshest of criminal charges available, even for someone who possesses a photo of an individual he or she believed to be eighteen years old or older. A person may find him or herself facing multiple charges for conduct that does not fit the alleged crimes. This tendency to “overcharge” child pornography crimes can leave many individuals facing criminal charges they may not deserve.
Possession of Child Pornography in Bay County, Florida
The standard of any criminal case is that a person cannot be convicted of a crime unless a jury agrees that the evidence proves the person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Such a standard is high. However, the standard for charging child pornography crimes is not as high. Additionally, being charged with any crime involving child pornography carries a stigma that the accused must already be guilty if he or she is facing such a heinous crime.
Child pornography charges in Panama City typically involve the alleged possession of child pornography. Under Florida Statute Section 827.071(4), it is illegal for a person to “knowingly possess, control, or intentionally view a photograph, motion picture, exhibition, show, representation, image, data, computer depiction, or other presentation which, in whole or in part, he or she knows to include any sexual conduct by a child.” The statute also states that the “possession, control, or intentional viewing of such photograph, motion picture, exhibition, show, image, data, computer depiction, representation, or presentation is a separate offense.”
Possession can be either constructive or actual. Constructive possession is when a person has control over an object or data even when that object or data is not controlled in a physical manner. Prosecutors seeking to convict a person for possessing child pornography must prove that the person knew where the object or data was located, could exercise control and dominion over the object or data, and had the intent to have control and dominion over the object or data. Actual possession is when a person possesses an item that does have a physical form. Actual possession is easier to prove, lowering the prosecution’s burden at trial.
Under Florida law, possessing even one picture or video of a minor under the age of eighteen depicted in a sexual nature can lead to a third-degree felony. In Florida, a person convicted of a third-degree felony faces imprisonment for up to five years and a fine not to exceed $5,000. Criminal charges can quickly become more severe if more than one photo or video depicting minors in a sexual nature is involved. Such conduct may lead to distribution charges, which can result in even more significant criminal penalties. Additionally, each photograph or video counts as one criminal charge. As such, the more photograph and video items recovered, the more crimes that will be charged, and the more severe the punishment.
Federal Prosecution of Possession of Child Pornography in Panama City, Florida
As stated previously, child pornography charges exist at both the state level, which is governed by Florida statutes and federal law, which is governed by federal statutes. If child pornography is distributed via the internet, via regular mail (i.e., U.S. Mail, Federal Express, UPS, etc.), or by any other means that causes the child pornography to cross state lines and leave the state of Florida, the federal government can charge a person with federal child pornography possession charges.
In such cases, the United States Attorneys will be prosecuting the case – not state prosecutors. However, in some cases, individuals may be facing both state and federal charges of possessing child pornography. Under federal law, a person convicted of possession of child pornography faces up to fifteen years in federal prison.
The Exposure of Pornography to Minors in Panama City, Florida
An additional crime that involves pornography and minors under the age of eighteen is the exposure of pornography to minors in any form. What this means is that a person who exposes a minor to pornography – whether the pornography depicts adults or minors – may be found guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor, which can result in a jail sentence of up to one year and a monetary fine not to exceed $1,000.
Distributing or Promoting Child Pornography in Panama City, Florida
Under Florida law, Statute Section 827.071(d) defines promote in the context of child pornography to mean the following: to “procure, manufacture, issue, sell, give, provide, lend, mail, deliver, transfer, transmute, publish, distribute, circulate, disseminate, present, exhibit, or advertise or to offer or agree to do the same.” A person who is ultimately convicted of distributing or promoting child pornography will be found guilty of the crime of “use of a child in a sexual performance.” Conviction results in a second-degree felony, punishable by up to ten years in state prison and the imposition of a fine not to exceed $10,000.
The Manufacture of Child Pornography in Panama City, Florida
Anyone who is charged with manufacturing child pornography under Florida law will face a tough case against Panama City prosecutors. Like the distribution or promotion of child pornography, the manufacture of child pornography is a second-degree felony carrying potential jail time of up to ten years and a fine of up to $10,000. Multiple charges of manufacturing child pornography can lead to decades of jail time.
Panama City Prosecutors Seek Hefty Sentences in Court
If Panama City prosecutors secure a child pornography conviction, they tend to ask the court to impose the harshest sentence allowable under Florida law. The same is true of federal prosecutors. While some convicted individuals may deserve a harsh jail sentence, many do not. At the sentencing stage of a criminal proceeding, both the prosecution and the defense will propose what they believe to be a fair sentence. The judge has the discretion to impose whatever criminal penalties he or she believes are appropriate and in compliance with the law.
