There are few more damaging accusations than being accused of possessing child pornography. Being charged with these high-profile crimes can impact nearly every aspect of your life. Many law enforcement resources at both the state and federal level have been devoted toward the pursuit and prosecution of those charged with these crimes.
Most people are unclear how child pornography investigations work. Often, these investigations are conducted by federal law enforcement agencies or a local task force that is focused specifically on computer crimes. Recently, there have been an alarming number of federal child pornography cases involving investigations by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concerning the file-sharing service called Frostwire. Frostwire allows someone to download an image or video, and then makes this item available for other users to download or share as well.
The DHS investigations center on file names that are known to be images or videos depicting children engaged in sexual activity. It conducts searches for these "digital fingerprints" to discover which computers connected to the file-sharing service contain these images. Once they learn which users have been distributing this image, the second step of the investigation will occur.
DHS will submit a request to a user's Internet Service Provider (ISP) to learn more about the user's recent online activity, and may also get warrants to search the files on a computer. If law enforcement uncovers evidence of unlawful activity, the computer's owner may be facing federal prison time if convicted.
Do not think that you can talk yourself out of trouble. Police and prosecutors are trained to get you to release the information they need to prove their case. Do not make their jobs easier. Anything that you tell them during the course of their investigation may ultimately be used against you if the case ends up going to trial. Those who end up convicted of these charges will have to register as a sex offender.
If you have been accused of possessing or distributing child pornography, or if you learn that you are the target of a government investigation, take these matters seriously. Law enforcement will be aggressive in pursuing these cases, and you need to protect your rights. Speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area to best understand the options that may be available for your case.