Child Pornography Lawyer in Tallahassee
Defense Lawyers for Child Pornography Crimes in Tallahassee
Possession of child pornography is an infamous crime. The average person is disgusted by the depictions of children in sexual positions. Children are supposed to be innocent, and their lives should not be shattered by someone who takes advantage of their youth for sexual gratification.
Florida law enforcement investigators and federal law enforcement investigators frequently run sting operations to lure people into possessing or distributing child pornography. Experienced investigators toe the fine line between entrapment and engaging a willing participant who caves in to police pressure.
Police attack people who allegedly possess items of child pornography to try to eliminate the exploitation of children. Investigators only attack the end-used and not the source. Rarely are the origins of the child pornography captured. Instead, the end-user who had nothing to do with creating the image feels the wrath of society coming down on him or her.
The anger of decent society, the outrage in the press, and the vitriol spewed by police and prosecutors alike could make the person believe that he or she is guilty of the crime, even if he or she is actually innocent.
Police and prosecutors make mistakes and charge innocent people. We know from experience that people at large look at a headline and make a snap judgment about the guilt or innocence of someone, especially when the charge evokes strong negative emotions like a child pornography charge. They never bother to watch the trial of the accused to see if the evidence plays out like the headlines summarized.
If you face criminal charges or became embroiled in a criminal investigation relating to child pornography in Tallahassee, then you should not delay engaging the child pornography defense lawyers with Musca Law. Musca Law’s child pornography defense attorneys have the knowledge and experience necessary to make sure that you not only get a fair trial but work closely with you to devise a defense strategy that places protection of your rights paramount to anything else. Call Musca Law’s Tallahassee criminal defense lawyers today at (888)484-5057 and start protecting your rights, the rights to which every person charged with a crime must experience if the U.S. Bill of Rights and the Florida Constitution are to have any meaning.
Child Pornography Allegations in Tallahassee
Florida’s state law and even federal law segregates child pornography charges into various categories. In every case, the police and prosecution will look to bring the most serious charge for which they believe probable cause exists. Probable cause is not a high burden to hurdle. Probable cause is merely the amount of evidence that the police have, which would cause a person of ordinary intelligence to think the person is "probably guilty." With the bar set so low, the authorities will pile on the charges as long as there is probable cause.
Probable cause and proof of a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt are separate and distinct standards of evidence. Many prosecutors will bring a slew of criminal charges with the expectation that quantity outweighs quality. In other words, they will assemble a case with as many charges as possible so the jury will convict the accused of at least one of the crimes even if they cannot prove them all beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors are ethically bound not to advance frivolous or onerous charges, but if there is a shred of evidence that the suspect committed the crime, then the prosecutor will bring that charge. That is why police and state’s attorneys file information affidavits that seek charges that seem redundant, overlapping or overcharged.
The most common criminal charge relating to child pornography is the possession of a photograph or video that is considered child pornography. Each photograph found within the possession of the accused is a potential charge.
Possession of Child Pornography
Child pornography, simply put, is a photograph, video, or other medium showing a child under eighteen years-of-age participating or engaging in sexual conduct. Florida law considers possession of child pornography to be a third-degree felony. A person convicted of a third-degree felony could serve up to five years in prison and have to pay a fine not to exceed $5,000.00. A sentencing judge may take into consideration the sheer number of photographs a person possesses and order that the sentences for a conviction of each count of possession of child pornography run consecutively, rather than concurrently.
Federal law enforcement officers can investigate possession of child pornography as well. If federal authorities have probable cause to believe that the target of the investigation received an image via the internet or by traditional mail, including via private shipping companies, then the U.S. Attorney’s Office could prosecute the case.
Federal law is harsh. A person convicted of possessing merely one photograph depicting child pornography could receive a federal prison sentence of not to exceed fifteen years.
Exposing a Minor to Pornography
Showing a pornographic image or video to a person younger than eighteen is a crime in Florida. The image need not show a child. The crime is complete upon showing the image to the person who is younger than eighteen.
