In their zealousness to protect children in the internet age, police agencies and prosecutors have sometimes brought child pornography charges against innocent people. If you are charged with child pornography in the Seattle area, speak at once with a Seattle sex crimes attorney.
Child pornography is not free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution. It is the aggressive, criminal sexual exploitation of children. The State of Washington takes crimes against children quite seriously and imposes harsh penalties for convictions on child pornography charges.
If you’ll continue reading this brief discussion of child pornography laws, you will learn what constitutes a child pornography crime in the State of Washington, and you will learn what penalties a convicted child pornography offender in this state may expect.
You will also learn the facts about federal child pornography laws, about your rights if you are charged with a child pornography crime in Washington, and you’ll learn where to obtain the legal advice and help that you may need to fight a child pornography charge effectively.
How Widespread is Child Pornography?
Child pornography is today a global plague. The “market” is flourishing everywhere, thanks to the internet, with images available through mobile apps, photo-sharing sites, and file-sharing sites. Child pornography consumers have become a virtual online community in the 21st century.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, “no area of the United States or country in the world is immune from individuals who seek to sexually exploit children through child pornography.”
What Are Washington State’s Child Pornography Laws?
Either possessing or viewing digital, printed, or video material that explicitly depicts sexual conduct that involves a minor (someone below the age of 18) is a child pornography crime in the State of Washington.
Possession of child pornography in the first degree or viewing child pornography in the first degree will be the charge when the material in question explicitly depicts sexual conduct that involves a minor in:
- Sexual intercourse of any kind
- Penetration of the rectum or vagina by any body part or object
- Sexual abuse
- Urination or defecation for the purpose of sexual arousal
Second-degree possession of child pornography or second-degree viewing of child pornography is the charge if the material in question depicts the genitals, rectal area, or breasts of a minor for the purpose of sexual arousal or depicts touching a clothed minor in those areas for that purpose.
What Are Washington’s Penalties for Child Pornography Convictions?
First-degree possession of child pornography is a Class B felony in the State of Washington. A conviction entails a sentence of twelve to fourteen months, but convictions on multiple charges may be penalized with up to ten years in prison and three years community custody.
First-degree viewing of child pornography carries the same penalties upon conviction as first-degree possession of child pornography.
Second-degree possession of child pornography is a Class C felony in the State of Washington. A conviction may be penalized with three to nine months in jail, but multiple convictions may be punished with up to five years in prison and one year of community custody.
Second-degree viewing of child pornography is a Class C felony punishable with up to a year in jail and one year of community custody.
What About Federal Child Pornography Charges?
Child pornography crimes are usually prosecuted at the state level, but federal criminal charges may be pursued when there is evidence of wide-scale child pornography distribution.
Child pornography crimes are often federal crimes because they often involve using the internet or the Postal Service to distribute material across state lines. Federal law bans the “possession, receipt, distribution, copying or advertising of images containing sexual portrayals of minors.”
Federal child pornography laws can be even tougher than state laws. For example, under the Child Protection Act of 2012, a conviction for the possession of pornographic images of a minor under the age of twelve will land an offender in a federal prison for up to twenty years.
As federal child pornography charges and state child pornography charges may be brought simultaneously against a defendant in some cases, defendants in this state may need a Seattle child pornography defense attorney who has experience in both the state and federal courts.
How Is Child Pornography Investigated?
Across the U.S., dozens of law enforcement task forces are continually at work identifying, pursuing, and prosecuting child pornographers and child pornography consumers who operate by using the internet.
Many child pornography investigations rely on sting operations where police officers lure individuals into accepting child pornography online. If you are charged with child pornography on the basis of an internet sting operation, speak to a Seattle sex crimes attorney immediately.
How Can Child Pornography End Up On Someone’s Computer?
Incriminating material can end up on your computer for several reasons. Computer tampering is not hard, and it’s easy to get distracted on the internet, click the mouse at the wrong moment or completely by accident, and send the wrong email or download something you did not want.
However, clicking the wrong link can sometimes download pornographic material to your device without you even realizing it. Pop-up ads, for example, can leave images in your computer’s temporary files.
A malware program or even a hacker could leave incriminating material on your computer. In your defense, your attorney may rely on technical evidence regarding the source of the material. In some of these cases, the defense will need the statement or testimony of an expert witness.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
The best strategy for the average person going online is to use basic common sense: Do not ever discuss sex, children, or pornography online with a person you do not know offline. That strategy protects you from any child pornography peddler or police sting operation.
If you are accused of and charged with a child pornography crime, you can’t forget that a charge is not the equivalent of a conviction. A prosecutor still must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and in a child pornography prosecution, that is not always an easy task.
If you are charged with a child pornography crime or with any crime involving sex, children, and/or the internet, take your case at once to a Seattle child pornography defense attorney who has experience and a record of success defending clients accused of child pornography crimes.