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Child Pornography

Were you charged with a child pornography crime in Tampa, Lakeland, or Lutz, Florida? Call our criminal law firm today to schedule a free consultation. We help people wrongfully accused everyday, and these are serious charges that you cannot fight alone. Call now to get your free case review with Thomas Grajek, an experienced sex crime and child pornography attorney.

What You Should Know About Florida’s Child Pornography Laws

There are few crimes that carry with them the same societal stigma as the viewing or creation of child pornography. As a result, facing child pornography charges can feel — and be — far more life-changing than other felonies of the same statutory severity; even if you’re eventually acquitted, you may need to change jobs or even cities to escape the gossip surrounding your arrest. Read on to learn more about what actions constitute child pornography under Florida and federal laws, as well as any potential defenses to these serious charges.

What laws govern child pornography in Florida?

Although child pornography crimes were historically mostly governed by state laws, the advent of the internet (and the ease with which images and other digital media can be transmitted across state lines by the touch of a button) now means that many child pornography cases can invoke both state and federal laws.

In Florida, the laws against child pornography include restrictions against:

  • Having Child Pornography in Your Possession
  • Showing Child Pornography to Other People
  • Selling Child Pornography
  • Forcing a Child to Perform Sex Acts on Video or Otherwise
  • Sending or Receiving Pictures of a Minor Performing a Sex Act

The Sexual Performance of a Child

Chapter 827 of the Florida Statutes prohibits the sexual performance of any child under the age of 18. Someone may be charged with the use of a child in a sexual performance whenever he or she is alleged to have induced (or consented to) the participation of a child in a sexual performance. This can include parents or guardians who either directly consent or knowingly permit another person to engage in this act.

This statute also prohibits the possession of any media that includes or depicts any sexual conduct by a child “with the intent to promote” this conduct. Proof of the intent to promote can be established whenever the defendant has three or more physical or digital copies of the video, photo, or other media.

Finally, Chapter 827 prohibits the knowing possession, control, or intentional viewing of any media which the viewer knows includes sexual conduct by a child.

Each individual piece of pornographic media – and each individual viewing of such media – is charged as a separate offense under this statute, which means that someone alleged to have viewed a single image 10 times can be charged with 10 separate felony counts of child pornography. With the detailed metadata collected by just about any device with internet access, proving viewing habits is a much easier task for police and prosecutors than it was even a decade ago.

Obscenity

Chapter 847 of the Florida Statutes governs obscenity, and several separate child pornography charges are codified in this chapter.

One section of this statute prohibits the electronic transmission of child pornography. This can include “sexting” between two teens if the photos or other media exchanged depict a child under the age of 18, even if both the sender and recipient consent to the images and no coercion was found. This means a teen who distributes a pornographic image of another teen to a wider audience (like friends or classmates) can find themselves facing a Level 3 felony for each image shared.

Chapter 847 also prohibits the knowing usage of any online computer or Internet service to seduce or entice a child to engage in sexual conduct. This can encompass everything from conversations in online chat rooms to video chats in which a participant under the age of 18 is depicted in a sexual performance.

Aggravating Factors

Chapter 775 of Title 46 provides harsher charges (and sentences) for those whose actions fall within certain parameters.

Under this law, anyone guilty of possession of child pornography will be charged with the next higher degree of felony if the offender is in possession of 10 or more pornographic images (regardless of their content) or if at least one image contains a child under the age of 5, depicts sexual battery or bestiality involving a child, or is in movie format (with or without sound).

Because each viewing or image is charged as a separate offense, this enhancing statute can have a significant impact on the potential penalties upon conviction or guilty plea.

What are the potential sentences for conviction of possession or distribution of child pornography?

With a few exceptions, most child pornography charges are classified as Level 2 felonies under Florida law, subjecting the defendant to a potential prison sentence of up to 15 years for each conviction.

The knowing viewing or possession of content that depicts sexual performance by a child, or the transmission of child pornography via electronic device, is classified as a Level 3 felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to 5 years.

If any of the aggravating factors within Chapter 775 are present, a Level 2 felony charge may be elevated to a Level 1 felony, while a Level 3 felony charge may be elevated to a Level 2. The potential prison sentence for conviction of a Level 1 felony is up to 30 years in prison.

Are there any defenses to a charge of child pornography?

Although the language of these felony charges can seem quite unforgiving, several subsections of the Florida Statutes do provide some affirmative defenses to a charge of child pornography.

One such defense is that you were viewing (or in possession of) the allegedly pornographic images or videos in conjunction with a law enforcement investigation. This can apply even to those who aren’t law enforcement officers – for example, attorneys, private investigators, or members of their respective offices’ staff.

Each of the Florida child pornography statutes also include a requirement that the conduct be “knowing.” This differs somewhat from crimes like statutory rape, in which even the defendant’s good-faith assumption that the victim was of legal age is not enough to escape liability. If the prosecution is unable to prove that you deliberately viewed, created, or distributed pornographic images or video, knowing that they depicted a child who was unable to legally consent, no conviction may stand.

Because of the seriousness of these felony charges, it’s crucial to seek legal advice as quickly as possible, even if you’re certain you have information or evidence that can exonerate you.

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Sources

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0775/0775.html

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0800-0899/0827/Sections/0827.071.html

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