Can an Innocent Person Be Accused of Child Pornography?
Yes, an innocent person can be accused of child pornography, and sadly, that accusation (while false) can permanently destroy a person’s life. Child pornography cases are incredibly sensitive. Not only do state prosecutors want to hold abusers of this practice accountable, but they also want to use them as a public spectacle so that others know what would happen to them if they were to engage in the same illegal acts.
Unfortunately, that overzealous approach can result in some individuals being falsely accused of distributing or downloading child pornography. Most local law enforcement and prosecutors feel that, if a person has child pornography on their computer, then they must have downloaded it. However, we live in a highly technological age, and with most individuals owning several computers, tablets, and a smartphone, the likelihood of them downloading child pornography without their direct knowledge is incredibly high.
Ways That a Person Can Accidentally Obtain Child Pornography – Leading to False Accusations
A person could be innocent, but if they own child pornography, the chances of them being arrested and charged with it are high. Law enforcement is not going to believe anyone’s claim of innocence in such a delicate type of case.
Accidentally Downloading or Viewing the Content
The internet, not just the dark web, contains the vast majority of child pornography out there. Innocent individuals can stumble across this content without any intention or looking for it outright. One of the most common places where a person may accidentally view or download this content is when using a peer-to-peer network service. Files can include illegal child pornography, and because these networks are not regulated (and often share illegal content), there is no such thing as a safe file to download from these services.
While a person can delete the file once they realize what they downloaded, that does not permanently remove it from their computer, nor does it erase the record online that they downloaded it. Also, if a user continues to use that peer-to-peer network, then those files will remain on their hard drive where other users can download them. This may lead to law enforcement tracking that person as a “distributor” of illegal child pornography.
Another method for accidentally downloading child pornography is via email. Someone might send an email to you that contains illegal content, and you could download it. You should never open an email from a party you do not know, nor should you download content from an unknown email address. This is not just to protect you from viruses and malware, but also to prevent you from accidentally downloading illegal content just like this.
What to Do If You Suspect You Have Downloaded Illegal Child Pornography
If you have downloaded or suspect that you downloaded illegal content, contact an attorney. Remove the peer-to-peer application from your computer immediately to no longer seed that content. Your attorney can help you prove that you did not intentionally seek out this content. You can show the search terms you used for the other files, which will show that you did not look for illegal content outright. You can also show that you never viewed the files, or only viewed it once to realize what that file was.
Viruses, Hackers, and Malware on Your Computer
If you are not careful with the websites you visit, downloads, or opening emails, you open yourself up to hackers. Hackers can install viruses and malware on your computer that not only install child pornography but can share that pornography from your IP address on the web – all without you knowing it. Not only does this lead law enforcement to you, but it helps them distribute it under your name, making you look like the guilty party. After your arrest, they simply find a new victim and distribute it through their IP address.
Never download unknown software or files, avoid visiting websites you do not know, and avoid clicking on URLs from online chat forums and emails as well. All these open the door to potential malware. Furthermore, make sure you have up-to-date antivirus software, including one that searches for rootkits and malware. If you are using a free virus application, it is unlikely that you are protected. Also, if you do not regularly update your antivirus or it is not one that scans for new codes on the internet, then that allows hackers to attack your computer even with firewalls and antivirus protections in place.
Sexting with Someone You Don’t Know
Internet dating is on the rise, and even more so with COVID-19 shutdowns. With that comes more individuals talking online, over the phone, and texting with individuals they have not met in person. The person you might be texting (and possibly sexting with) could be underage and you have no way of knowing it. However, sharing images with that person, whether you knew their age or not, constitutes child pornography, and you could be arrested for doing so.
It is best to avoid this practice, and especially with anyone you have not met and verified in person. If you suspect that you have been texting or sexting with someone underage, then speak with an attorney immediately.
Hire a Proven Defense Attorney If You Believe You Are Falsely Accused of Child Pornography
If you have been falsely accused of child pornography, now is the time to act. An arrest for this crime is all it takes to permanently tarnish your reputation, even if you are not convicted later. Worse, if you are convicted of a crime that you did not commit, you will be permanently labeled as a sex offender. You will have to register on the national registry, serve time in prison, and your life could change forever. You may lose your home, family, friends, job, and find yourself facing continuous social stigmas.
Contact a defense attorney immediately. The team at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices has helped numerous individuals falsely accused of child pornography, and we can assist you, too. Schedule a free case evaluation before it is too late by calling our office or contact us online to learn more.