Florida law defines the charge of exposing a minor to pornography as a first-degree misdemeanor. A person convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor could receive a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000.00. The person convicted of this charge must register as a convicted sex offender in Florida. Furthermore, a conviction for a subsequent offense of exposing a minor to pornography rises to a felony charge.
Distributing Child Pornography
The criminal charge of distribution of child pornography is a very serious offense. The potential prison sentence could be as long as fifteen years because the crime is considered a second-degree felony. The fine for a second-degree felony is no more than $10,000.00.
Law enforcement officers deploy significant resources to find people who distribute child pornography. Distributors of child pornography are challenging to identify because of the clandestine manner in which child pornography is traded on the internet.
A person can be charged with the distribution of child pornography when he or she knowingly distributes, dispenses, advertises, or produces imagery that shows a minor engaging in sexual conduct.
Manufacturing Child Pornography
Manufacturing child pornography is a second-degree felony in Florida as well. A person will be guilty of manufacturing child pornography if the evidence proves that the makes the imagery that depicts a child engaging in a sexual act. The unlawful representation could be in video format or in still photos. A person may also be convicted of this crime if he or she solicits another to participate in the making of child pornography.
A person convicted of manufacturing child pornography in Florida could be incarcerated for up to fifteen years.
Sentencing Considerations for Judges in Tallahassee
Judges in Tallahassee are sworn to uphold the constitution, and they will do so no matter what charges come before them. However, a heavy-handed judge could impose a substantial prison term for a person convicted of multiple charges involving child pornography. Judges have the authority, subject to the application of Florida's Criminal Procedure Code, to punish a person harshly by sentencing him or her to the maximum sentence allowed by law, per count. Committed sentences could run for decades.
Under the Criminal Procedure Code, the judge must consider the impact the crime had on the victim, and the severity of the conduct of the defendant, along with many other considerations. The sentencing judge has the authority to depart downward from the minimum sentence if the conditions mandated by law are satisfied.
Musca Law’s Tallahassee child pornography defense attorneys understand the complicated sentencing scheme Florida uses to punish offenders. They make sure that their clients fully comprehend the potential penalties involved. Having an informed and educated client assists Musca Law's Tallahassee child pornography defense lawyer to devise a defense strategy that is proper for your particular circumstances.
Additional Charges Filed with Child Pornography Charges
Charges such as rape, sexual battery of a minor, fondling of a minor, statutory rape, and prosecutors commonly charge lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor along with child pornography charges. Minors cannot legally consent to sexual contact because, under Florida law, a person younger than eighteen cannot consent to sex. Consent, therefore, is not a crime, even if the person voices consent or acts in a manner consistent with agreeing to participate in the sexual conduct or making of a film or photograph.
Technically speaking, consent is not a valid defense, nor is it considered to be a mitigating circumstance at times by prosecutors or judges. However, Musca Law’s Tallahassee child pornography defense attorneys rely upon their vast experience to defend their clients vigorously and effectively with compelling defenses that show a full picture of the events at hand rather than looking at them through the narrow scope of a prosecuting attorney.
Sentencing and Collateral Issues in Tallahassee Child Pornography Cases
As previously discussed, Florida judges often levy significant prison sentences for convictions relating to child pornography charges. Additionally, the defendant’s prior criminal record could qualify him or her as a habitual criminal. A habitual criminal could receive a life sentence upon a conviction for child pornography charges in Tallahassee.
Convictions for child pornography charges carry substantial collateral consequences that have life-altering effects even after paying a debt to society by serving a long prison sentence. Some examples of collateral consequences following a conviction on child pornography charges are:
- Registration as a sex offender,
- Involuntary commitment to a treatment facility as a sexual predator,
- Deportation or exclusion from the United States, even for people in the country lawfully but who are non-citizens,
- GPS monitoring, and
- Potential exclusion from housing and work activities because of the proximity to children.
Successful Defenses Against Child Pornography Charges in Leon County
Every person charged with a crime has a constitutional guarantee to a fair trial. A child pornography defense attorney understands the importance of a fair trial and also knows how to use the constitutional protections afforded to a person accused of a crime to their client’s benefit.
