In Minnesota, as in every state, it is illegal to possess and/or disseminate child pornography. Criminal charges are commonly levied against individuals believed to have acquired and/or distributed images (to other adults or children) of minors involved or appearing to be involved in sexual acts. Those convicted of sex crimes face possible prison terms and large fines as well as destroyed reputations and lifelong repercussions. Here are the details involved in typical cases concerning child pornography.
Accusation: These sexual misconduct cases begin with an accusation, that is when someone is alleged to possess child pornography and/or share child pornography with other persons. Anyone can report accusations including family members, friends and co-workers. There have also been cases where technicians reported having found pornographic images of underage persons on the personal computers or other digital devices they were repairing. If a perpetrator is viewing illegal images in a public venue, such as a library, others might witness the criminal act and inform authorities. Accusations also rise when authorities conduct online searches to determine the IP (internet protocol) of computers from which child pornography was downloaded, shared or viewed on illegal websites.
Investigation: Whenever there is an accusation, regardless of where it comes from, police must investigate the possible crime(s). Many times inquiries begin online using IP addresses and progress to researching a suspect and possibly put him/her under surveillance. When police believe they have identified a potential perpetrator, they attempt to obtain a search warrant from a judge to allow officers to search homes and businesses for evidence of sexual misconduct. Computers and other storage devices containing or suspected of containing child pornographic images or video and/or print images are often collected and assessed.
Charges: If police collect enough evidence to create a case against a person, they can criminally charge the individual. The suspect could face felony charges of possessing and/or disseminating child pornography. Charges of possession can result in incarceration for up to fives years and a fine up to $5,000. Charges of disseminating child pornography can mean up to seven years in prison and a charge of up to $10,000. Second offenses of possession and/or dissemination carry heavier penalties. Individuals often face multiple charges depending on the number of images possessed. Note that in some cases, convicted persons do not serve actual prison time as it is up to a judge’s discretion who could decide probation only is appropriate. Following a conviction, an individual must register as a sex offender.
Possible Defenses: There are several plausible defenses for those accused of child pornography charges. For example, some persons have successfully proven that though images were found on their personal property, they were not the individuals who obtained and/or shared them. This can occur in households of multiple individuals in which it might be impossible to determine who actually downloaded or viewed the pornography on a computer in the residence. In others cases, a person might contend he/she accidentally downloaded the images possibly due to clicking a link in an email or stumbling upon an illegal website. There are also numerous Constitutional arguments that can be pursued.
It is imperative you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are charged or expect charges of possession and/or dissemination of child pornography. Choose a professional who has successfully dealt with these kinds of cases. Never make statements to police officers or anyone else regarding the accusations. Do disclose all information to your lawyer who will formulate your defense. Contact us for further information about sexual misconduct laws and charges in Minnesota.