Many people erroneously believe child pornography offenses that don’t involve producing it or interacting with an actual child aren’t as serious as those that do. In fact, possessing such material, receiving it, and distributing it are all extremely serious offenses that carry a minimum of five years in federal prison.
That is, of course, where penalties start. Depending upon how much material someone is found to have received, distributed, or be in possession of, that sentence can be as severe as several decades in federal prison. Once released from incarceration, that person will have to register as a sex offender – potentially for life.
All of this is to say that offenses involving child pornography are always serious and always treated seriously by federal and state laws. It begs the question: What should someone do if they are under investigation for child pornography or a related sex crime? We’ll address that question and a few related questions below.
The First Thing You Should Do
If you are arrested for a child pornography offense or believe you are under investigation for one, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney – particularly one that can explicitly deal with sex crimes. You need this legal advocate whether or not you know you are guilty of allegations against you.
This individual’s job is to help you protect and assert your rights during any investigations that take place as well as any court proceedings, including a trial. It’s important to seek an attorney first and foremost because the authorities may use tricky underhanded tactics to convince you into waiving certain rights or luring you into making a false confession.
How to Deal with Investigators
If the FBI or police show up at your door, you do not have to answer any of their questions. You have the right to remain silent in this situation, particularly because it involves investigators looking for evidence to incriminate you.
That said, there are two things you can safely say to any investigator:
- “I want an attorney” or “I need to speak with my attorney,” if you’ve already hired one.
- “Do you have a warrant?” If they fail to produce a warrant, you do not have to let them search your property and you should not.
Expect to be thrown off by investigators. They may come off as very aggressive and intimidating, or they may seem very friendly but firm. No matter what, they are looking for ways to do something that your civil rights prevent them from doing, like conducting a search without a warrant or getting you to incriminate yourself.
Deleting Files & Destroying Evidence
If you are aware of any child pornography in your home, understand that deleting it or destroying your devices may only get you into deeper trouble. The FBI has advanced computer forensics tools and methods at its disposal. These can recover files after they’ve been deleted and even sometimes when a hard drive or device isn’t thoroughly destroyed.
Not only can investigators eventually find out what you may have had on your digital devices, but attempting to delete it or destroy your devices can be interpreted as tampering with evidence. This can result in additional criminal charges and/or more severe penalties if convicted.
How You Can Help Your Own Case
There are certain things you can do to help your situation, beginning with cooperating fully with your attorney during the investigation of your case. This includes cooperation with your attorney during any effort to get a forensic examination of your hard drive performed.
You can collect letters of personal reference that attest to your character, submit to a psychological evaluation, and seek treatment for sex addiction or other compulsive disorders.
If the suspicion that you have been involved with child pornography isn’t misplaced, you should prepare to face some consequences. Those consequences, however, don’t need to be as severe as they can possibly be, and doing some of these things may help mitigate the full impact of a conviction.