Defending People Charged With Internet Crimes
According to reports published by the United States Federal Government, in the mid-1980s, trafficking of child-pornography within the United States was nearly eradicated through successful campaigns by federal and state authorities.
In the 1980’s, producing child pornography was difficult and expensive, however, with the advent of computers and the internet, child pornography has become easier to acquire, reproduce and store.
Digital cameras and the ease in which images and movies can be posted on the internet, combined with a world wide web which has no borders, has made it easy for distributors and collectors of child pornography to obtain the illegal photographs and videos. Although most people have some knowledge about the vast amount of pornography located on the internet, The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has estimated that 20% of all internet pornography involves children.
Legally speaking, 20% of the pornography located on the internet is illegal to possess in the United States.
As a result of the increase in the availability of child-pornography, federal and state convictions for crimes related to child-pornography has increased. Recently, the United States Department of Justice announced a national strategy for eliminating child pornography. The effort includes nationalized databases allowing states to share information and the hiring of 38 assistant U.S. Attorneys across the United States to prosecute child pornography crimes.
A person must merely open a newspaper or watch the television to find a news article or picture of a person whose name and reputation is ruined by state or federal charges related to possession of child pornography.
Instead of focusing on the people producing child pornography, efforts have shifted and law enforcement is now targeting people who possess child pornography. In order to help prosecute regular citizens, the federal government has partnered with internet search engines to find people searching for, downloading and possessing child pornography.
Computer crimes are not limited to simply possession or distribution of child pornography.
Many people have seen television shows where law enforcement uses a computer to lure unsuspecting people into illegal situations (e.g., NBC’s documentary, To Catch a Predator, etc.).
In such situations, a law enforcement officer poses as a minor and lures a unsuspecting person to a location; the location is usually portrayed as the minor’s home. When the unlucky person arrives at the minor’s home, television cameras record the subsequent conversation between the surprised adult and law enforcement.
Sometimes, the unlucky person believes (or hopes) he or she may be able to “talk their way out” of a potential arrest; however, the statements made by the person is recorded and likely used by a prosecutor as the basis for a criminal prosecution.
In short, sex crimes, internet crimes and computer crimes are a primary focus of state and federal law enforcement throughout the country.
Examination of the Computer
In any case involving a computer, it is critical to use a computer expert in any child pornography case. The use of such experts can help establish a defense to the crime by showing some of the following:
• When an illegal file was downloaded;
• Which computer program was used to download an illegal file;
• Which computer user downloaded an illegal file;
• Whether the illegal file was placed on the computer as a result of a computer virus;
• Whether the illegal file was placed on the computer by somebody “hacking” into an unsuspecting user’s computer, and;
• Whether the people portrayed in the images and/or movies are actually “children” or models above the legal age of consent who are “posing” as a minor.
Unfortunately, most attorneys do not have sufficient knowledge about computer technology to even consider the use of computer experts. Most attorneys without sufficient computer background simply believe that if child pornography is found on a computer, the person is “guilty”.
Examples of Common Situations
Throughout the United States, prosecutors can file variety of different charges against a person for using a computer for what may appear to be legal activities.
Three common examples are provided:
Example #1: A suspect looks for pornographic material on the internet and subsequently downloads both legal and illegal materials (e.g., child pornography, etc.). The illegal materials actually come from a website which is operated by the federal government for the sole purpose of finding and arresting people who download child pornography. Once the illegal materials are downloaded from the law enforcement computer, a warrant is requested from a local court and the computer is seized and searched.
The person is arrested even if they didn’t know the materials downloaded onto their computer were illegal.
Many people believe that if a website looks “legitimate”, the materials that come from that website must be legal to possess (e.g., pictures, videos, etc.); however, such an assumption is not true.
As indicated, the federal government has set up “legitimate” looking websites which provide child pornography. The sole purpose of the website is to lure a person into committing illegal acts (e.g., downloading an illegal movie and/or picture, etc.) and then arresting that person for downloading and possessing the illegal item provided by the federal government.
Example #2: Similar to the example above, a suspect uses a “peer-to-peer” file sharing program to download pornography (e.g., LimeWire, Bittorrent, BearShare, etc.). Unbeknownst to the suspect, some of the pornography downloaded is actually child-pornography, and it comes from a computer owned and operated by law enforcement. Once the illegal materials are downloaded from the law enforcement computer onto the suspects computer, a warrant is requested from a local court and the computer is seized and searched.
Another example is when law enforcement uses those same “peer-to-peer” file sharing programs to “search” for illegal child-pornography. Once law enforcement finds illegal materials, a computer program determines the TCP/IP address of the computer which houses the illegal materials. With the TCP/IP address, law enforcement can issue a warrant to determine the location and address of the suspect computer. Once law enforcement knows the physical location of the suspect computer, another warrant is obtained allowing the search and seizure of the computer.
Example #3: A suspect contacts 몸캠피싱 대처 a person believed to be a minor through a chat room on the internet. The minor is actually law enforcement. Through several conversations, the suspect is either encouraged to send naked pictures, or, in the worst-case scenario, the suspect is badgered into a personal meeting with the minor only to arrive at a pre-arranged destination and have law-enforcement waiting to arrest the suspect.
The three examples are common situations where people are charged in either federal or state court, however, the examples provided are not the only actions which can result in criminal charges.
Federal Charges relating to Child Pornography
Federal law makes it a crime to possess or distribute child pornography. Specifically, Title 18, section 2252 and 2252A of the United States Code criminalizes possession or distribution of child pornography.
Federal law defines child pornography as any visual depiction (pictures, video, data stored on a computer, etc.) which involves a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Title 18, section 2256 of the United States Code contains several definitions relating to crimes involving child pornography; the following simplified definitions are provided:
Minor: The term “minor” as used in the federal law, means a person under the age of 18.
Sexually Explicit Conduct: The term “sexually explicit conduct” as used in the federal law, means any sexual act, including material which simply shows a child’s genital area.
Visual Depiction: The term “Visual Depiction” includes film, videotape, or other data stored on a computer, or computerized data or any data able to be converted into a picture or film.