Child Pornography Defense Lawyer
in Fort Myers
Trust the experience of our sex crimes defense attorneys
Federal and state law enforcement agencies rightfully crack down on child pornography-related activities in the interest of protecting children. Nevertheless, there are some cases in which an individual may be falsely accused of having involvement with pornographic images of children. Fort Myers child pornography defense attorneys are available to represent individuals who are facing a child pornography charge in Florida.
Child pornography laws in Florida
Florida law defines child pornography as an image that depicts a minor engaging in a sexual act. A minor is anyone who is under the age of 18. Sexual conduct can include:
- actual sexual intercourse
- simulated sexual intercourse
- deviate sexual intercourse
- sadomasochistic abuse
- lewd exposure of the genitals
- physical contact with clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breasts with sexual intent
- any act or conduct that constitutes sexual battery
- acts or conduct that insinuates that sexual battery is taking place or will take place
Florida law defines sexual battery as any type of sexual penetration without the other party’s consent. State law also notes that children are not of age to give legal consent. Examples of illegal images in Fort Myers child pornography cases include:
- data files
- live video stream
- downloaded video
- any other type of video or picture
It is illegal for adults to possess, transmit, or be involved in the production of a pornographic image of a child. Fort Myers residents who are under investigation for a child pornography-related offense should immediately contact a Florida child pornography defense attorney.
One can never be too careful when the welfare of a child is involved. Therefore, merely being under investigation for a child pornography-related offense can result in permanent reputational damage even if the individual is later found to have been uninvolved. Nevertheless, there are situations in which an individual may be falsely accused of possessing, transmitting, or even producing child pornography. Reasons people have been falsely accused include:
- mentally ill accuser
- mistaken identity
- mistaken age of the person depicted
- believing false rumors to be true
- child custody disputes
In some instances, an individual may resort to drastic measures to seek revenge. A person who believes he or she has been wronged may seek to destroy the other person’s reputation and financial security. The individual may even want to see the other person go to jail. In extreme cases, the person who seeks revenge may spread dangerous rumors or even file a false report accusing the other person of a serious crime like child pornography. Because child pornography is not taken lightly, the falsely accused may be investigated and possibly charged with a child pornography-related offense. A Fort Myers criminal defense attorney can take measures to protect the rights of the accused and possibly prevent damage to the accused party’s reputation.
Mental illness and child pornography accusations
Some forms of mental illness cause the sufferer to envision or believe situations that do not match reality. In other cases, a mental illness may drive the individual to tell others about mistaken or delusional beliefs as if they are true. There are also people who struggle with pathological dishonesty. While mental illness does not always determine whether an accuser is telling the truth, there are cases in which the accuser made the accusation based on a mistaken thought, utterance, or belief. These cases require thorough investigation by qualified legal and mental health professionals. Fort Myers child pornography defense lawyers call on psychologists, behavioralists, and other expert witnesses to provide professional insight that can ultimately exonerate the accused if the accuser has made a false accusation.
Sometimes the identity of a child pornographer may be unknown. This is especially true in cases that involve the production and transmission of pornography images. Several people may be involved, including individuals who targeted the underage victim, captured the images, and uploaded or otherwise distributed the images. The identity of others who appear in the images may be obscured if the video or photo does not capture the participant’s face. Still, other crimes may be involved including child trafficking and kidnapping. It is not uncommon for these crimes to involve networks of people who work to remain anonymous. For these reasons, an individual may be falsely accused of having involvement with child pornography. Florida child pornography defense lawyers diligently investigate accusations and gather important facts to help wrongfully accused clients prevail against false charges.
