Ever get a knock on your door at the crack of dawn? It’s rarely a good thing. It’s even worse if, as soon as you open the door, the police shove a warrant into your face with… are those child pornography charges?
Are you suddenly staring down the barrel of achild pornography accusation? Then you should absolutely read this article first to find out:
- What happened before law enforcement served the warrant and informed you of the child porn investigation;
- The absolute first thing you should do if ever accused of child pornography-related charges (Spoiler: Fifth Amendment); and
- How you can win the rigged “game” and keep your life as you know it.
How False Accusations of Child Pornography Can Occur
Look, mistakes happen. People take online risks they shouldn’t, visit shady websites, and may even download the latest season of “The Great British Baking Show” without – gasp! – paying for their buddy’s Netflix subscription.
Does that mistake mean someone should be convicted on child pornography charges? Absolutely not, but those accusations can happen far too quickly for anyone’s comfort.
See, the police are not allowed to search someone’s property without permission unless they have permission – a search warrant – issued by a judge.
If they came knocking on your door waving their official warrant, then the prosecutor’s office and other law enforcement must have shown enough “evidence” to a Maryland judge to give them reasonable belief something illegal was going on.
So then, where did they get that evidence? Especially if you know you did nothing wrong – or at least not that wrong.
As it turns out, law enforcement has entire teams and software programs dedicated to trolling the internet for possible child porn distribution networks.
One false click, and your device’s IP address may be the latest suspect caught in their electronic drag net.
A Note on Statute of Limitations for Child Pornography-Related Charges
Even if the incident or activity happened months and months ago, law enforcement can wait until their “case” against you is strong enough to get that warrant, attributing other possibly unrelated activity with the original.
This fact is especially true for Marylanders, since our state has no general statute of limitations for felony-level crimes.
As for possible federal charges, which can be levied if the alleged material crossed state lines – like over the internet – federal statute generally offers five years in which charges can be filed for felony-level crimes.
However, if prosecutors file their charges as specifically offenses against children – literally any charges “involving the sexual or physical abuse, or kidnapping, or a child under the age of 18 years” – then they can file charges against you at any time for the life of the child or ten years from the alleged crime, whichever is longer.
What Should You Do If Facing Child Porn Accusations?
Play the Game.
One of the first things our criminal defense attorneys who specialize in child pornography cases like this tell our clients is to realize that, this whole situation?
It’s a game, and the other side has already begun to play it.
Prosecutors stacked the deck and know what cards are where, while you’re just being dealt in now.
The outcome of this game will take months – years – and will influence the rest of your life.
Therefore, the first thing you need to do is to start playing their legal game as soon as they invite themselves into your home with a warrant.
Fifth Amendment and Child Pornography Cases
For example, remember that even at this stage, before you enter any courtroom, you still have the right to remain silent.
That right is enshrined in the Fifth Amendment, whether you were read Miranda rights or not.
[No person] shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…
For the interests of our current situation, this part of the Fifth Amendment says that people can’t be forced to testify or voluntarily offer evidence – “be a witness” – when it’s against their best interests. This “witnessing” can be verbal, written, or any other form of communication regarding the possible charges.
Remember: No amount of polite questioning, official interrogations, requests for “statements,” warnings that “cooperation is in your best interest” – nothing can legally require a suspect to communicate anything that could possibly be evidence later.
Now, the “witnessing” can happen as early as the initial interaction or (lawful) search by the police, with casual questions, perhaps asking if a laptop is yours or if you had ever downloaded files onto a personal device.
Don’t fall for it. They’re already prodding for evidence, looking for ways to build their already growing case against you.
Be polite, but don’t talk to them. Don’t answer any questions, and don’t try to offer any “justifications” for whatever they may find. Everything you say now can and will be used against you in a court of law.
How to Win the Rigged Game of Child Pornography Accusations
The legal game was rigged before law enforcement ever knocked on your door.
That’s especially true when you’re facing down child pornography charges – even if you know you’re not guilty, or at least not guilty of the charges they’re trying to shove down your throat.
When you know the deck is stacked against you, you need to be ready to do whatever it takes to make sure the outcome is fair and honest.
Because in this game? Losing in court means losing relationships and reputations.
It means losing thousands of dollars in legal fees and fines.
It means losing any hope you had of pursuing your career – no matter what it was or how long you worked for it.
It means losing years of your life behind bars.
Child pornography charges happen when law enforcement is ready to strip off their gloves and go to the mat to convict you – and you need to be ready and prepared for that.
But really, who’s actually prepared for something like this to happen?
Especially if you’ve done nothing wrong to begin with, that first knock on your door may sound like thunder out of a clear blue sky.
Those accused of child pornography possession, distribution, or possession are woefully unprepared to fight as hard as they need to win the case, while the prosecution knows all the details and loopholes of the legal system.
That’s when you tag in the reinforcements, in the form of an experienced defense lawyer you trust. That lawyer is already prepared for this sort of attack, and will know exactly how you can punch above your weight to win the round – and the fight.
So, don’t panic at that knock. Stay silent, smile, and ask for your lawyer.
Your lawyer will be glad you did. So will you.