Sex Offenses Law

Is Accidentally Downloading Child Pornography a Sex Crime?

This content contains sensitive subject matter related to legal defense for crimes of a sexual nature.

Many people worry about hackers stealing their identity. Someone else getting access to personal identifying information can ruin your credit. However, hackers may do other damage by intentionally putting child pornography on your computer to use as blackmail or by making you the host of their illegal material.

An accidental download of child porn can put you at risk of criminal charges, a prison sentence, and status as a sex offender. Make sure you know what you are doing before downloading any image or movie files. Don’t run the risk of accidental possession of child porn. Computer possession of child pornography is generally a federal crime. To understand more about accidental sex crime charges, talk to a sex crime defense lawyer for legal advice.

What Material Is Considered Child Pornography?

With so much pornographic content online, it can be difficult to know what is illegal and what is not. Under federal law, 18 U.S.C. Section 2256(8), child pornography is any visual depiction of explicit sexual conduct, where:

  • The production involves a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct;
  • The depiction is a digital image or computer-generated image that is indistinguishable from that of a minor engaging in sexual conduct; or
  • The depiction has been modified, adapted, or created to look like an identifiable minor is engaging in explicit conduct.

Under federal law, images of children that are digitally edited to make it look like they are engaging in sexual acts could be considered child pornography. However, under the federal law “… drawings, cartoons, sculptures, or paintings depicting minors or adults” engaging in sexually explicit conduct are not included.

How Did Child Pornography Get On My Computer?

There are probably tons of files on your computer that you didn’t knowingly download and you may not even know what they are. Some files come preloaded on computers and others can be downloaded after computer updates. However, there are other ways for files to get on your computer without your knowledge.

File-sharing websites offer a way to access files like software, movies, and music. In some cases, someone may be trying to download a Hollywood film online that turns out to be illegal material. In some cases, people using file-sharing software may end up downloading hundreds of songs and videos without even knowing what’s actually on them.

Hackers can also get access to your computer and remotely operate your system to download child pornography to your hard drive, get access to your camera, or lock your computer using ransomware.

How Can I Report Child Pornography?

If you somehow come across child porn on your computer or on another website, you can report the illegal material to your local law enforcement. According to the Department of Justice, you can report incidents of possession, distribution, receipt, or production of child pornography to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) through their cyber tip website or toll-free at 1-800-843-5678.

However, you may want to talk to your criminal lawyer before making a phone call to law enforcement about pornographic material on your computer. You may be trying to report illegal images only to be accused of child pornography possession, and facing criminal charges.

How Can I Defend Against Child Porn Charges?

Possession of child pornography generally requires showing knowledge or intent. Under 18 U.S.C. § 2252, someone can be convicted of possession of child pornography if they knowingly possess material that the accused knows contains depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

It can be a defense if the defendant did know they had child porn images or if they did not know the images contained depictions of a minor. If your computer was hacked or someone else downloaded something on your computer, it may be a defense to child porn charges.

Under federal law, it can be an affirmative defense if you immediately act after discovering child pornography on your computer. It can be a defense if the defendant possessed less than 3 images or depictions and promptly acted in good faith and takes reasonable steps to destroy the images or report the matter to law enforcement.

It can also be a defense if the police violated your constitutional rights against unlawful search and seizure. If the police searched your property without a search warrant, it may be a violation of your rights.

You also may be able to argue that the material doesn’t meet the definition of child porn or meet the definition of a minor, “engaged in a sexually explicit conduct, ” or position, or that the content has a scientific, educational or religious purpose.

If you are charged with possession of child pornography for accidentally downloading images, find an experienced sex crimes attorney for advice. Your criminal defense lawyer can tell you about your legal options and defend you against criminal child pornography charges.

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