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A federal child pornography charge can be difficult to explain to your employer, friends and acquaintances. When people who are accused of a child pornography-related offense, they may still face scrutiny in their private lives even if they are never convicted. If you have been contacted by federal officials about a child pornography charge, it’s never too soon to speak with counsel. Ohle & Ohle, P.A. represents people who are facing federal child pornography charges. Our federal child pornography defense attorney will help you protect your reputation, ensure your rights are protected and fight for your freedom.

Types of federal child pornography charges

There are several ways an individual may be held criminally liable for having involvement with illegal images of children. The most common federal child pornography offenses are possession, manufacturing, and distribution. Parents and guardians may also be charged and convicted under federal law if they give consent for a minor to be the subject of child pornography.

Child pornography distribution

Federal law prohibits the transportation, receipt, and distribution of child pornography. To convict a defendant, the prosecution must prove the defendant knowingly transported child pornography by using interstate commerce. Transportation may occur through the use of:

  • a computer
  • mail
  • physical transportation of a child across state or international borders

Simple acts like downloading an image or sending a file via email are included in the federal statute. In some instances, an individual may accidentally download or transmit an illegal image if the individual’s device has a virus. The police may also investigate the owner of a device even if the owner allowed someone to borrow the device and the other person downloaded the image. A Fort Pierce federal child pornography defense attorney can evaluate the facts of your case and recommend the best defense strategies.

Child pornography manufacturing

The manufacturing and production of child pornography is also prohibited. The section of the statute that prohibits the production of exploitative images of children also includes asking minors to send a sexually explicit image of themselves.

Possession of child pornography

People who had no role in producing or transporting illegal images of children may be convicted for simply having child pornography in their possession. Manufacturing and distributing child pornography include the criminal act of possession as the base level of both offenses. Therefore, prosecutors will often charge individuals with possession in addition to the more complex offenses of manufacturing and distributing. If the prosecution fails to convict the defendant for the greater offenses, the federal government may still obtain a conviction for the offense of possessing illegal images.

How federal child pornography investigations unfold

Often, the first sign that someone is under investigation for a federal child pornography charge is the sound of law enforcement agents knocking at the door. There is no time limit on the amount of time the federal government may spend investigating a child pornography case. Instead of living in a constant state of anxiety, contact a federal child pornography defense lawyer at the first sign of interest from law enforcement. Whether law enforcement makes an arrest or if an agent requests an interview, speaking to law enforcement without an attorney is ill-advised.

Protecting your constitutional rights

During investigative interviews law enforcement officers are required to abide by constitutional guidelines when asking questions. Most people require the help of a seasoned attorney to navigate police interviews. Even a very educated person may be negatively affected by the subtle tactics some law enforcement agents use to build their case. Having an experienced federal child pornography defense attorney present during investigative interviews is critical. It is the role of the attorney to interject on the client’s behalf before law enforcement causes harm by overstepping legal and ethical boundaries. Our attorneys are familiar with federal investigations and every stage of the federal criminal court process, including post-conviction relief. Contact us if you are under investigation for a federal child pornography offense in Fort Pierce, FL.

Preventing self-incrimination

When accused of wrongdoing, oftentimes, the natural response is to immediately explain why you are innocent. Unfortunately, when it comes to criminal investigations, there is such a thing as talking too much. Oftentimes, it’s not the accused party’s fault.

When in police custody, people who have been arrested have the right to avoid incriminating themselves. Although the police are required to advise the individual of this right, the police will also sometimes use tactics to confuse suspects and persons of interest into incriminating themselves. For this reason, everyone who is in police custody requires the support of a qualified defense lawyer. If you have been arrested or if you are being otherwise detained by police, request to speak to your attorney. Next, contact a federal defense lawyer, and remain silent until the attorney provides further guidance. Even if you have not been formally arrested or detained, it is generally best to indicate that you will avoid discussing criminal matters until you have contacted an attorney.

Criminal court process for a federal child pornography offense

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure govern the procedural aspects of the federal criminal court process. One distinct difference between federal and state crimes is the federal criminal court process does not usually begin with an arrest. Prior to filing a federal criminal charge, the federal government will typically conduct an investigation. Federal agencies often work in cooperation with state and local law enforcement agencies to investigate federal crimes. It is at this point that federal agents make contact with people they suspect may have been involved in a federal crime. In child pornography cases, the agents who make the initial contact are often working undercover and may not reveal themselves.

