"Unfortunately, we´ve [...] seen a historic rise in the distribution of child pornography, in the number of images being shared online, and in the level of violence associated with child exploitation and sexual abuse crimes. Tragically, the only place we´ve seen a decrease is in the age of victims. This is - quite simply - unacceptable."
The quote above is of the top lawyer in the country, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., who spoke at the National Strategy Conference on Combating Child Exploitation in 2011. In general, Holder is right when it comes to child exploitation. We should do what we can to prevent harm from coming to children.
At the same time, though, rarely do we see quotes or stories about the other side of the coin, the people who are put in the crosshairs of the federal government, the people whose lives are turned upside down when federal agents come marching through the door in full battle dress.
How Did This Come to Happen?
You might be someone's brother or sister, mom or dad, husband or wife. Or you are the person who has been accused. Whether it's you or you're a family member or loved one, your worry and anxiety is at an all-time high, and for good reason.
These cases start when the federal government works to entrap people - though they wouldn't call it that - into revealing the possibility that they might be searching for or dealing in child pornography. With enough evidence of that sort, agents will seek a search warrant from a judge. With search warrant in hand, agents - as well as a SWAT team in many cases - will storm the castle, march into your home and seize your computer.
From there, it's a matter of searching all your private files and web history, which may or may not be enough to prove that you're guilty of a crime. Next are the arrest and the criminal charges, very often with no evidence that the person accused posed any sort of danger to society.
The Big Questions
So, here are the big questions:
- What exactly is pornography, anyway?
- I thought we had free speech and the First Amendment!?
- What is the case of New York v. Ferber (outlawing child pornography)?
- Crossing the line - what are the different types of child pornography?
- What are the child pornography laws in the U.S.?
- How badly can you be punished for this stuff?
- Is there any hope? (Yes!)
- What's next after an arrest or charge?
This article is my attempt to answer these questions. I don't presume to be the final word here, but as a contributing author of Strategies for Defending Internet Pornography Cases , I do understand what it means to face down the government in cases that involve electronic documents and technological evidence. Most importantly, I believe that to be charged with a child pornography offense is one of the worst things that can happen to someone.
It's a situation that deserves the most aggressive defense.