Prosecution of Child Pornography Cases in DC
Due to the severity of child pornography charges and the way that they are treated by the prosecution and the community at large, it is imperative those accused seek the counsel of a DC child pornography lawyer as soon as possible. Child pornography charges can carry a mandatory five-year jail sentence for each image discovered in addition to a social stigma that may follow you around for the rest of your life. To learn more or begin building a defense, call and schedule a consultation today.
What Needs to be Proven
In federal courts, the prosecutor must prove that you possessed or received child pornography. Receipt of one image of child pornography carries a potential five-year mandatory minimum. The elements of receipt are very similar to possession and there have been many articles written about how it is a matter of prosecutorial discretion regarding a charge of receipt as opposed to possession of child pornography.
A receipt of child pornography charge can arise out of downloading, trading, or being just an image. You are receiving the image from somebody or from somewhere. Possession is the act of having the image at issue.
Elements of Child Pornography
Possession of child pornography has several different elements and can be divided into what is called actual possession or constructive possession.
Actual possession means physical possession. For example, if you are searched by a police officer and have a picture that contains an image of child pornography in your pocket, that constitutes actual possession of child pornography. If you have a file drive that contains files or images of child pornography in your pocket, that is actual possession.
The elements of constructive possession are that a prosecutor must prove you have the knowledge, intent, and ability to exercise power or dominion and control over the images. If, for example, law enforcement seizes a computer in your house and it contains images of child pornography, the government must prove that you knew the images were there, you had the intent to possess those images, and you had the power and control over those images.
That raises the issues of who else had access to the computer where the images were located and whether they were hidden or where someone would be aware of them.
Evidence Typically Used
Primarily, the government uses evidence related to computers because that is where most images of child pornography are now being recovered in cases charged in federal court.
The evidence that the government uses or seeks to admit in court is evidence showing the location of the files on the computer, evidence showing ownership or use of the computer by a particular person, emails, chats, or other communications that indicate knowledge or an intent to possess the child pornography at issue, purchase records or bank records that show someone purchased child pornography, phone records and things of that nature, in addition to potential witness testimony or statements by someone who is charged.
Trials related to child pornography charges are prosecuted more quickly than other cases. They do not take as long in court because the computer evidence normally found does not take as much time for the government to present. When dealing with computer evidence, the issue is do you want to call a defense expert to dispute or explain some of the issues raised in the case and by the witnesses?
It may be part of a potential defense to demonstrate, for example, that you did not have access to the computer, others had access to the computer, or you could not have been on the computer when images were downloaded.
What to Know About Prosecutors
You should know that federal prosecutors involved in these types of cases are very aggressive. They are usually in a unit devoted to prosecuting child pornography and other internet related crimes. They are usually very experienced in litigating these types of cases and have a lot of resources behind them including law enforcement and the US Attorney’s Office.
Publicity of Child Pornography Cases
Unless you are a public figure or a famous person, there is not a tremendous amount of media coverage. There may be some media coverage, but generally, an arrest and charge for possession of child pornography is not a highly publicized offense.
However, if the case is to be prosecuted federally, the US Attorney’s Office often issues a press release when someone is formally charged with possession of child pornography at a state level and that may generate some additional media coverage.