Mistaken age of individuals who appear in pornographic images
If there are questions surrounding the age of an individual who appears in a pornographic or sexual image, anyone involved in the production or transmission of the image as well as those who possess the image may be accused of a child pornography offense in Florida. In these cases, establishing the defendant’s case may simply be a matter of identifying the individual who appeared in the image and verifying his or her age. A Fort Myers child pornography defense lawyer can conduct interviews and access records to confirm the individual’s identity and verify that he or she was of an appropriate age to appear in the image in question.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Believing false rumors
Sometimes rumors can grow quickly whether or not they are true. A convincing rumor can lead to legal trouble for an unsuspecting subject if people are willing to believe and spread their suspicions. Rumors that suggest a person may have violated one or more of Florida’s child pornography laws can have dire consequences. The investigatory stage before law enforcement files formal charges is critically important. Anything the accused says can elevate suspicions even if the rumor is untrue. Experienced defense lawyers provide representation and guide their clients through the initial stages by protecting their rights and helping the accused avoid self-incrimination. No one should speak to law enforcement without first contacting a Fort Myers criminal defense lawyer.
Blackmail and extortion
Known more formally as extortion, blackmail occurs if one person threatens to reveal detrimental or embarrassing information about someone else if the other person refuses to go along with the threatener’s wishes. Extortion is illegal in Florida. The act is illegal even if the threat is to reveal information that is untrue. An extortionist may threaten to accuse someone of a child pornography offense, even going so far as to file a report with law enforcement, if the individual does not send money or otherwise comply with the extortionist’s demands. Extortion is a white-collar crime under Florida law. Not only can a victim of extortion who is accused of a child pornography offense call on a Florida attorney for assistance in prevailing against the criminal charges, but the accused may also file criminal and possibly civil charges against the extortionist.
Child pornography accusations in child custody disputes
Child custody negotiations can become volatile if the parties involved are not on the same accord. In extremely volatile situations, one parent may resolve to deploy every means, whether honest or dishonest, to prevent the other parent from having his or her way. It is not uncommon for a party in a child custody case to falsely accuse his or her co-parent of child pornography or another sex offense in the interest of making it impossible for the other parent to be allowed unsupervised time with the child. Not only can the accusation negatively impact the accused’s custody or visitation with his or her child, but the accused may also be subjected to criminal investigation and charges. A Fort Myers child pornography defense attorney can intervene and protect his or her client’s interests in cases involving accusations made during volatile custody disputes.
Coercion and child pornography accusations
In some cases, one person may coerce another into accusing someone of a crime or of corroborating someone else’s accusation. Coercion can accompany blackmail or extortion. In some instances, law enforcement investigators may attempt to coerce a witness into implicating someone in a crime, or they may coerce or intimidate a suspect into making self-incriminating statements even if the individual did not have involvement with the crime. Fort Myers criminal defense attorneys protect their clients by being present during discussions with law enforcement to ensure coercion does not take place. An attorney can also raise doubts in cases in which a witness implicated the accused as a result of coercion.
Witness coaching occurs when an attorney persuades a victim to make potentially incriminating statements against someone during an investigation or court case. This practice is more common in cases involving sexual misconduct against children. While it is legal for an attorney to take certain measures to prepare a child to be interviewed, deposed, or take the stand as a witness, it is illegal for attorneys to coach children in the interest of having the potential witness make a false accusation.
Possession of child pornography in Fort Myers
Florida law defines possession of child pornography as knowingly having, regulating, or viewing pornographic images of an individual who is under 18. The images can be found on the individual’s person, in a book owned or borrowed by the individual, or on the individual’s electronic device. Law enforcement agencies search homes, workplaces, storage units, vehicles, and any building that is under the individual’s control. If found in possession of child pornography, the defendant may be convicted of a third-degree felony under state law and sentenced to up to five years in state prison and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. If a defendant is convicted of a single count of possession of child pornography, the individual may be sentenced to sex offender probation up to the statutory maximum of five years in prison.
