Virginia Federal Child Pornography Lawyer
A Virginia federal child pornography lawyer can help if you are facing federal child pornography charges in a U.S. District Court in Virginia. Federal law prohibits the possession, distribution, and/or production of sexually explicit pictures or computer generated images or videos involving children and minors (under age 18). See 18 U.S. Code Sections 2251, 2252 and 2256.
Child Pornography under Federal Law
For a material to be characterized as child pornography, the person depicted in the material must be an actual minor or believed to be a minor for a conviction to occur. Determining whether the person depicted in the images is believed to be under the age of 18 can be based on stated or implied information.
The materials considered to be child pornography have been expanded to include comics or cartoon-related images and/or other drawings or graphic images that depict minors engaging in any form of sexual conduct. Also, those who attempt to possess, create, or distribute child pornography, but are unsuccessful, can still be charged and prosecuted.
Federal Child Pornography Charges
Although Assistant Commonwealth Attorneys can charge child pornography at the state level, it is frequently prosecuted as a federal offense if the images are accessed through the internet or delivered by the United States Postal Service or any private parcel delivery service because the federal government regulates these mediums which cross state lines.
Those accused of possessing, distributing, or producing child pornography face a number of unique legal challenges. Those accused of violating child pornography laws in federal court face potential damage to their professional or personal reputation, even if they are ultimately found not guilty of the charges.
However, there are a number of defense strategies that can be explored. For answers to your specific questions and legal advice, you should consider speaking with a federal child pornography lawyer who can represent you in Virginia federal courts.
Virginia Penalties for Child Pornography
Federal sentencing guidelines incorporate several individualized factors in determining the severity of potential penalties. A federal child pornography defense attorney can argue and present mitigating factors and argue against aggravating factors. These factors include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- How the accused obtained the images.
- If distribution is involved, the suspect’s alleged place in the distribution chain.
- The number of images the suspect allegedly possesses.
- Whether the accused worked to recruit and/or abduct underage children for the purpose of creating child porn, and if there was any transportation of these child victims across state lines or international borders.
- Whether the accused is alleged to have used force or violence.
- The depth of involvement the accused had in the production of images.
- Whether the accused is alleged to have used force or violence.
- A mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 30 years for production of child pornography.
- A mandatory five year minimum and a maximum of 10 years for the importation of child pornography from overseas.
- A mandatory minimum of five years and no more than 20 years in federal prison for the possession, distribution, and receipt of child porn images.
- Any additional underlying convictions (tax evasion, assault, kidnapping, money laundering, etc.) could extend a potential federal sex crime related sentence beyond 30 years’ incarceration.
Child Pornography and Law Enforcement Scrutiny
On the strength of several federal laws relating to the pursuit and conviction of child pornography offenders – including the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996, the Amber Hagerman Child Protection Act of 1996, and the PROTECT Act of 2003 — many federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies can aggressively investigate and arrest anyone suspected of breaking child pornography laws.
The elements for violations of federal sex offense statutes are less stringent when compared with other federal criminal offenses; although, the government must prove the elements of each offense beyond a reasonable doubt, as is required for every criminal offense. Additionally, a large portion of the federal government’s budget is allocated for funding investigations and prosecutions of those accused of possessing, creating, or distributing child porn.
The agency most likely to pursue and prosecute such cases is the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) which has several specialized divisions of federal prosecutors, including the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), the High Tech Investigative Unit (HTIU), the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), and the various U.S. Attorneys’ Offices throughout the country.
For this reason, a Virginia federal child pornography attorney needs the resources to investigate a case and build a defense.
Other law enforcement agencies that may also assist with the investigation of federal sex offense crimes include:
- The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- The U.S. Secret Service – this agency is part of a multi-jurisdictional task force that provides assistance with internet related child pornography and exploitation crimes
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), when children are smuggled into the country for the purposes of producing child porn
- The Northern Virginia/District of Columbia Internet Crimes against Children Task Force (ICAC), another multi-jurisdictional investigative effort
- Virginia state and local law enforcement agencies
The Northern Virginia/DC ICAC is one of 49 task forces located throughout the United States. It is made up of municipal and county law enforcement agencies in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC, including the Virginia State Police and DC’s Metropolitan Police Department.
Additionally, those suspected of owning or operating criminal enterprises that deal in child pornography may face prosecution for other companion federal crimes, including tax evasion, money laundering, and federal drug distribution. In certain cases, a criminal RICO charge may also be pursued by federal prosecutors against those accused of operating child pornography enterprises. See 18 U.S. Code Section 1962.
Sex Offender Registry for Child Pornography Convictions
Anyone convicted of a child pornography offense runs the risk, if they are convicted, of spending significant time in jail, paying huge fines, and being required by the court to register as a sex offender. See 42 U.S. Code Section 16913. Obviously, this can irreparably damage a person’s standing in the community and their good name.
One of the most serious penalties is that individuals convicted of federal sex crimes are required to register as sex offenders. The registry is part of a public database available to anyone who runs a background check for a job application, general work review, rental and other housing agreements, and certain financial transactions.
Additionally, community and neighborhood watch groups publicize information about registered sex offenders who live in their neighborhood, subjecting those who are convicted to further ridicule and scrutiny. Those who work with children, and who are convicted of federal sex offenses, will almost certainly lose their job and likely will never be able to resume their career.
Those who must register as sex offenders typically cannot live near schools or child day-care centers and may even be severely limited or completely prohibited from having contact with children in their own family. A Virginia federal child pornography lawyer can explain how the sex offender registry works and how it may affect you depending on the outcome of your case.
Related Federal Sex Crime Charges
It is also a violation of federal law to coerce, entice, or persuade anyone under the age of 18 to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing child pornography. Those accused of this type of conduct can be prosecuted for solicitation of a minor for sex, regardless of whether the alleged conduct occurred on the internet or in person. See 18 U.S.C. Section 2422.
Those accused of physically transporting minors across state lines for the purpose of producing child pornography can also be charged with a federal offense. See 18 U.S.C. Section 2423.