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Our Defense Work on Child Pornography Cases

Being charged with a child pornography offense is a serious matter. Many of our clients reach out to us immediately after being approached by law enforcement.  Some do so after having a search warrant executed at their home or business. Once we can be involved early enough in the investigation, we are occasionally able to pursuade the government to not pursue criminal charges. In other circumstances, we have had success in filing motions to suppress. Motions based on constitutional challenges to search warrants and coerced statements procured through aggressive interrogation of our clients have been effective.

We are often hired by clients facing federal child pornography charges when they have become dissatisfied with their present representation.

Facing a Federal Child Pornography Offense

Under federal legislation, child pornography is any “visual depiction” of a child engaging in “sexually explicit conduct.” The term “visual depiction” is defined as a picture, video or digital image. For the purposes of this statute, a minor child is anyone younger than 18 years of age. “Sexually explicit conduct” encompasses a variety of sexual activity including intercourse, masturbation and “lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area” of any individual. Nudity in certain forms can be included in this definition if it is sexually suggestive.

Under federal law 18 U.S.C. §2252, it is unlawful to produce, distribute, receive or possess any child pornography. It is also against federal law to knowingly search for and view child pornography even if the images are destroyed or deleted after viewing.

Penalties for Child Pornography Charges

Being convicted on a federal child pornography charge can get you a substantial amount of time in prison. A person who is convicted of knowingly possessing child pornography can be sentenced up to 10 years in prison or up to 20 years in prison if the minor depicted in the image is under the age of twelve.

Anyone who is convicted of distributing or receiving child pornography could face a 5 to 20 year prison sentence. Indeed, a sentence can be dramatically increased for a defendant with a prior conviction.

Fines and restitution payments are customarily required to any identifiable victim of the offense. On top of that,  being convicted of a child pornography offense in federal court will require sex offender registration under Megan’s Law.

What is Sexual Exploitation of Children 18 U.S.C. §2251?

The crime of sexual exploitation of children is a separate offense under federal law that covers the production of child pornography. An individual who attempts to induce, persuade or entice a minor child to engage in a sexual act for the purpose of shooting a video, picture or other image is in commission of sexual exploitation under federal law.

You can be charged with sexual exploitation even if acts happened outside of the United States. To prosecute a person who is accused of producing child pornography in a foreign country, the government must demonstrate that the person intended to send or make images or videos available to viewers in the United States.

Penalties for Sexual Exploitation of Children

The consequences for this offense are incredibly severe. Sexual exploitation of children carries a mandatory minimum sentence is 15 years.  The maximum is 30 years behind bars.

For child pornography cases, the sentence normally depends on the number of images or videos that the person possessed or distributed, the age of the minor children in the images and the forms of sexual conduct shown. Additionally, there are enhancements for people who have engaged in a pattern of similar conduct even if the individual has never been previously charged or convicted of a sex crime.

Defenses Against Child Pornography Charges

Defending a person charged with a child pornography or sexual exploitation crime can be extraordinarily difficult. Our lawyers have been successful in numerous such cases by challenging the government’s evidence on a few critical elements.

The first defense to pornography and exploitation charges is to question whether person depicted in the film or image is a minor. We consult with pediatricians and other medical experts to review images to determine that the person being depicted may actually be 18 years old.

We also review the evidence to determine if the images actually depict “sexually explicit conduct” as defined under federal law. Oftentimes, the government has collected images showing nudity, but the images don’t fit the description of sexual activity prohibited by the law. Images referred to sometimes as “erotica” are not necessarily child pornography.

In almost every case, we enlist the assistance of some of the best computer forensic experts in the nation. They can help us determine if the government has improperly conducted a search of the defendant’s computer and other electronic devices to gain evidence.

For some of our clients, we have been able to demonstrate that the tips or leads the government received to incriminate our client were not conclusive enough to point to our client’s computer as the source of the images for distribution. This is also true for many of the undercover operations the government carries out when agents are trolling the internet and various networks seeking out child pornography to download.


The majority of the federal child pornography cases these days involve the use of peer-to-peer networks and software, including Aries, Gnutella, Bit Torrent and similar networks. We are also now seeing cases involving the TOR network, which the government has recently gained access to investigate. In a few recent cases,  experts have been able to demonstrate that our client’s computer may have been maliciously accessed and utilized by these networks to facilitate the distribution of child pornography without our client’s knowledge.

Call Us Today

Federal child pornography and sexual exploitation charges are extremely serious, frightening and difficult to defend. Our firm boasts decades of experience in successfully representing individuals across the United States who are facing charges in federal court with possessing, distributing or producing child pornography. We have also helped individuals who were being investigated for these offenses outside of the United States and we’ve helped our clients avoid being charged with any crime.

Even though we most often represent clients as “lead counsel,” we can sometimes help clients who maybe experiencing the stress of a federal criminal case for the first time and are looking for a “second opinion” about the strength of the government prosecutor’s case. For such clients, we share our expertise in federal child pornography and sexual exploitation cases as a member of a legal team with the other attorney to help them make what is often a life-changing decision about accepting a proposed plea deals or taking the case to trial.

We also assist clients in other matters including federal criminal appeals, sentencing hearings and grand jury investigations involving related allegations.

If you or a loved one is currently facing child pornography or sexual exploitation charges in federal court, contact us today for your free, confidential consultation.

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