Potential Defenses to Computer Pornography Charges
Florida Statute 847.0135, commonly known as the Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act, was created to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation online. This law specifically focuses on using computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices to send or receive child pornography via the internet.
Federal and state governments both have clear stances on the sexual exploitation of minors. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could face federal child pornography charges as well as state violations. For example, transmitting pornographic images of minors across state lines violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution and is punishable by five years to 20 years imprisonment.
Fortunately, the law allows several defenses to computer pornography charges, including:
- Shared devices. The prosecution must prove that the contraband materials were in your possession. In many cases, having the media stored on a personal computer or cellphone is considered legal possession. However, if you have a shared computer—such as a home computer with several potential users or a workstation you share with colleagues—you could argue that someone else downloaded or shared the illegal content.
- Adult depiction. Computer pornography is only illegal if it involves children. If the person in the content was over 18 at the time of recording, the charges shouldn't apply.
- Unknowing possession. Computer pornography charges require the intentional possession of exploitative images of a minor. If you never viewed, accessed, or transmitted the materials, you might argue that you didn't know that they were on your device.
- Illegal search and seizure. Police must follow specific procedures when questioning suspects and collecting evidence of illicit materials. If law enforcement fails to follow the proper protocol when searching or seizing your devices, the prosecution's evidence might be challenged and deemed inadmissible in court.
- Entrapment. You might be able to argue entrapment if an undercover police officer encouraged you to commit a crime that you would not have otherwise committed.
- Destruction and reporting. One possible defense to federal computer pornography charges is proof that you acted in good faith when you discovered the materials in your possession by reporting them to law enforcement. However, this defense is only available if you possess up to three images or videos.
- Substantial assistance. Assisting the government with inquiries isn't a defense but a way to lessen the penalties against you. Law enforcement is typically more concerned about the people who manufacture illegal images and videos than those who view them. If you help prosecutors or police identify or convict distributors of child pornography, your charges might be reduced or suspended.
Don't Try to Explain Your Actions Without a Defense Lawyer Present
If you have been arrested or are under investigation for suspected computer pornography, you may be tempted to "clear things up" with law enforcement. Even if you think the incident has a simple explanation, you should never make a statement without contacting a lawyer first.
Police can use anything you say to obtain further evidence, apply for a search warrant, or file additional charges against you. In addition to a lengthy prison sentence, anyone convicted of computer pornography will be added to the sex offender registry for life. The actions you take right now can safeguard your future—or they can limit your available options in court.
Board-certified criminal trial attorney Robert David Malove handles both state and federal computer pornography charges—and we offer free consultations and affordable payment plans to make justice accessible to everyone. Contact us online or call us today at 954-861-0384 to have us explain your options at no cost to you.