Inadvertently possessing child pornography can happen more easily than people may think. This is especially true if the illegal images are in digital file format. Computer viruses are capable of downloading files onto the recipient’s computer without the user knowing the files are present. Viruses can be downloaded by clicking on links on websites, in forums, on social media, in text messages, and in emails. Viruses can be transmitted externally if someone inserts a USB drive or other media storage into a computer or other electronic device.
When someone borrows or uses someone else’s computer, files are often left behind from websites the individual visited. Therefore, if law enforcement officials find illegal images on someone’s computer after receiving it back from the borrower, the owner of the computer may be investigated or even charged with a child pornography offense. Creating a separate guest profile and logging out of your personal profile when allowing others to use a computer can help distinguish the computer owner’s online activity from the borrower’s activities. An attorney may also provide evidence such as location tracking or an IP address in the case of a laptop if the borrower used the computer in another location. Witness testimony may be sufficient if others were present when the other person borrowed the computer.
Hacking can also result in illegal images being downloaded to someone’s electronic device without the individual’s knowledge. If hackers are able to gain control of an individual’s computer, they may secretly place files on the individual’s device or even access the individual’s camera. Though much less common, phones and tablets may also be hacked. Avoiding unknown apps with minimal downloads can help avoid phone and tablet hacking.
Sexual performance by a child
Florida law prohibits any performance that includes any type of sexual activity that involves a child. The performance may be a film, photo, play, digital video, dance, or any other type of visual representation that is exhibited in front of an audience. Interestingly, Florida courts have held that prosecutors are not required to prove the performance was exhibited to multiple third parties as an audience may consist of only one person, including the defendant. Therefore, recording a minor who is engaged in sexual activity is sufficient for a conviction.
Possession with the intent to promote
It is also illegal to promote a sexual performance by a child. Florida judges and juries are permitted to automatically presume an individual who possessed three or more illegal images of children also intended to promote the images. Promoting also encompasses:
- agreement to promote the images in any way
Penalties for sexual performances by children
Individuals who violate Florida’s laws against producing or promoting a sexual performance by children may be convicted of a second-degree felony, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in state prison and $10,000 in fines. Defendants who are convicted can be sentenced for each image found. Therefore, if 100 images were determined to have been pornographic, the defendant may be sentenced to 150 years in prison and ordered to pay $1,000,000 in fines.
Transmission of images depicting sexual content to a minor
Florida specifically has a law that makes it illegal to use an electronic device to transmit pornographic images of minors. In order to obtain a conviction, prosecutors must prove the following:
- the defendant engaged in the act of sending or delivering a pornographic image, data, or information through any electronic device or over the internet
- at the time of the offense, the individual knew he or she was transmitting a pornographic image of a child
- the content in the image meets the statutory definition of child pornography
The prosecution must also prove the images were sent from Florida to another state. Alternatively, the defendant may be convicted if the images were transmitted from another state to Florida.
Transmitting images that are harmful to a minor
If a defendant sends an image that does not meet the definition of child pornography, the individual can still be convicted for transmitting an image that is harmful to a minor. The prosecution must prove the defendant knew he or she was sending the harmful image to a minor. An image is harmful if it contains reproductions, depictions, exhibitions, and descriptions that convey nudity, sexual excitement, or sexual conduct. The image must also:
- predominantly appeal to an indecent or obscene interest
- be patently offensive to current standards in the community with respect to what is suitable material for minors
- be without serious scientific, political, literary, or artistic value when taken as a whole
Penalties for transmitting harmful or pornographic images of children
Transmitting pornographic images of a minor is a third-degree felony. If convicted, a defendant may be sentenced to up to five years in state prison and ordered to pay up to $5,000 in fines. Transmitting a harmful image to a minor carries the same penalties. However, the charge may be increased to a second-degree felony if the defendant misrepresented his or her age to the victim.
