If convicted, all of these statutes require registering on a sex offender registry. Through thorough and extensive investigations, we have been able to get serious charges dismissed or acquitted for clients charged with these offenses. Our experienced attorneys work with investigators and experts in the field. If necessary, we will use whatever resources necessary to prove your innocence.
Child pornography cases are largely based on computer-related evidence, the attorney you choose to represent you should be well-versed in interpreting computer data and should be able to recognize this data helping to prove your innocence. It is vitally important for lawyers to know how to use and analyze computer evidence and, more importantly, when to retain a computer forensics expert.
In North Carolina, child pornography cases are prosecuted under the sexual exploitation of children statute. Under federal law, prosecutions are based on either the receiving, possessing or distributing child pornography. This statute delivers a mandatory minimum prison sentence for receiving and distributing, but there is no mandatory minimum sentence for possession, leaving the government arbitrarily deciding who will be prosecuted for possession versus receipt.
State vs. Federal Charges
One of the most important aspects of these cases is whether charges are pursued by the State of North Carolina or the United States Federal Government. An attorney well-versed in child pornography investigations can make the difference between state charges, eligible for probation, and federal charges, typically triggering a mandatory minimum of five (5) years in prison—at the very least.
Types of State Charges:
- First-degree sexual exploitation of a minor (production of pornography) is a Class C felony carrying a sentence of 44 to 92 months for a first-time offender
- Second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor (copying or distributing) is a Class E felony carrying a sentence of 15 to 31 months (Eligible for probation for some offenders) **
- Third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor (possession) is a Class H felony with a 4-8 month sentence (Eligible for probation for some offenders)
Types of Federal Charges:
- Production of Child Pornography — Mandatory minimum 15 year sentence to 30 years maximum in prison
- Transportation of Child Pornography (receipt, distribution, possession with intent to distribute) — Mandatory minimum 5 year sentence to 20 years maximum in prison **
- Simple Possession of Child Pornography — No mandatory minimum, but carries up to 10 years in prison
**The majority of child pornography cases involving a computer, the internet, and/or peer-to-peer file sharing programs fall under this category.
Peer-To-Peer File-Sharing Programs
Peer-to-peer file-sharing programs such as Shareaza, Ares, BitTorrent and eMule allow access to a vast network of files in many child pornography charges. Some programs like Tor and Freenet are a specific type of computer program used to access content on the Dark Web. People use these programs to download pornography with the majority being legal adult pornography. There are occasions where someone accidentally downloads a file containing child pornography not realizing the file contains child porn until the file is viewed. Deleting the file keeps the site out of the person’s view but it does not remove it from your hard drive. Leaving the person who has accidentally downloaded this file is still in possession of child pornography according to the law.
For proving the file was accidentally downloaded, it is critical to analyze this file and folder on the computer. Most of the time, we can obtain search terms used by our client to prove the download was done accidentally. In most cases, the police are not looking for this type of evidence during the investigation, making it vital for us to gather this evidence to prove our client’s innocence.
Cache And Deleted Files In The State Of North Carolina
Every time someone views a website, the pictures and videos on that site are downloaded to cache files; or temporary internet files. All files are downloaded with no knowledge of the user and will remain on the user’s computer for an extended period. These temporary files often lead to the unknowing possession of child pornography when someone accidentally views a video or picture.
Thumbs.db files are another kind of cache file; these are system cache files created by Windows and are the actual image file stored on the computer. They are stored without the user’s knowledge and are usually hidden from view. Even if the image file is deleted from the computer, the thumbs.db file remains on the hard drive. This leaves the thumbs.db file containing the pictures or image from the file but at a lower resolution. Meaning, if someone accidentally clicks on an image of child pornography and immediately deletes it from the computer, the thumbs.db file, containing the image will remain on the hard drive. Usually, this is without the knowledge of the user.
Computer Forensics Experts
We stress the importance of utilizing a computer forensics expert. This expert can usually prove when a user accidentally downloaded or is unknowing in possession of child pornography. Forensic software allows the expert to retrieve data from the hard drive. This enables the defense to prove these files were unwanted and entered the computer accidentally. By locating search terms used, internet browsing data can show file properties that were downloaded or shared accidentally. This is crucial for proving innocence.
Putting Your Needs First
Facing charges for child pornography is a stressful, frightening experience. A skilled lawyer can take much of the anxiety out of the equation. We give our clients straight talk and strong advocacy. If you hire our law firm, you will know where you stand and that you have lawyers willing to go the extra mile for you!
Contact Our Law Firm Today
We accept all major credit cards. Contact Greenwood Law, today, online or by telephone, at 336-661-8788 to arrange a free consultation with a knowledgeable Winston-Salem and North Carolina criminal defense attorney.