Federal Child Pornography and Sex Crimes

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FEDERAL CHILD PORNOGRAPHY AND SEX CRIMES

Arrested and charged by the feds with child pornography or other sex crimes, such as computer solicitation of a minor? The first order of business is: do not make statements to anyone, including law enforcement or your family.  Ask for a lawyer.  The second order of business will be our efforts to secure your release from custody, since in the federal system there is a presumption against bond for these offenses.  As experienced federal practitioners, we have represented countless defendants charges with this class of offenses, and release on bond can be secured under the right circumstances.  We will work closely with you and your family to identify a suitable third-party custodian.  All of the computers (including the cell phones) will have to be removed from the home, and per the Adam Walsh Act, defendants charged with these offenses must be on GPS monitoring (the ankle bracelet.)  (** GPS monitoring programs were recently held by the Supreme Court to be searches which must accord with Fourth Amendment protections.**)

HOW DID YOU END UP HERE?

Different federal agencies, or federal task forces working in conjunction with state law enforcement, run "sting" operations periodically.  They masquerade as computer end users and collect vast amounts of data, then perform sophisticated searches on that data to find illegal material.  Then, they secure warrants for individual houses and computers, and when they execute those warrants, often find additional evidence.  Unfortunately, when they interview a suspect, it is very common for the person to make incriminating admissions, even if they do not realize they are doing it at the time, because they are denying everything!  One of the most common federal agencies which performs these child pornography and sex crime investigations in the Eastern District of Virginia is ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).  Sometimes, it takes a long time for the Office of the United States Attorney to execute a warrant or to even charge an individual. For instance, a former client of mine had his house searched on the basis of a sting operation that had taken place years before - the backlog of data was so prolific that it took that long for them to get to his name on the "to-do" list.

What defenses are available to you in this situation? First and foremost, we analyze the evidence to determine whether the sting, search, seizure, or your interview implicate any constitutional violations. It is always important to litigate these issues.  By standing up for a client in this area and strenuously arguing against the government, Ms. Harris was able to secure a full dismissal of these charges in 2013, due to an illegal search and seizure of his computers and cell phone.  Second, we will perform our own forensic investigation of the evidence. As this area is constantly evolving, we attend the latest training courses on it regularly.  When appropriate, we work closely with the best computer experts to perform reverse forensic analysis of the evidence for our review and potential use in court.

WHAT KIND OF SENTENCE ARE YOU LOOKING AT?

Unfortunately, the federal sentencing guidelines for child pornography are, arguably, the harshest federal guidelines in effect.  These guidelines tend to treat everyone the same, despite their structure which suggests individuals are treated differently according to the severity of their offense.  Defendants receive enhancements under these guidelines for:

- the number of images

- whether a computer was used

- if the depicted victims were under a certain age

- if bondage or restraint is depicted in the images

- whether there was a pattern of sexual exploitation of a minor

- whether distribution was engaged in, expecting a thing of value in return (which is often interpreted as "trading images")

and many more.

The sentence ranges for federal child pornography convictions are:

For possession of child pornography - 0 to 10 years in federal prison, or if a prior sex offense conviction, 10 to 20 years in federal prison;

For distribution, transportation and receipt of child porn images: five to 20 years in federal prison, or if a prior sex offense conviction, 15 to 40 years in federal prison;

For production of child pornography: 15 to 30 years in federal prison;

For selling or buying children for sexual exploitation: 30 years to life in federal prison.

Furthermore, it is likely someone convicted would be placed on the sex offender registry, and post-release, may be compelled to participate in onerous programs including regular polygraphing and constant GPS monitoring

THE GOOD NEWS

The current federal child pornography sentencing guidelines are being vigorously challenged due to their "one size fits all" mentality. We have written and presented multiple scholarly sentencing briefs on this issue, which is now backed up by the United States Sentencing Commission itself.  Slowly but surely, some judges are coming around and realizing that these sentences are too severe and defendants may be better served with treatment and rehabilitiation rather than prison.  If we cannot avoid a conviction in your case, the sentencing hearing will literally be the fight of your life, and you will need an experienced and confident federal lawyer by your side.

What Happens Now?

If you are incarcerated, we will contact you in the jail where you are held, and we will remain in contact throughout the pendency of your case. If you are able to come in to the office, we will ask you to come meet in person as soon as possible. Our approach to defense is zealous, organized, and fast-paced, and we look forward to helping you.

Contact Us

Contact us at Harris, Carmichael, & Ellis, PLLC to schedule your initial consultation today!