Group Picture of The Law Offices of Mark Sherman, LLC

Child Pornography Possession

Connecticut Possession of Child Pornography laws are extremely serious. While it is legal to possess and view adult pornography in the State of Connecticut, we often see cases where our clients are charged with possessing child porn when they simply did not realize they had downloaded illegal pornography from the internet. From misleading pornography file names to the rapid-fire downloading technology used by some of the leading internet file-sharing websites, there are dozens of pitfalls for an internet downloader who can unwittingly download illegal child pornography and suddenly find themselves arrested with state or federal child pornography charges that carry years of mandatory jail time. Ask any of the best Connecticut child pornography criminal lawyers around—police, prosecutors and judges have little sympathy for individuals caught with child pornography on their computers. Therefore, if you are facing Possession of Child Pornography charges in Stamford, Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Fairfield, Weston, Wilton, Westport, or anywhere else in Connecticut, you should consult a top Connecticut child pornography lawyer as soon as possible.

How A Child Pornography Investigation Usually Begins: Police Surveillance of Local Peer-to-Peer (“P2P”) File-Sharing Websites & Networks

Most Connecticut police departments staff a computer crime detective who is trained in detecting downloaders and distributors of illegal Child Pornography. These detectives work hand-in-hand with local cable and internet operators to track which computers are downloading pornography—both legal and illegal—from popular file-sharing websites such as Limewire, Shareaza, and Gnutella. These websites are also called “Peer-to-Peer” or “P2P” sites because, for example, they allow an individual sitting in his living room in Connecticut to log on to the P2P website and search the hard drives and porn libraries of every other individual logged into the website at that moment in time, even if the person is logged in from a living room halfway around the world. Once logged in, the file-sharing site members can exchange or “share” files such as music, videos, movies, and, of course, pornography.

Keep in mind, however, that these websites do not monitor which files are being shared around the world. Thus, often legal and illegal pornography—both stills and movies—will often be shared between computers logged on to these P2P networks. What computer crime police detectives can do is monitor the downloading traffic and see which computers are downloading illegal child pornography. Once a specific computer is identified, the police will obtain a search warrant to seize the actual computer located in Connecticut and then perform a forensic examination of the files on the computer. They will search every folder on a computer, iPad, iPhone or handheld device, including the trash and “deleted items” files. Once child pornography is discovered on the computer, the police will then obtain an arrest warrant for the computer owner and charge them with Possession and/or Distribution of Child Pornography.

If the Police Serve You with a Search Warrant During a Child Pornography Investigation

Once the police target an internet account as having downloaded child porn, they still do not know exactly who the individual is that is responsible for possessing the illegal materials. It could be one of your family members, a roommate, or a business or household employee who has access to your computer. So if Connecticut police come to your door with a search warrant to search your house and seize your computer or handheld electronics, here’s what you should do: first, ask to see a copy of the warrant and make sure it is for your residence and signed by a judge. Second, call a top Greenwich or Stamford criminal lawyer right away. Do not talk to the police or answer their questions. You have the right to remain silent and anything you say can and will be used against you. Remember, the police are in the business of making arrests so do not make their job any easier. Be polite, respectful and ask them what they are looking for. Then share this information with your top Stamford criminal lawyer. If the police are engaged in a child pornography investigation, then they will usually seize your computer and leave your home or office without arresting you. Your top Connecticut criminal lawyer can then contact the police and work with you to see whether an arrest can be avoided altogether.

What is Child Pornography?

With all the different forms of legal pornography out there, we are often asked by our clients how can they determine what is legal versus illegal pornography? Connecticut law defines "child pornography" as any photo, film, videotape, movie clip, picture or computer-generated image or picture, that depicts a person under sixteen years of age engaging in sexually explicit conduct. “Sexually explicit conduct" means any of the following:

  • Actual or simulated sexual contact or intercourse,
  • Bestiality,
  • Masturbation,
  • Sadistic or masochistic abuse, or
  • Gratuitous exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.

While this definition is helpful, it still does not give pornography viewers any comfort—how are they supposed to know whether they are viewing a fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen year old? The answer is they cannot know how old these people are, and yet Connecticut and federal child pornography laws hold the downloader and viewer strictly responsible for the content they download, distribute and view on the internet. The burden is on the downloader / end-user to make sure they do not break the law and that they are not viewing illegal pornography. Moreover, the titles of the pornography files on these P2P networks can sometimes be intentionally misleading and deceptive. For example, a file called “Babysitter pornography--LEGAL” or “College girls—LEGAL” can often contain illegal images of teenagers under 16 years old engaging in sexually explicit conduct. That’s why we advise our clients not to view or download any type of pornography from the internet. This risks are just too high.

Penalties for Possessing Child Pornography in Connecticut

There are three levels of Child Pornography Possession charges in Connecticut. Each possession charge is a felony, and if convicted, each requires some form of sex offender registration, sex offender probation and treatment, and mandatory jail time. The degree you are charged with usually depends on how many images are alleged to be found in your possession. However, with the popularity of internet movies and movie clips—especially in the online pornography business—the law actually considers a two-minute internet movie or video to be a compilation of hundreds of single images, making it that much easier for law enforcement to charge you with Possession of Child Pornography in the First Degree.