Federal indictment and charges

Once the federal government believes it has obtained the evidence it needs to proceed with filing a criminal charge against someone, a U.S. attorney decides whether to file a charge in a federal district court. A grand jury of 16 to 23 people will meet secretly to determine whether they will return a criminal indictment. Defendants typically have no knowledge of the grand jury convening or that an arrest may be pending. At least 12 jurors must agree to return an indictment. If the grand jury votes to indict, the defendant will be informed, and he or she will need to retain an attorney or have a public defender appointed.

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Arraignment and pretrial hearing

Federal agents typically make an arrest after the grand jury returns an indictment. Once federal law enforcement agents bring the defendant into custody, the defendant will attend a hearing and arraignment. At the arraignment, the defendant learns of the charge the federal government has filed against him or her. The court will also ask the defendant to enter a plea.

The judge may also determine the defendant’s bail terms at this point. Because most federal indictments are for serious felony offenses, federal judges commonly deny bail because the defendant may be a danger to the community or pose a flight risk. If the bail hearing occurs at this point, the judge will weigh other factors, including how long the defendant has lived in the community, whether the defendant has family in the area, and whether the defendant has a prior criminal history or has threatened violence against anyone. Having a Fort Pierce federal criminal defense attorney present to help answer these questions may increase the likelihood of a judge setting bail.

Challenging a federal charge before trial

Even at the pre-trial stage, there are steps a Florida federal child pornography defense attorney can take to challenge the government’s case. Pre-trial motions are documents a defense attorney may file to attack the legality of certain parts of the prosecution’s case. When an attorney files a motion, the other side may answer, and the judge must decide the issue before the case goes to trial. The following are common types of pretrial motions.

Motion to compel

If a defense attorney believes the prosecution is withholding essential evidence that may help the defense’s case, the attorney may file a motion to compel. If the judge rules in favor of the defense, the prosecution must provide the requested information.

Motion to suppress

Defense attorneys may also move to have the court suppress evidence the prosecution wishes to introduce at trial. If the defense believes something about the evidence violates the defendant’s rights, the defense attorney will file a motion to suppress. If the court grants to motion, the evidence may not be introduced as a fact upon which the case should be decided. If federal agents illegally searched the defendant’s home and obtained evidence, the evidence cannot be used at trial if the court determines that use of the evidence would violate the defendant’s constitutional rights.

Motion to dismiss

A defense attorney will file a motion to dismiss if the prosecution has presented insufficient evidence. The motion may call for dismissal of a certain charge or of the entire case.

Who investigates child pornography crimes?

When a child pornography case is a federal matter, a federal agency leads the investigation and prosecution. In most federal child pornography cases, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the investigating agency. In other cases, the Department of Homeland Security may assume a leading role in the investigation. Sometimes, two or more federal agencies will work together to investigate.

How law enforcement investigates child pornography

Child pornography cases often require secretive or undercover investigative work. The nature of child pornography crimes has changed in the sense that images are more likely to be transmitted digitally nowadays. Therefore, investigations typically require the support of IT specialists. Investigators use the following means to obtain information in federal child pornography cases.

Accessing file-sharing networks

Law enforcement officers search file sharing networks for illegal images. They log onto the networks by using an existing user ID provided by an informant or created by the law enforcement agency. If agents are able to find an illegal image, an IT specialist tracks the IP address from which the illegal image came. The IP address provides a physical location and the name of the user’s internet provider.

Digital sting operations

Similar to drug stings and prostitution stings, law enforcement agencies organize online sting operations to catch child pornographers and people who download and trade illegal images. During a digital sting, an agent may pretend to be a person who is seeking illegal images of children. The agent may participate in pornography-related discussion boards and chat rooms or respond to ads in search of people who produce or trade illegal images.

Executing physical search warrants

Although much of the investigative work in child pornography criminal cases occurs digitally, it is not uncommon for federal law enforcement to obtain and execute a physical search warrant. This usually happens after agents have traced an IP address or engaged in exchanges that have led law enforcement officers to a physical address. The search warrant will generally allow law enforcement officers to search a specific property and seize:

  • phones
  • tablets
  • photo books
  • digital file storage drives
  • laptops
  • desktop computers
  • anywhere else someone may be hiding illegal images or other important evidence related to child pornography.

Reach a Fort Pierce federal child pornography attorney

Federal child pornography laws can quickly lead to decades of prison time stemming from a single accusation. Therefore, it is imperative that people who are facing a federal child pornography charge, contact a Florida federal defense attorney as early as possible.

Let the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Ohle & Ohle, P.A. handle your federal case. We will represent you with the utmost professionalism and protect your rights as your trusted legal advocate. Reach us today to receive a confidential case evaluation. We value your privacy; therefore, you can count on us to handle your call with discretion.


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