Child Pornography Charges Demand a Serious Illinois Defense Lawyer
What is a Sex Crime?
Charges of criminal sexual conduct are very serious offenses that are punishable at both the state and federal level. While definitions of a sex crime can vary by state, these charges generally involve a crime involving sexual assault or being sexual in nature. Criminal sexual misconduct includes, but isn’t limited to the following offenses: sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, sexual conduct with a minor, assault of a spouse, lewd and lascivious acts, indecent exposure or public indecency, sexual abuse of a minor, molestation of a child, possession and distribution of child pornography.
What are Crimes Against Children?
Crimes against children specifically, such as child abuse, statutory rape, child abandonment and child pornography, are of particular concern to the public, which is why some of the most harsh punishments for criminal acts can follow a guilty verdict for crimes against children. The result of a guilty verdict for a crime against a child will invariably lead to a requirement that the offender be registered on The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, a public safety resource between the United States Department of Justice and state, territorial, and tribal governments.
While it varies by state, in Illinois alone, if you are a sex offender, you must register in person annually for a period of 10 years, or longer, depending on their conviction. Being required to register as a sex offender can limit your life in a number of ways. Not only will you be unable to maintain a number of professions, you will also have to stay off of school grounds and public parks, refrain from using social networking while on probation or parole, and cannot have unsupervised contact with children. But what leads to these type of convictions?
Child Pornography Charges
Few crimes elicit as strong a response as being accused of a child pornography offense. You will be immediately lumped into a particular category of people. A category that most people want nothing to do with. That could very well cost you friends. Family members. Your job. Your good name. Then come the potential criminal consequences. High fines. Prison time. A requirement to be on the sex offender registry. Because of this, it is understandable to feel panic or be in a state of shock if you find yourself facing these types of charges. The road ahead of you is tough, and you will likely have few friends on your side. When it comes to child pornography, there are a number of charges that can be brought against you depending on the act, including: possession, distribution, and production of child pornography, as well as indecent solicitation of a minor and online solicitation of a minor. It is important to note that this crime is one of knowledge and intent, as the offender must knowingly possess, distribute or receive child pornography to be charged with crimes against a child. That is why you need to work with the best possible Chicago child pornography criminal attorney. Someone who understands the ins and outs of both Illinois and federal laws related to the offense, and who will not be afraid to mount an aggressive defense designed to get your charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed.
At Azhari LLC, Sami Azhari has successfully dealt with cases like this before, and he knows what is needed to help you beat your charges and clear your name.
How People in Illinois Get Caught for Child Pornography?
After an arrest, you might wonder how or why authorities arrested you. After all, you may not have been producing it or asking for it. In some cases it might be sent to you unsolicited in a peer to peer file sharing network. You weren’t seeking it out online, nor were you asking anyone to send you such images.
At the most basic level, someone has to discover child pornography in your possession.
Most often this discovery occurs on a computer, so it is something that can happen either in person or by someone who is able to gain remote access. For example, computer repair workers, such as Best Buy’s Geek Squad, have at times been used as FBI informants because they get access to people’s personal files during the repair process.
For remote discovery, frequently what happens is that law enforcement personnel search networked computers through peer-to-peer file sharing programs that have been downloaded by the user. Or they might discover IP addresses or user accounts on sites with contraband images when those sites get shut down. They then trace these back to the end users.
Once they have probable cause to believe contraband files exist, they can apply for a search warrant. In order to get it, they must meet specific requirements (including probable cause). Without a search warrant, they cannot take your device or go through your files unless you consent. This would amount to illegal search and seizure, and it is a good way to get your case thrown out quickly.
If they are able to obtain a search warrant, they can then search or seize any equipment that might reasonably contain or be involved with child pornography. Additionally, they use advanced technologies to retrieve data and recover your digital footprint such as Cellebrite (extracts data from phones), Stingray (devices that pretend to be legitimate cell phone towers), and X1 Social Discovery (which allows law enforcement to capture and analyze content from social media, including metadata).
State or Federal Charges for Child Pornography – What’s the Difference?
Over the last few decades, the consequences associated with child pornography charges have drastically increased in severity across the country. This is particularly true of federal charges. The federal government has decided to make child pornography offenses a focus, and the proliferation of images distributed over the internet has provided a clear legal justification.
Here is an overview of what you can expect at both the Illinois State and federal level:
The United States Code provides the definition for what constitutes child pornography at the federal level under the section Certain Activities Relating to Material Involving the Sexual Exploitation of Minors, which states it is illegal to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce any minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing visual depictions of the conduct. Attempting to or conspiring to commit a child pornography offense is also enough to be subject to prosecution.