Possession of Child Pornography in the First Degree – C.G.S. § 53a-196d

Possessing Child Pornography in the First Degree, as codified in C.G.S. § 53a-196d , prohibits you from knowingly possessing either (a) 50 or more images of child pornography, or (b) one or more images of child pornography that depicts infliction or threatened infliction of physical injury. Possession of Child Pornography in the First Degree in Connecticut is punishable by up to 20 years of jail, 20 years of sex offender probation, sex offender registration, and a maximum $15,000 fine. Perhaps most alarming about a Possession of Child Pornography First Degree Charge is Connecticut, however, is that a conviction requires a mandatory minimum 5 year jail sentence, which cannot be reduced or suspended by the Court. With these penalties in play, the stakes are extremely high for people charged with Possessing Child Pornography in the First Degree. You should therefore call a top Stamford criminal lawyer as soon as you believe you are being investigated for child pornography possession.

Possession of Child Pornography in the Second and Third Degrees

Possession of Child Pornography in the Second Degree, as codified in C.G.S. § 53a-196e , prohibits knowingly possessing between 20 and 49 images of child pornography. A conviction for this felony charge can carry up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, sex offender registration, and 20 years sex offender probation. A conviction for this charge also requires a minimum of two years in jail which cannot be suspended or reduced by the court.

Third Degree Possession of Child Pornography, per C.G.S. § 53a-196f , forbids a person from knowingly possessing less than 20 images of child pornography. A conviction for this felony charge in punishable by up to 5 years in jail, 20 years sex offender probation, sex offender registration, and a maximum $5000 fine. Like its more serious counterparts, a conviction for this Third Degree Charge carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence—one year for a Third Degree Possession charge—which cannot be reduced or suspended by the court.

As you can see, the number of images and photographs that are found on your computer are critical to which Possession of Child Pornography charges are filed against you in Connecticut. Therefore, when you consult with a top Connecticut child pornography criminal lawyer, you should discuss whether you should have your seized computer equipment independently examined by a forensic computer examiner who can assist your defense team in determining exactly how many illegal images are actually stored in your computer.

Fighting Child Pornography Charges in Connecticut

The experienced computer crime and child pornography attorneys at Mark Sherman Law have aggressively defended child porn possession cases since 2002. Too often we have seen clients with felony possession of child pornography crimes charges who have accidentally downloaded these illegal images and movie clips in the course of viewing and collecting legal pornography. We have also seen collectors and viewers of legal pornography attempt in good faith to delete suspicious and illegal pornography from their computer, but while doing so, they fail to completely remove it from their computer trash files. So in essence, the illegal files are still in their possession. Connecticut child pornography law does not account for scenarios like these and holds them as accountable as people who intentionally download and store illegal porn. Further, when police are tallying up the number of images, they tend to charge a suspect based upon the file name and cannot necessarily prove the identities or ages of the participants in the pornography. Finally, several constitutional issues arise when police interfere and monitor your downloading activities: do they have a proper warrant to invade your private peer-to-peer communications? And if they did have a warrant, did they comply with its restrictions?

The Mark Sherman Law criminal lawyers can raise all of these defenses and distinctions to the forefront of your child pornography defense. We will analyze the police reports and search warrants to make sure your constitutional search and seizure rights were not violated. If necessary, we will enlist our forensic computer experts to assist in analyzing the computer hardware at issue and determine whether the computer crime detectives followed proper protocols and procedures. Together, we will work with you to craft the best defense to give you the best chance to beat your charges or enter into a plea bargain with the prosecutors for a reduced charge that is best for you and your family.

Risks of Concurrent and Simultaneous Federal Child Pornography Charges

One final factor to consider is whether in addition to your Connecticut Child Pornography state law charges, the federal authorities are going to charge you with federal child pornography charges. This scenario arises often when a person is suspected of employing a minor in an obscene performance (in violation of C.G.S. § 53a-196a) or promoting a minor in an obscene performance (in violation of C.G.S. § 53a-196b). These acts are considered far more offensive than just viewing illegal child pornography, and in these scenarios, the FBI and United States Attorney’s Office can take over the investigation and prosecution of a suspected child porn producer or distributor. The mandatory minimum jail terms are very high (in some cases over 10 years of minimum time is required). And in very rare circumstances, a suspected child porn possessor or producer can be prosecuted in both the state and federal courts.

Contact a Child Pornography Lawyer at Mark Sherman Law Today

As you can see, Connecticut’s child pornography laws are severe and heavy-handed, even for people who accidentally downloaded child pornography and tried in good faith to delete it off of their computers, iPhones, iPads or other handheld devices. Therefore if you are charged with Possession of Child Pornography in Stamford, Norwalk, Greenwich, Fairfield, Westport, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, or anywhere else in Connecticut, contact an experienced criminal lawyer at Mark Sherman Law before offering any information to the police. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our rates are competitive. Remember, our one and only goal is results—to work with you to get you the best result possible. Call us today at (203) 358-4700.

Related Links: