What Can You Expect When a Search Warrant is Executed at Your Home, and Devices with Child Pornography Are Seized?
I've been doing state and federal criminal defense now for 30 years. When the feds come in or the state, or there's a combination of both, a multi-task force looking for child pornography in your home, you bet your bottom dollar they have been given some information or found some info that tracks to an IP address in your home that links to you.
Often, what they'll do when they come in is ask you a bunch of questions to try to confirm that it's your IP address, your computer, or your devices that they're seizing. That way, whatever they find will be attached to you.
If someone is smart enough not to claim ownership and they're able to do that -- it's not clear that it's in their name, and they're the only one who has access to the computer -- they may have a chance to have a defense.
When they come in, the police know one of their main primary jobs is to make sure that they can tag some owner of whatever devices they seize.
So, if they find child pornography on it, they'll be able to prosecute that person for possession, potential distribution, or even production of child pornography.
You can expect that there will be some time that passes while they evaluate your computer.
I've even seen cases where there is child pornography on the computer -- they can see the images, but they also know there may be more than what they can see very quickly.
Because they have a threshold at the federal level on what cases they will take child pornography-wise, a lot of times, law enforcement will not arrest the person right there. Instead, they'll seize all of their devices.
They'll try to get them to make a statement. They'll give them a receipt for the property taken, and then they will leave. Our California sex crime defense attorneys will review the child porn laws below.
Child Pornography Laws in California - Penal Code 311 PC
The crime of child pornography is described under California Penal Code 311 PC as when someone knowingly possesses, distributes, produces, publicizes, duplicates, sell, or prints child porn.
There is a wide range of ways to commit a child porn crime under PC 311, from simple possession, downloading, and viewing, all the way to the more severe crime of distribution.
Regardless of which subsection of the law was allegedly violated, every child pornography crime has one major factor in common, which is that the prosecutor must be able to prove all the elements of the crime to convict you, including:
- You knowingly had possession of images or videos that depicted minors engaging in sexual activity;
- You knew or should have known, the images included a person under the age of 18 engaging in sexual acts
Put simply, to be convicted of a child pornography crime, it must be proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you intentionally possessed or controlled any obscene material depicting a minor (under 18), engaging in sexual conduct, or simulating sexual acts.
Federal Child Pornography Laws - 18 U.S.C. § 2252
Title 18 U.S. Code Section 2252 makes it a federal crime to willfully possess, create, distribute, and transport child pornography.
The Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 defines child pornography as:
- “any visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct, whether it's made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means.”
18 U.S.C. 2252 prohibits the possession, receipt, and distribution of sexual images of children. If you know you possess, distribute, or access child pornography with intent to view it, it violates federal laws.
Suppose you are convicted of a federal child porn offense; you could be sentenced to up to 15 years in federal prison, along with a mandatory requirement to be included on sex offender registries.
Many federal criminal investigations into child pornography occur through online undercover operations in chat rooms. Here, federal agents pose as adults seeking child porn images or videos. 18 U.S.C. 2251 sexual exploitation of children is a closely related statute that provides harsh penalties for anyone who attempts to persuade a minor to produce child pornography.
What Should I Do If I'm Under a Child Porn Investigation?
So, your best bet is to hire an attorney right away. Let that attorney contact law enforcement, and find out if there's a prosecutor already working on the case.
Most importantly, let them know you've got an attorney, and you'll not talk to these guys anymore.
It also lets them know that if they decide to indict you for possession and distribution of child pornography federally, they will have to go through your attorney to do that.
Also, that gives you the best chance of staying out of custody because your attorney can deal with the prosecutor and government on the other side and work out some bond conditions.
If you don't have an attorney, they will come and try to talk to you again and lock you into even further to whatever they found.
Further, they're probably going to arrest you on the spot, whether that's your home, your job, or wherever they can find you.
If you've got an attorney, the attorney can arrange things. They don't have to do it that way, but they're more likely to do it if you know an attorney. Also, your attorney can:
- act as a buffer between you and the police,
- get whatever mitigating factors that might be available to the prosecutors and law enforcement, and
- give you the best chance of staying out of custody and getting a better resolution than trying to handle it yourself.
You can't just bury your head, hope for the best, and say to yourself; I'll hire an attorney if they come and arrest me. That's probably not the best approach.
Contact Hedding Law Firm to Defend You Against Child Porn Allegations
So, you can expect them to go through your devices. If they find child pornography on it, they will arrest you.
Depending on what type of child pornography they find, the number of images, videos, and photographs will determine if it goes state or federal.
Pick up the phone now. I've been doing this a long time. You've put yourself in a terrible position, but somebody like me will be able to pull out all of the stops to put you in the best place moving forward.
Call our law firm and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding, and we'll begin the process of defending you. Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County and represents California and United States people. We offer a free case evaluation to review your case details and discuss legal options. Contact us at 213, or fill out the contact form.