State Bar of Texas
Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association

Federal Child Pornography Cases

It is a federal crime to produce, possess or distribute child pornography. Sexual visual depictions of minors under 18 years old constitute child pornography under federal statutes. The penalties for child pornography are severe. Up to 10 years in federal prison for possession, 20 years if child is under 12 years old. There are more severe penalties for the production or distribution of child pornography. Judges and juries are typically not sympathetic towards individuals charged with child pornography. The federal government devotes tremendous resources to child pornography investigations and prosecutions. Investigators and prosecutors are specifically trained to pursue these cases. Typically, an investigator will monitor peer to peer or file sharing apps for activity indicating child pornography. Many times it is the service provider that alerts federal law enforcement to suspicious content resembling child pornography and will provide agents with an IP address. A computer’s location will be identified and agents will execute a search warrant to obtain computers, phones, photographs, videos and other media. These items will then undergo a forensic analysis. Agents will proceed to interview the individual right then and there in an attempt to get an admission. It is imperative at this moment that the individual invokes his right to remain silent and request an attorney. Once a statement is given to a federal agent, the individual is usually committed to what is detailed in it. Of course there are exceptions, but an individual changing a previous statement to federal law enforcement risks new charges for obstruction or providing false statements to federal agents. Agents frequently strike in the early morning hours to catch an individual off guard and more apt to give a statement. It is your right to talk to a lawyer first before talking to law enforcement.

The government is likely to seek detention pending trial after an arrest for child pornography. This demand can be challenged in front of a magistrate by way of a detention hearing. At the hearing, the government would have an agent testify regarding the case. The agent would then be cross examined by the accused’s attorney. After the government’s presentation, the accused would then be able to offer testimony (usually not theirs because of cross examination) through a family member or close friend to the magistrate to show the accused is not a flight risk nor a continuing danger to the community. So not only does the hearing provide the accused an opportunity to get out of jail while the case is pending, it also provides a preview of the government’s case. If release is granted, it usually comes with restrictive conditions regarding computer use and contact with minors. The accused will be under the supervision of a government pretrial services officer, with periodic reporting to that officer. Violations of any condition of release could result in detention pending the ultimate disposition of the case.

A conviction of a federal child pornography would require sex offender registration after the sentence is completed. Generally, for a term of ten years.

In order to protect yourself, you need an attorney skilled and experienced in these complicated cases. One knowledgeable in search and seizure law, specifically with computer searches and experienced in dealing with the government. Contact me for aggressive, experienced representation.

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