Judges can approach a child pornography conviction in many ways. A judge could conceivably sentence a convicted person to two-hundred-fifty years in jail (five years for a total of fifty offenses of possessing child pornography). However, such a result is not likely. Convicted individuals should expect to face at least five to ten years in jail for first offenses, and up to twenty-five years or longer with subsequent or more severe child pornography offenses.
Federal Child Pornography Criminal Charges in Panama City
The federal government may seek to charge an individual with federal child pornography criminal charges if child pornography crosses state lines, leaving Florida and entering the national stream of commerce. A person may face federal child pornography charges if he or she possesses child pornography that departs the state of Florida through transmission via the internet, transmission by mail (or Federal Express, UPS, etc.), or transmission by any other means which causes the child pornography to leave the state of Florida.
Federal judges have broad discretion to use the federal sentencing guidelines as well as recommendations from both the prosecution and the defense when deciding on how much time a convicted person should spend in jail. Even if a convicted individual has a lot of helpful facts on his or her side (such as no prior criminal history and the child pornography conviction is lower on the scale of severity), judges can still impose severe sentences that keep a person in jail for ten or more years.
Defending Child Pornography Charges in Panama City
The availability of defenses helps to demonstrate to a judge and jury that a Panama City prosecution does not have enough facts to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person is guilty of a crime involving child pornography. To use such defenses, a person must team up with a qualified Panama City Child Pornography Defense Lawyer who will thoroughly evaluate a client’s case to determine what defenses may exist. While many defenses may be available, given the facts of each case, a few examples include the following:
Child Erotica – A defendant may present the defense of “child erotica” if he or she can submit evidence or arguments that demonstrate the images at issue in a child pornography case are not child pornography. Under Florida law, the prosecution must prove that the image(s) at issue is, in fact, child pornography. The defense of child erotica seeks to establish that the image(s) at issue is not child pornography as they do not depict lewd or lascivious acts. While the image(s) at issue may show a minor under the age of eighteen partially nude in a sexually suggestive way, such images do not satisfy the definition of child pornography.
Unknowing or Unwitting Possession – It is not uncommon for Panama City prosecutors to charge individuals with possessing child pornography even when such possession was short and accidental. Accidentally downloading a file that depicts child pornography can be an affirmative defense to the charge of possession. However, the accused person must show that he or she immediately deleted the file after discovering it. The time between download and deletion can be valuable when presenting this defense.
Pornographic Images Do Not Depict Children – If Panama City prosecutors cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual(s) are minors under the age of eighteen, grounds may exist to dismiss criminal charges involving child pornography. If the accused person can present evidence or testimony supporting a defense that the subject(s) of the pornography are adults and not minors, prosecutors may have no choice but to drop criminal charges.
Musca Law – Panama City Child Pornography Defense Lawyers Protecting Your Constitutional Rights
Aside from general defenses that will be unique to every Panama City pornography case, additional defenses involving the violation of an accused person’s constitutional rights may provide enough grounds to seek dismissal of child pornography criminal charges. One way in which law enforcement officials can violate an accused person’s constitutional rights is by illegally obtaining evidence that, if shown to a judge or jury, may support a finding of guilt. However, police officers and detectives cannot use evidence at trial to prove criminal charges unless such evidence was lawfully obtained with a warrant.
Another way in which law enforcement officials can violate a person’s rights is by failing to read the accused person his or her Miranda rights, which protect the accused person from saying anything that can be used against him or her in a court of law. Failing to read Miranda rights means that accused persons are unaware that if they say something, it may come up at trial.
Constitutional violations sometimes go unchecked, and this may happen when an accused person does not have the right attorney handling the criminal matter. A reputable and highly experienced Panama City Child Pornography Defense Lawyer will discover what acts law enforcement officials took that may have violated the accused person’s constitutional rights. Without a strong attorney, police officers, detectives, and prosecutors may get away with violating a defendant’s constitutional rights.
Contact the Panama City Child Pornography Defense Lawyers of Musca Law Today
Whether you have been charged with crimes in Panama City related to child pornography or you fear you may be facing criminal charges in the near future, you must move swiftly to seek the advice of attorneys who have represented clients in your shoes. At Musca Law, our Panama City Criminal Defense Attorneys are standing by to provide you with the guidance and advice you need and deserve. To schedule your free consultation to speak with a member of our legal team, contact Musca Law today by calling (888) 484-5057.