“Section 2256 of Title 18, United States Code, defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age). Visual depictions include photographs, videos, digital or computer generated images indistinguishable from an actual minor, and images created, adapted, or modified, but appear to depict an identifiable, actual minor. Undeveloped film, undeveloped videotape, and electronically stored data that can be converted into a visual image of child pornography are also deemed illegal visual depictions under federal law.”
At the federal level, there are several different child pornography crimes, and their consequences differ.
First time possession charges, for example, carry no mandatory minimum sentence and have a maximum of 10 years in prison. However, someone who has previously been convicted of a sex offense faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years, with a maximum of 20 years of prison time.
Distribution comes with a mandatory minimum of 5 years, up to 20, with repeat offenders facing a mandatory minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 40 years.
Federal prosecution becomes an option when this kind of misconduct happens in interstate or foreign commerce, i.e. across state lines. This also applies to those sending child pornography into the United States as well as those sending it out, which is of particular importance given our access to millions of individuals via social networks and the internet.
Child pornography in our state is covered under 720 ILCS 5/11-20.1, which essentially says it is illegal to make, possess, or distribute videos, photos, or any other similar visual media depicting anyone under the age of 18 engaging in real or simulated sexual acts or displaying parts of the body defined by the law.
Illinois further expands on the federal law, increasing the criminal charge to aggravated child pornography if the child involved is under the age of 13 years old. Illinois law defines this sex crime as the “portrayal, through film, photographs, and other media, of children under the age of 18, of of severely intellectually disabled people engaged in acts that actually show or simulate sexual activity.” Illinois also includes indecent solicitation of a child under their statute, defining such as a person 17 years or older, knowingly solicits a child or one whom they believe to be a child to perform a sexual act.
Illinois classifies child pornography charges as felonies, which vary in degree depending on the accused act. Most child pornography offenses are charged as Class 1 felonies, with prison terms of anywhere between 4 and 15 years and fines from $1,000 to $100,000 (some cases of possession may be charged as less serious Class 3 felonies). Aggravated child pornography offenses are charged as Class X offenses, which have prison sentences of six to 30 years and fines from $1,000 to $100,000. Factors such as your past criminal history, the nature of the act, whether it can be considered aggravated, and the age of the victim will come into play.
There will also be a minimum of a 10 year registration on the sex offender registry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Even with these definitions, people always have questions. Here are a few of the most common ones:
How do you know if the image is of someone under 18?
They must be reasonably believed to be under 18.
Is it child pornography if no sex act is actually taking place?
The act can be real or simulated.
Is it child pornography if the subject is wearing clothes?
This one can be a bone of contention. There is nothing specific in the law about child pornography charges applying when the subject is wearing clothes. Arguably, if the subject is clothed but engaged in what appears to be a sexually explicit act, it can qualify as pornography.
Additionally, some states have been attempting to add language to their statutes specifying that sufficiently suggestive poses qualify as child pornography even with clothes on.
Does bondage constitute child pornography?
That depends on how closely the image in question hews to the actual definition of bondage. Remember, the content must be sexually explicit or certain naked areas of the body must be shown. A simple picture of a minor with hands tied, for example, should not constitute child pornography.
Can I defend against the charge of Child Pornography?
Absolutely. But you need a competent attorney to handle such a serious charge. There are several defenses that are available:
The material was found in the unallocated space:
Something important to understand is that when you delete a file – even if you remove it from your recycle bin – it does not actually disappear from your computer. Rather, it gets moved to something called “unallocated space.” This space contains digital information that you cannot see or access and has no file names attached to it.
What is interesting about unallocated space, though, is that it typically does not count as legal possession. Prosecutors will likely argue that the file’s presence in unallocated space means that it was deleted, and if it was deleted, then it was once in your possession, but this leaves open a lot of questions that your defense can raise.
This is only one potential type of defense.
The affidavit for the warrant was misleading:
Sometimes officers or agents will provide misleading information in the affidavit for a search warrant prior to then seizing a large amount of material. These affidavits can often omit important information, such as the image being referenced in the affidavit does not even fall into the category of child pornography.
Fight Back against Child Pornography Charges by Contacting Illinois Criminal Attorney Sami Azhari
Which arguments to make in your case depend upon the specifics of your situation. That is why it is so important to start working with a knowledgeable Chicago child pornography lawyer as soon as possible.
The faster you get in touch with Mr. Azhari, the more likely you are to experience a positive outcome. All you have to do is fill out our simple online contact form, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call one of our two convenient offices:
Chicago – (312) 626-2871
Rolling Meadows – (847) 255-2100