Due to the fact that child pornography cases are treated so seriously under the law it is important that those arrested understand their legal rights and what they should do in order to avoid making their situation any worse.
With this in mind, the following is information on how arrests for child pornography typically take place, and how a DC federal child pornography lawyer can help. To learn more or discuss your case, call and schedule a consultation today.
The most common scenarios involve law enforcement personnel using high-level technology to identify the IP, or internet protocol address of somebody who is downloading images of child pornography.
Every image that is downloaded has something called metadata attached to it, which is essentially some identifying information. The identifying information for many images of child pornography have been documented by law enforcement, so if they see metadata that is typically associated with child pornography, they will often seek a search warrant to get into someone’s home and search that person’s computer for child pornography.
When the search warrant is executed, if the person is found at home on their computer looking at or downloading child pornography, that person is going to be arrested immediately. If a search warrant is executed and there is no child pornography immediately visible on a computer, and the person is not there manipulating or downloading those images, most likely they are not going to get arrested at that point because the computer has to be searched by law enforcement.
Sometimes law enforcement agents will engage an undercover officer to chat with someone who is suspected of downloading or trading child pornography.
If the target of the investigation makes incriminating statements or indicates a willingness to meet a child or send images of child pornography over the internet, then either a search warrant or an arrest warrant will be obtained almost immediately. The person, their home, and/or their computer will be searched. If the conversations are explicit enough and if child pornography has been sent over the internet, then that person is going to be arrested upon execution of the arrest warrant. Those are the typical scenarios.
If law enforcement has evidence upon execution of a search warrant and they see that the target of their investigation is actively engaged in downloading child pornography when they come into the residence, most likely that person is going to get arrested.
In addition, if an undercover law enforcement officer is chatting with someone online who starts sending messages indicating they are going to be violent and there is an immediate danger to an actual child, often law enforcement will accelerate their investigation and go ahead and arrest someone immediately. That is typically how those decisions are made. There is a decision made about how dangerous they believe the target of an investigation is, and whether or not they can catch someone in the act
Typically a person will be handcuffed, and if arrested by the FBI they will be taken to an FBI field office where they will be fingerprinted and photographed. There will be an attempt to interview them, which should be immediately refused. Nothing should be said to any law enforcement officer by the person who is arrested, aside from providing their name, date of birth, and social security number.
After processing at an FBI field office, sometimes people who are arrested will be taken to a local police station if they have to be processed through state court. Alternatively they may be taken directly to a federal courthouse where they will be processed by the U.S. Marshals Service, which controls the transportation of prisoners inside the courthouse. The Marshals Service will typically take the person’s picture and also do their own fingerprinting.
If the person is being charged federally they will then be brought to court before a magistrate judge, where an initial hearing will be held and an initial decision made about whether they will be held for what is called the detention hearing. The attorney for the person who has been arrested will make arguments for why should they not be held. At that initial hearing if a prosecutor makes the request, it is for the person to be held without bond. Then, typically the person will be held for three business days until a detention hearing can be conducted.
Anyone who is placed under arrest should not speak to any law enforcement agent except to give their name, their date of birth, and their social security number, they should not answer any other questions. Often law enforcement agents will tell you if you are cooperative it will help you down the road.
This, however, is often not the case at all and in fact, there is no legal requirement for the officers to stay true to their word if you do cooperate. It will not help you to cooperate immediately, and in fact, it will most likely only hurt you. In contrast, it cannot hurt you to be quiet. The best thing for you to do is stay quiet and not speak to law enforcement until you consult with an attorney and they are present.
Contrary to what is on television, you do not have the right to a phone call. However, normally what happens is that during the processing of someone following an arrest, there is normally a chance to make a phone call.
My strong suggestion is that the person use that call to try to obtain an attorney, and under no circumstances speak to law enforcement or disclose anything having to do with their arrest or the circumstances leading to their arrest during that process.