Was your home or business just visited by the cyber-crimes task force who, armed with a search warrant, took all your electronic devices, external hard drives, disks, flash drives, and cell phones? Were you either arrested or just released, with their investigation into possession or distribution of child pornography continuing, to forensically mine the data on the items seized, with instructions to you not to move!? While child pornography has existed prior to the internet, the internet has dramatically evolved, allowing the accessibility, availability, sheer volume, and exchange of images and videos. Law enforcement investigation has evolved as rapidly and so too has the way prosecutors pursue convictions. If this has happened to you, you need to call and have a confidential meeting with an experienced Texas and Federal criminal defense trial attorney familiar with child pornography prosecutions and how to defend against them.
Child pornography is a crime that includes the knowing possession, distribution or manufacture of sexually explicit material, typically picture images and video, involving children under the age of 18 posing naked or involved in sexual activity. Sexting even a partially nude picture of a minor can get you charged with this crime. The mere accusation alone can ruin your professional reputation and your personal life. Being accused of producing, distributing, receiving or creating child pornography is a serious matter that can scare you to your very core. These crimes carry heavy penalties including jail time and fines. Due to the advancements in technology and the prevalence of things like digital media, it’s becoming easier to investigate child pornography claims and track and monitor a suspect’s activity. Couple this with society’s outrage surrounding these types of cases and prosecutors are taking a stronger stance and are less willing to reduce or settle claims.
When you’re facing the terrifying reality that everything you have from your name to your freedom is at stake, having a quality attorney in your corner is more valuable than anything. You need a lawyer that not only has the knowledge and experience to help you face your charges but also the compassion to understand what you’re going through.
This is where The Law Office of Paul Schiffer comes into play. With over 40 years of experience in the industry, Paul Schiffer has successfully defended clients accused of various child pornography crimes. He not only knows what needs to be done to properly handle these unique and rather delicate cases but also has the heart and understanding to help you make your way through this frightening time.
Experienced Sex Crime Attorney Paul Schiffer can help you if you’ve been accused of any of the following or related crimes:
- Distributing or promoting child pornography
- Possessing child pornography
- Receiving child
- Online Solicitation of a minor child
Have you been accused of a crime involving child pornography? Call the Law Office of Paul Schiffer immediately and let him and his experienced team help you clear your name and get back to your normal life.
Texas Child Pornography Laws
No two states are the same when it comes to their laws. The State of Texas has its own unique structured set of laws regarding child pornography. We understand the Texas Penal Code in regard to these accusations and know how to properly interpret them and defend you in court.
Texas Penal Code §43.26: Possession or Promotion of Child Pornography
This law is about the possession or the promotion of child pornography. According to this subsection of the Texas Penal Code knowingly and/or intentionally possessing or accessing with the intent to view material depicting a child under the legal age of 18 engaging in sexual conduct is a crime. Visual material includes photographs, videos, disks/diskettes, film, negatives, slides, and other modes to view such material.
Texas Penal Code §43.251: Employment Harmful to Children
Another law regarding child pornography is subsection 43.251 of the Texas Penal Code. This has to do with authorizing, employing, or inducing a child under the age of 18 to work in a place of business permitting or requiring the child to be nude or topless while working or being involved with sexually oriented activity for commercial gain. This is considered a felony of the second degree which can be increased to first degree if the child in question is under the age of 14.
Texas Penal Code §43.25: Sexual Performance by a Child
Authorizing, employing, or inducing a minor under the age of 18 to engage in a sexual performance or sexual conduct is a crime under this law. It is considered a second-degree felony but can be increased to a first-degree felony if the child in question is under the age of 14. Under the same subsection, directing or producing material involving the sexual performance of a minor is a third-degree felony which can be increased to second-degree if the child in question is under 14 years old.
Quick reference on child pornography laws and penalties:
|§43.26: Possession or Promotion of Child Pornography||First-degree felony|
|§43.251: Employment Harmful to Children||Second-degree felony increased to first-degree felony if child is under 14 years old.|
|§43.25: Sexual Performance by a Child||Second-degree felony increased to first-degree if child is under 14 years old. |
Third-degree felony is crime is directing/producing material involving minor child. Increased to second-degree if child is under 14 years old.
Related Offenses Involving Children
While the Texas Penal Code covers the broad child pornography offenses, there are other offenses that involve children that fall under the same umbrella.
Indecency with a Child
According to the Texas Penal Code, “A person commits an offense if, with a child younger than 17 years of age, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex, the person … engages in sexual contact with the child or causes the child to engage in sexual contact.” (Id. § 21.11(a)(1).) Similarly, the offense also has to show that there was intent to arouse or satisfy a sexual desire of a person. (Id. § 21.11(c).) Usually, intent is determined by a defendant’s remarks, conduct, and individual circumstances of the case.
Continuous Sexual Assault of a Young Child
Here, there has to be evidence that a minor child was continuously abused by a person over the age of 17 for a period of or over 30 days. Specifically, the child has to be under the age of 14 to be considered a young child (TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 21.02(b)). There also has to be a series of two acts of sexual abuse or more in that 30-day period. In this, the acts have to fall under indecency with a child or aggravated sexual assault (Id. § 21.11(a); id. § 22.021(a)(1) & (2)(B).).
Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child
In order for aggravated sexual assault to be applicable, the suspect has to commit an offense against a child under the age of 14 intentionally and has to cause penetration of the child’s sex organ, mouth, or anus in any way or contact the sexual organ with another person’s sexual organ (TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. §§ 22.021.)
Sex Offender Registration Requirements for Child Pornography Offenses in Texas
Anyone convicted of a crime related to child pornography must register as a sex offender on an official register. Most child pornography cases require registration for at least 10 years but can be lifelong in most cases. This is based on Chapter 62 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Along with the registration, a numeric risk level is also set as follows:
- Level 1: low risk
- Level 2: moderate risk
- Level 3: high risk
The Four Stages of Child Pornography Allegations
When you face a child pornography accusation, be it possession, distribution, receiving, or production, you can expect the prosecution to be extremely diligent in their pursuit whether it’s on the state or federal level. It’s a four-phase process that is difficult to deal with but having the best attorney at your side can help ease things. Knowing this process will help you better understand what you’re up against and help you anticipate the things to come. Hire a skilled lawyer, like our team at Paul Schiffer Law, so you start building a strong defense and ensure that your rights are always protected.
Stage 1: Investigation
Like any other criminal investigation, a typical child pornography investigation will start by a law enforcement office finding child pornography that is accessible as a downloadable file. Once they determine the images are actual child pornography, they have to find and confirm the IP address that the image is attached to. Then, they need to get a court’s subpoena in order to determine who is associated with the IP address in question.
Determining Age of the “Child” in the Pornography
Any defense attorney worth their salt will build their defense on the images in question. This means that the age of the person in the images needs to be determined. It also has to be determined that you were fully aware that the child in the images was under 18 years old. This will help build your defense if it isn’t glaringly obvious that the child is a minor.
The courts have to look at the images, too. They have to see for themselves that the child is a minor and that a rational juror would conclude that the images show a child under the age of 18. In Texas, there is no need for expert testimony in a child pornography case. In these cases, the following methods can be used to determine a child’s age:
- In-person inspection of the child;
- Thorough inspection of the images or files;
- Testimony of a witness to the crime;
- Medical testimony based on the child’s appearance;
It is only when the child’s age is determined to be younger than eighteen that the case can move on.
Stage 2: Search & Seizure
Once the owner of the IP address is identified, law enforcement then has to get an official warrant in order to search that person’s home and seize any and all property that could have incriminating evidence. In the case of child pornography, this kind of property usually includes computers/laptops, phones, tablets, ipods, USB drives, external hard-drives, and any similar device that can store data. Everything has to be examined thoroughly to see if there is child pornography on any of them.
In some cases, an arrest warrant might be included along with the search warrant, but even if an arrest warrant isn’t issued at that time an investigator may arrest a suspect during the search and seizure if child pornography is found during the process.
Search Warrants in Child Pornography Investigations
An initial investigation will tell law enforcement if a household’s internet connection is linked to sending or receiving child pornography. If that is successfully determined, they’ll move on to get a search warrant in order to lawfully enter the property in question and search it for evidence.
This search and seizure are usually done by a task force trained specifically to combat internet crimes against children. They have experience investigating these crimes and know what to look for and how to go about the search and seizure.
In order to get the warrant, the investigative officers have to present facts to reasonably support their suspicions. They look to see if the suspect was on known peer-to-peer networks and shared or received image files with anyone. There are also software investigations that can compare the suspect’s files’ digital hash values with those of recorded child pornography files. In their warrant, the special internet crime task force investigative officers will also have to give specific information about the target person’s IP address. Once the warrant is obtained, the search and seizure can proceed.
Stage 3: Formal Charges
After an arrest is made, the suspect may be able to post a bond depending on a great deal of individual factors including the type of charge. For example, if the defendant is facing charges on the state level, generally they’re eligible for a bond. In contrast, if you are indicted with federal charges generally you won’t be entitled to bail. A defendant’s work record, community involvement, family, prior criminal history, and how long they’ve lived in the county are factors a judge considers when determining bail. While posting bail can be helpful, if you have to choose between that and hiring a defense attorney, you’ll do much better spending money on a quality defense team.
Stage 4: Defense
The final phase is the actual defense against the accusations. As soon as you hire a defense attorney, they’ll begin to build a defense for you. This can be everything from figuring out if you can actually be linked to the crime in the first place to seeing if everything during the first three phases was done legally. For example, a good defense attorney will want to see if you were using an unsecured network connection. In that case, an unsecured network could actually mean that anyone else with access to that open network could’ve downloaded the illegal material without you knowing about it. During this phase, your attorney will work hard building your defense in order to prove your innocence.
How a Houston Child Pornography Attorney Can Help
If you’ve been accused of a crime involving child pornography, all is not lost. Paul Schiffer and his team do not discriminate and will help you fight the allegations. We pride ourselves on offering all of our clients professional services complete with dignity, respect, and discretion. We have experience defending people facing child pornography allegations and—more importantly—have success doing so.
Have you been charged with a crime related to child pornography or do you suspect that you’re already being investigated for one? Don’t waste any more time, get in touch with The Law Office of Paul Schiffer and discuss your case with professionals who can help you fight these serious charges.