A child pornography charge can result in punishment that significantly alters an individual’s life. Even an accusation can have long-lasting implications on the individual’s reputation, so if you stand accused, familiarize yourself with applicable laws and what to expect during the investigation and legal process.
What constitutes child pornography in Florida?
According to Florida Statute §847.001(3), child pornography is “any image depicting a minor engaged in sexual conduct.” This includes actual/simulated intercourse, masturbation, lewd exhibition of the genitals, contact with the person’s genitals, breasts or buttocks intended for sexual arousal, or other acts constituting sexual battery.
However, partial or full nudity of a child in a manner that doesn’t fit under the criteria for sexual conduct is considered “child erotica,” and it is not illegal.
In Florida, it is illegal to manufacture, distribute, transmit, view or possess child pornography. However, in some cases, unsolicited illegal images are emailed. Although you cannot control what is sent to you, if you forward it, print it, copy to a disk or download it, you could be charged.
In other cases, individuals accidentally may come across illegal images on a website. If this is the case, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement recommends writing down the web address and informing authorities. You could be charged if you download or distribute the image.
What are the penalties for child pornography?
You could face criminal charges for each image or film that you possess, view, promote or produce. Charges will depend on whether you viewed, controlled or possessed the material or if you produced and/or promoted it.
In Florida, possessing, controlling and viewing child pornography are considered third-degree felonies. In addition to paying up to $5,000 in fines, it could result in up to five years’ imprisonment. Violators also could be required to register as sex offenders.
Producing or promoting child pornography is considered a second-degree felony. Penalties can include up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison. Registration as a sexual offender is required if convicted.
What is to be expected during an investigation or legal process?
In many cases, an investigation is launched before an arrest is even made. It could stem from an accusation reported to the authorities. Law enforcement may obtain a warrant to confiscate your computer or other items.
You may not face charges immediately after this seizure. The police will examine the computer, discs and other items that are removed from your home. Based on their findings, they may arrest you and charge you with child pornography.
In some severe cases, such as when there is a large number of images and videos you are accused of possessing or producing, you may be tried in federal court instead of state court. Federal penalties may be much greater than at the state level.
When should I seek legal counsel?
This can be a trying time for individuals who are accused of these crimes. With such stiff penalties, legal counsel is often helpful throughout the investigation and legal process to ensure that your rights are properly protected and to explore the various defenses you may use to prove your innocence.
You generally should consult an attorney as soon as possible. You can discuss the circumstances of your case and go over any possible or existing charges of child pornography with Falk & Ross in Miami. Call us: (305) 741-6997.