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Autism and Child Pornography

Autism and Child Pornography

We’ve represented several clients charged with child pornography offenses who have been diagnosed with Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This also includes clients with Asperger’s Syndrome. While there is nothing in either disorder that would make them more likely to be a pedophile, we’ve learned that they have numerous characteristics that can make them more likely to still run afoul of the law.

These characteristics include:

  • Social isolation
  • An inability to understand or appreciate socially expected boundaries
  • A belief that anything on the Internet is legal
  • They may be collectors, and seek to amass a quantity of any interest
  • A failure to appreciate the “wrongness” of their behavior, and take no steps to secret their identity online (such as use a virtual private network (VPN) or public WiFi)
  • A strong desire for intimate relationships (just as anyone else would), difficulty in actually forming one

Most (if not all) of the client’s we’ve seen on the autism spectrum would not have participated in the viewing or downloading of child pornography had they in-fact been cautioned against it. While conscientious caregivers may have learned to specifically warn autistic children and teens of all types of hazards, almost no one would think of the need to caution against child-pornography.

Even just a few years ago it would have been extremely unlikely for an autistic individual to come across child pornography. While it existed, it had to be specifically sought out and was still difficult to obtain. Today, with everything the world having to offer easily accessible on any smartphone or computer, it is significantly more likely that they will be exposed.  Since they cannot intuitively determine what the “rules” are for society, they don’t realize the wrongness of their behavior.

The goal for the defense should be to limit the risk of incarceration (which would be incredibility hard on these individuals), as well as to seek to avoid mandatory sex offender registration. Incarceration will be extremely dangerous for anyone with an ASD diagnosis, as they will be unable to manage the intricacies of interacting with other inmates or guards.

Initial Police Encounters

Often, the first awareness the autistic individual has about the wrongness of their conduct is when they are confronted by law enforcement. In many cases this is because police have learned about child pornography transfers occurring from the home Internet account. Police take this information, obtain a search warrant, and then come to the home with a show of force. This will include taking any computer hardware as evidence, and also will include an interrogation.

This is another area where autistic individuals are at a disadvantage. They may honestly, and without any filter, want to tell the police everything they know about their behavior, without any regard for how this could be against their own interest. There is no thought given to the option of “remaining silent” or asking for an attorney.  They may not be able to process so much information coming to them at once, including an ability to understand Miranda warnings.

Child Pornography Defense

The defense attorneys at the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, in Lexington, South Carolina, have experience in advocating for clients with an autism spectrum disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis.

In addition to understanding the legal issues involved, we also work closely with experts in the field, to include those not only knowledgeable about the special issues surrounding ASD but also pedophilia and general sexual disorders.

Anyone charged with downloading, possessing, or distributing child pornography is at significant risk of a substantial prison sentence. In addition, any conviction to any state or federal child pornography offense will also require registration as a sex offender.

To schedule your appointment with one of our attorneys call us at (888) 301-6004. There is no cost or obligation to meet with us about your case, and everything you discuss with our office is strictly confidential.


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