Each case involving child pornography differs from all others. Therefore, the particular facts and circumstances of every case will dictate the defenses available to the accused. Defenses available for one defendant might not have the same efficacy in a different matter. Even still, there are prevalent defense theories used at trial, which may be applicable to a wide range of cases.
One defense theory is child erotica. The difference between erotica and pornography is one of degree. Erotica, even if it is utterly distasteful and utterly lacking in any socially redeeming value, is not pornography. Therefore, possession of child erotica is not a crime in Florida because the child is not shown engaging in sexual conduct, despite the suggestiveness of the photo or video.
Unwitting possession is another defense that is widely used. Involuntary possession explains how innocent people came to have child pornography on their computers. Hackers can hide unlawful images and videos in files that people download. A person could unwittingly download a file that is infected with child pornography. Therefore, the person could argue that he or she must not be convicted because the individual had no intent to possess child pornography.
Transitory possession is analogous to unwitting possession. Temporary possession means that the person had possession of the image but only for a short time and immediately deleted the offenses item. However, the file could remain in the computer’s cache memory without the computer user even knowing it.
People have varied interests in the sexual matter, approaching the prurient. Just because one person might find those matters distasteful does not mean they are unlawful to possess. Many times people portray underage children in films to fulfill the viewer's fantasies when, in fact, they are consenting adults. One cannot be convicted of child pornography when only consenting adults appear in the video or photos.
Another defense arises when a person destroys a video or photograph and then reports it to authorities. This scenario often appears in the context of "sexting." Florida legislators carved out an exception for children who receive text messages, essentially depicting child pornography. However, if the recipient does not forward the message or destroys it and the recipient reports the existence of the image or video to the police, parents, guardian, school resource officer, or other authority figures at school, then the recipient will avoid criminal sanctions.
Another valid defense is not reserved for trial but is litigated before trial in a motion to suppress seized evidence. Every action that law enforcement takes must satisfy constitutional scrutiny. Some activities, like walking up to a person and asking a question — without more — does not invoke the individual’s constitutional rights. However, if the police stopped the person, began talking, and would not allow that person to leave, then the police's actions must survive a constitutional attack if any evidence seized during that encounter could be admitted at trial.
Police often use search warrants to obtain evidence in child pornography investigations. The police can seize a phone, computer, laptop, or other mobile devices when looking for electronic images. They could also search for tangible videotapes and photographs if the evidence allows.
Seeking permission to search a person’s home and possessions with authority conferred by a search warrant are constitutionally reasonable, provided that probable cause supports issuing a search warrant. Many judges and magistrates examine a search warrant application and affidavit quickly to see if there is probable cause. They might read it once and then approve it. Search warrants are not regularly denied at the initial stages of the investigation.
However, after someone is charged, then that person could ask the presiding judge to review the search warrant closely. The judge might disagree with the issuing authority and rule that the warrant and application are not supported by probable cause. Therefore, any items seized during the search would be inadmissible in court.
Motions to suppress do not exclusively pertain to tangible objects seized with or without a warrant. Investigators want to interrogate people who possess child pornography. The authorities want to know where the unlawful material originated. They also want to get an admission to the crime. Getting the suspect to admit to possessing child pornography goes a long way to securing a conviction.
Another viable defense is entrapment. The defense of entrapment argues that an agent of the police used tactics to overcome the will of the target subject and convinced that person to violate the law. The defendant has the burden in one of the rare instances in which the defendant and not the government have the burden to present evidence of entrapment. Then, the government, much like a self-defense claim, must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that police tactics did not overbear the accused's will.
When Your Life and Liberty are in Jeopardy, Do Not Trust Your Fate to Just Any Law Firm
Musca Law’s aggressive child pornography defense attorneys are dedicated to protecting your constitutional rights. Our lawyers develop defense strategies that afford you the best opportunity to protect your life and freedom. Call Musca Law’s Tallahassee child pornography lawyers today at (888)484-5057 and start asserting your constitutional rights today.