Sexual predators & Florida’s Sexual Offender Registry
An individual who is convicted of certain crimes is required by law to register as a state-designated sex offender within 48 hours of release from jail or prison. If a person has committed a sex offense that involves violence, the individual receives the “sex predator” designation. Among the offenses requiring registration as a sex offender are:
- video voyeurism involving a minor
- promotion or production of a sexual performance by a child
- computer pornography
- transmission of child pornography
- transmission using an electronic device of an image that is harmful to a minor
Florida’s sex offender registry includes the individual’s personal information, a physical description including tattoos, palm prints, photos, employment details, vehicle information, home address, email addresses, internet provider, and social security number. These details are collected in addition to the crimes for which the individual has been convicted and the date and location at which those crimes took place. The individual must also provide the state with information regarding any professional licenses the person has obtained. Newly registered sex offenders must also report to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, identify themselves as sex offenders, and obtain an ID card.
Failure to register as a sex offender after release from serving a sentence for a sex crime may result in the individual being sent back to jail or prison. The individual can also be charged with a third-degree felony. If any of a registered sex offender’s personal details, home address, or employment changes, the individual must update his or her information within 48 hours.
Florida sexting law
Florida teens under the age of 18 may face criminal consequences if they engage in sexting, a term that refers to the sharing of nude or sexually explicit images via text message. Within the context of state law, sexting also refers to sharing images over the internet and other communication devices. Florida law specifically prohibits:
- minors knowingly sending a computer or electronic device to distribute to another minor any image or video that depicts nudity and is harmful to minors
- minors receiving and possessing a nude image transmitted by another minor
Penalties for teen sexting
First-time violators of Florida’s teen sexting law may not be subjected to criminal sentencing. Instead, a minor may receive a non-criminal citation that requires the minor to complete eight hours of community service, pay a $60 penalty, or participate in a cyber safety program. The minor may also challenge the citation in court. For a second violation, the minor may be convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor. Subsequent instances may result in the minor being charged with a third-degree felony.
If the illegal image depicts sexual conduct or sexual excitement, a Florida prosecutor may file additional charges against the accused minor. If the image was transmitted as part of harassing behavior or revenge porn, prosecutors may add stalking, harassment, and other additional charges accordingly.
How child pornographers are caught
Child pornographers are often caught during sting operations. Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies often work together to find, investigate, and arrest people who produce, transmit, or are looking to obtain illegal images of children. Nonprofit organizations also sometimes engage in operations that are aimed at identifying child pornographers in the interest of turning the individuals over to law enforcement. These sting operations may vary, but common examples include:
- law enforcement going undercover in chat groups posing as people who have an interest in pornographic images
- officers pose as buyers looking to purchase photos of minors
- law enforcement agencies set up websites posing as sellers of illegal material to lure interested buyers
Federal laws against child pornography
Individuals who are charged with violating one or more of Florida’s child pornography laws may also be charged with violating one or more federal laws against child pornography. Federal law prohibits:
- sexual exploitation of children
- selling and buying of children
- production, distribution, reception, and possession of a pornographic image of a child
A federal law enforcement agency may also file charges if an adult conspires to a child pornography offense, necessitating the need for an experienced federal defense lawyer in Fort Myers who specializes in cases involving sex crimes. An individual may face federal charges if the activity took place within interstate or foreign commerce. Federal charges generally have more severe penalties, including longer sentences and higher fines. Defendants who are convicted on state charges may be prosecuted and sentenced again under federal law, which may result in the individual being sentenced to federal prison and ordered to pay additional fines.
Defense in Fort Myers child pornography cases
No one should take child pornography accusations lightly or face investigators alone. Our Fort Myers child pornography defense lawyer represents the accused at all stages of the criminal court process, including those who are facing preliminary investigations, indictments, the criminal trial process, and post-sentencing. We work diligently to protect the rights of the accused and to help our clients understand their legal options and make informed decisions throughout the process.
Contact us today to receive a complimentary case evaluation. We handle each call with the utmost professionalism and discretion. You can count on us to protect your privacy and answer all your legal questions. Call or email us to get the legal help you need and deserve.