Technology and its Impact on Child Pornography Laws
Being charged with accessing child pornography can lead to many questions for potential defendants. These are crimes that receive a lot of attention in the media, and those accused will have a long fight in front of them to clear their names. While child pornography laws have been in place for many years, the laws as written may not provide the goals that lawmakers intended. As technology changes, the law will need to adapt to be able to address all the issues that may arise.
There are both federal and state laws in place regarding child pornography. Federal laws against child pornography were created in an effort to prevent children from being exploited. Possession, distribution or publication of images depicting minors in a sexually explicit fashion is strictly prohibited. Since many of these images are transmitted using the internet, the federal government needed to create additional laws that regulated images that were accessed or stored using computers.
Colorado’s laws also provide for punishments to those who produce, control or access child pornography. Those that are accused of violating this law may be charged with felonies, and any additional sex-related offenses may make the charges more severe. It is not uncommon for a sexual exploitation of a minor case to become extremely high-profile, and it can be difficult to prepare a defense against the charges.
Police investigators and other law enforcement personnel are extremely aggressive when pursing those suspected of accessing or transmitting images of child pornography. Often, police turn to file-sharing services to track known images. Each image or video that is uploaded will contain a unique file name, or “digital fingerprint.” Once police determine which images or videos contain depictions of child pornography, they track who has downloaded the item.
Technology has left gaps in state and federal laws. For example, many homes and businesses use wireless routers to access the internet. However, if the router is not password protected, anyone can go online using that particular connection. If someone is online and downloading child pornography, it will appear that the router owner is the one who is accessing the illegal material. Police will initially be unable to discover who actually accessed the material, and innocent people may be arrested.
Minors: Accused of Breaking Laws due to Sexting?
Sexting is another area where technology has moved past the confines of the law. Sexting takes place when a person transmits or sends photos of themselves or others to other individuals using text messages or the internet. If both parties are consenting adults, the practice may not be illegal.
However, when a minor sends or posts sexually explicit images of themselves or other minors, in many locations, this would cause the sender and any receivers of the image to be potentially in violation of child pornography laws. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, one in five teens has admitted to sexting.
And this number is only increasing, which is why this is leading to serious problems for those who are accused of sexting. There have been countless stories of minors being convicted as sex offenders for sexting, leading to lifelong consequences.
Several states have proposed new laws specifically addressing this issue. For example, Florida is considering a bill that would make first-time sexting charges noncriminal. Minors caught sending sexually explicit photos would receive a $60 fine or eight hours of community service. Further violations would result in first-degree misdemeanor charges along with a $1,000 fine.
New York is also considering a similar bill, but would require all children in public schools to take internet safety classes. Texas would create a provision that would protect those who received the image, as long as it was deleted in a reasonable period of time. Additionally, there have been several examples of someone being threatened or harassed because of a nude photo. Relationships end, and the pictures get spread around schools or posted on the internet for everyone to see. Some states, such as Nevada, would make this type of cyberbullying a crime under a recently proposed sexting bill.
It is important to note that the proposed legislation, as well as new laws that have been put into effect in other states, apply only to minors who are sexting. Any adult who texts or posts sexually explicit images of minors would still be subject to child pornography laws. Officials have been extremely concerned with the new rules that they are putting in place, as they do not want to create opportunities for adults to exploit minors.
Under Colorado’s sexual exploitation of a minor statute, participating in sexting could still be categorized as child pornography if the subject of the photo or one of the receivers is under 18. Those accused could be facing serious charges, and also face high fines and potential jail time. If convicted, they will have to register as a sex offender.
If you have been charged with a crime such as the distribution or possession of child pornography, speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You need to take steps to preserve your available options. This matter will not go away by simply pleading guilty – you will have to register as a sex offender and face other penalties which will severely impact your life.