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Is it illegal to accidentally download child pornography?

Is it illegal to accidentally download child pornography?

You have reason to be concerned if you have accidentally downloaded or shared child pornography. Child pornography is a serious offense that can carry a lengthy prison sentence and lifetime sex offender registration. But what if your involvement was by accident?

Under both South Carolina and Federal law, accidental or unknowingly possessing child pornography can be a defense. For example, if a friend leaves a hard drive containing illegal images at your home or office, and you don’t know what the drive contains, then you aren’t criminally responsible. Or if you are using the Internet and illegal images or videos start showing that you didn’t request or authorize then that can also be a defense. This would be a situation in which a virus redirected your computer, or if a hacker maliciously changed the legal material you were trying to access.

Even though accidentally or unknowingly downloading or possessing child pornography is a defense to the charge, you can still expect to be investigated and it’s possible to still be arrested or prosecuted. Because of this it is important that you exercise your legal rights that can protect you against a false or unfair criminal charge.

Process of the Investigation

Over the last several years there has been an explosion in the number of child pornography investigations and arrests. While law enforcement isn’t bound to any specific process, we have begun seeing it become more and more standardized.

Investigations related to online child pornography frequently begin by reports from Internet services such as Facebook or Google to suspected illegal activity. From their the verification is made by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Upon verification that possibly illegal activity has occurred reports are made to Federal law enforcement such as the FBI or Homeland Security, along with state-level investigators. In South Carolina the Attorney General’s office operates the ICAN –Internet Crimes Against Child Task Force.

The next step is normally the execution of a search warrant. This will not be scheduled, but instead at an unknown time and date a team of police (some maybe in SWAT gear) along with investigators will arrive to search and confiscate any device that could possibly be involved. This includes computers, tablets, smartphones, flash drives, and cameras. For many, this is the first indication that they are under investigation.

Also during the time the search is begin carried out the investigators will attempt to interview (really interrogate) their suspect. Everything that is said to the investigators can and will be used against them to justify an arrest or prosecute them in court. All-too-often cooperation and honesty with these investigators can actually increase the chances of an arrest and prison sentence.

When do you need a lawyer?

It’s never too early in this process to get a lawyer. Chances are if you’re reading this article you already need one. You do not have to wait until the police show up with a warrant, in fact the earlier you take action the better you will be prepared to deal with that situation. As soon as you are concerned you might have a legal problem is the right time to reach out for help.

We do not advise that anyone meet with the police, or consent to any searches, until they have consulted with an attorney who has advised them that doing so is in their best interest.

Everything can be Used Against You

Everything you say can be used against you by the police. But nowadays everything you search for or view on the Internet can also be used against you. For this reason, we do not recommend that you use your home or office computer, smartphone, or any other device to research child pornography related legal topics. Don’t type anything into the search engine that you wouldn’t want the judge or police to know you were concerned of.

It's o.k. that you are reading this article, but don't type anything into the search engine you wouldn't want read aloud to the police or in court.

As soon as you are accused, many will think you are guilty.

For most people simply being accused is enough to ruin their lives. These accusations can jeopardize your family, employment, and standing in the community. A lifetime of achievement can be instantly wiped away.

We understand that these sorts of allegations need to be resolved confidently, and discretely. Your rights need to be protected, while at the same time maintaining your privacy. For this reason all inquiries and legal services we provide in this area are kept in the strict confidence and are also protected by the attorney-client privilege. Even if you only discuss your situation with us in the context of a free consultation, it’s still confidential and privileged.

We consider all matters involving illegal child images or videos to justify urgent attention. To meet with one of our attorneys regarding your situation call 1-888-301-6004.


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