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DC Federal Child Pornography Investigations

In most cases before any type of charge is filed or an arrest is made, law enforcement will do an intensive investigation to compile as much evidence as possible against the defendant. DC federal child pornography investigations are exhaustive and can have life-changing consequences if anything is found. If you are under investigation, it is important that you consult a DC federal child pornography lawyer in order to defend yourself. An experienced attorney can tell you more about what you should expect while under investigation and what steps you can take to ensure your rights are protected.

Elements the Prosecution Must Prove

Possession of child pornography has a legal meaning. Possession means that a person has to have knowledge of the image, they have to have control of the image. That can be difficult to prove in a computer forensic context if more than one person has access to a computer. The number of images that are found can sometimes go to whether or not someone would have had knowledge.

How they were downloaded to a computer can be a the method and manner in which they are downloaded and can also be an issue of whether or not someone would have knowledge if they were there as opposed to, for example, if one image of child pornography was found on someone’s computer and it appears it was downloaded with 1,000 other non-pornographic images, then it would be difficult to infer that the person who downloaded that had knowledge that there was an image of child pornography.

During DC federal child pornography investigations, the prosecution is trying to prove that a person had knowledge. If someone were to plant an image of child pornography on someone’s computer, they would not have control over it because they would not know it was there. The person has to intend to possess it. The person has to know, and intend to possess the image.

Court’s Role in the Investigation

 Possession of child pornography charges are typically brought in federal court because the punishments are much harsher in federal court than they are in state court. The prosecutors in the fourth circuit prosecute typically try and get much harsher sentences, and they try and get more mandatory minimum sentences than outside the fourth circuit. They are much more aggressive in the way that they handle them than in other jurisdictions.

Evidence in Child Pornography Cases

Typically, the forensic computer data is dominant but the law enforcement will often try and interview people who would have access to the computer. They will look at cable or internet provider records, they will look at other records that would be designed to show whether a person was at a particular location at the computer at the time that the image was downloaded, those are the types of evidence that they would be looking at.

There are a lot of computer forensic tools that are used to gather evidence and obtain enough information to try and get a search in somebody’s computer. Law enforcement is constantly monitoring the internet to try and find the metadata related to child pornographic images to determine where those images are being uploaded or downloaded from.

Constitutional Issues in Investigations

A lot of times, the question that arises in DC federal child pornography investigations concerns what constitutes probable cause to do a search on someone’s computer, what sectors of a computer would be allowed to be searched, and then there is also the question concerning what reasonable privacy a person has on their computer. There a lot of search warrants – search and seizure issues – that would be litigated as well as issues related to statements that a person might be made once confronted with.

The issue would be that they are trying to do what is called a suppression motion to try to suppress the evidence to prevent the government from being able to use the images in their case, and that would derail the prosecution. That is typically how these issues would arise.

Defense’s Investigation

An important aspect of the defense side of DC federal child pornography investigations involves looking at who had access to a computer and what time the images either appeared on or downloaded onto the computer. It is also important to know whether there are other images of child pornography on the computer. Those are some of the main things that they would be looking at and they want to look at things that they might be able to corroborate a person’s access to the computer whether it is record use of a file. They could get it through building assignment sheets, video of people’s entrances and exits into a particular building, those are some of the types of things they will be looking for.

Consequences of Conviction

There are no mandatory minimum sentences but the U.S. sentencing guidelines can be very harsh in dealing with possession. Receipt of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence for each image of five years and that is a huge problem when dealing with those cases.

There are huge long-term implications of a conviction for possession of child pornography. A person will almost certainly have to register as a sex offender and undergo sex offender treatment which is very intense. There can be restrictions on where the person will live, who they interact with, computer usage, notification of the person’s employer. There is a host of terrible penalties that also exposes the person to, potentially, public ridicule and shame.

Use of Search Warrants in Child Pornography Cases

The Department of Homeland Security is sometimes involved in DC federal child pornography investigations  and they work with joint task forces, with local law enforcement, the FBI is often involved, and then depending if someone is accused of possessing child pornography on a work computer, then the agency, sometimes a federal agency, then the inspector general’s office will get involved.

When a child pornography arrest occurs, it usually follows the execution of a search warrant. When a search warrant is executed, any computer, phone, or other digital devices will most likely be seized and copied. Then those devices will be taken and forensically examined over the next weeks or months, in order for law enforcement to make their determination as to whether there is any evidence of child pornography on those devices. That is the main thrust of a child pornography investigation following the execution of a search warrant.

Once a person is arrested at the same time as the execution of the search warrant, you are going to have the forensic examination of computers. Typically, these investigations are not what is called witness-intensive. There is not a lot of interviewing of witnesses by law enforcement except to try to rule out the possibility that someone else either owned or operated a particular digital device.

How a Lawyer Can Help

When dealing with DC federal child pornography investigations, it is very important for an attorney to have the technical knowledge concerning cutting edge issues on child pornography, and the way that it is downloaded and uploaded.   Your lawyer needs to be very aggressive in dealing with these cases. A qualified defense attorney can talk to witnesses, procure the necessary documents, and deal with the members of law enforcement who are investigating this case.  and talking to people and talking to witnesses, dealing with documents, and dealing with the law enforcement personnel who investigate the case. A DC child pornography lawyer can devote the time and resources necessary to defend your case, so contact a lawyer today.

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