State and Federal Charges
In many Maryland child pornography investigations, police will obtain a search warrant and seize your personal computer. The computer will then be sent to the Maryland State Police crime lab to have the hard drive examined. If child porn images show up on your computer, they can form the basis of a criminal charge. Even images that were inadvertently downloaded and subsequently deleted from your hard drive can be recovered by computer forensic examiners and used to charge you with a crime.
At The Law Offices of Gary H. Gerstenfield, P.C., we routinely defend clients charged with child pornography at both the State and Federal levels in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and all throughout Maryland. Such cases require a vast amount of knowledge in this specific area of the law, and we have proven our capabilities to undertake such cases. Our lawyers have earned a solid reputation for fighting illegal pornography charges due to our case results which include many acquittals, dismissals, and reduced sentences.
The mere possession of child pornography is a serious criminal offense, punishable by prison time and registration as a sex offender. Sharing child pornography, or “kiddie porn,” images is a separate and even more serious offense.
Child pornography is illegal under both Maryland and federal law. It is not uncommon to be charged in both state and federal prosecutions. Penalties are harsher and rules of evidence are more favorable to the prosecution in federal court. Our lawyers are experienced in defending these cases in both state and federal court..
The First Amendment does not protect either child pornography or obscenity. Possessing, producing or trafficking in images of actual children engaged in sexual activity is a crime under both state and federal law. Federal law defines anyone under 18 as a child for these purposes. Federal law enforcement agencies are very aggressive hunting down child pornography on the internet and trying to link it back to people possessing it. The exact means by which they find illegal porn on the internet is not fully known, but they do monitor P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing programs for file names that contain certain identifiable character strings such as “R@YGOLD.”
Virtually everything you do on the Internet is recorded somewhere; any interaction you have with another person or website can be turned over to law enforcement, or worse yet, might be with an undercover officer. If you receive a call from U.S. Customs (Department of Homeland Security), a U.S. Postal Inspector, or the F.B.I. about your “internet use” it is imperative that you hire a lawyer before you respond.
Defenses in child pornography case often focus on technical issues. One such defense is whether you possessed the images knowingly. Others could have had access to your computer or hijacked your network and downloaded the images without your knowledge. Such hacking occurs even in places such as a person’s place of employment and even home computers. Prosecutors also have to prove that the image found on your computer was an actual image. Through the use of expert witnesses, our lawyers will bring a high level of technical sophistication to your defense.
Typically, the law enforcement officers attempt to obtain a confession and a search warrant before bringing a case to court. Sometimes, these things can be avoided if you obtain sound legal advice early enough in the process.
First time offenders are often shocked by how harsh federal penalties for child pornography offenses are: prison time is the norm, even in cases of mere possession. Cases involving transmission of child pornography — for example, emailing a single image to an undercover agent — carry a mandatory minimum five-year sentence in federal prison. In Maryland, lifelong sex offender registration may follow.
Finally, child pornography cases require sex offender registration in Maryland. Under a recent case, most people who possess child pornography will be scored a “presumptive risk level” of at least Level Two, which means their name, address, photograph and details of their conviction will be published on the internet for life. However, the same decision suggested that such levels can be reduced in many cases if the offender requests a “downward departure” from the presumptive risk level.
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