New York Child Pornography cases are aggressively prosecuted under both New York State and federal law. Some of these cases have mandatory minimums, while others are punishable by significant jail time. These are some of the frequently asked questions regarding New York Child Pornography cases.
How Do Police Conduct Child Pornography Investigations?
The police or federal law enforcement agents start child pornography investigations in several different ways. Specifically, these investigations can be started as a result of:
- Anonymous tips to the FBI hotline,
- Tracking downloads from peer-to-peer network,
- Executing search warrants on hard drives, computers and servers,
- Receiving notifications from internet service providers,
- Law enforcement agents posing as minors in online chatrooms and other Internet forums.
How Do the Police Make Contact?
Generally speaking, the police come to the house with a search warrant for your electronics. If the police do not have a search warrant, they will attempt to get a consent to search. A consent to search is when you voluntarily agree to give law enforcement access to your devices. The statements that you make to law enforcement when you speak to them may be admissible against you. Although you may be thinking that you are not admitting to anything, the law enforcement’s goal is to get you talking to corroborate certain things in their investigation. For example, the police may be interested in confirming that you were the one who had exclusive access to the computer, or that you were the one communicating with a certain minor.
Usually, the police do not arrest you on the spot the first time they make contact. That is done for two reasons. First, if the police are seizing your devices, they will need time to go through them. Second, if you are not arrested or otherwise taken into police custody, the police do not need to administer Miranda warnings because it’s a non custodial setting. Therefore, down the road the police will claim that your statement was voluntary and no Miranda warnings were required because you were not in custody.
How Soon After the Police Make Contact Will I be Arrested?
As discussed above, typically you are not arrested on the spot because the computers and other electronics are taken away for forensic examination. This process takes anywhere from a few weeks to many months. The process will move faster if you are considered a “high value target” like a teacher or someone who’s around children frequently. Otherwise, there may be no activity on a case for months if not an entire year.
Can Voluntary Surrender Be Negotiated on Child Pornography Cases?
Yes, a self-surrender can sometimes be negotiated on New York Child Pornography cases on both state and federal cases. Importantly, if you have a prior arrest record or convictions for similar charges, a voluntary surrender may not be possible.
Getting an attorney involved as soon as you find out you are under investigation is important. Your attorney can make contact with the case agents and then with the assigned prosecutor to alert them to the fact that you are represented by counsel and you cannot be interviewed or questioned without your attorney present.
Is It Possible to Get Bail on Child Pornography Cases?
Yes, similarly to the voluntary surrender question, it is possible to get bail on New York Child Pornography cases. Importantly, if you have a prior arrest record or convictions for similar charges, bail is a tougher sell. Similarly, if you are charged with production of child pornography, bail is infrequently granted. However, absent those factors, bail is usually granted both in state and federal court. Even with clients with high sentencing guidelines, staying out in the community is an opportunity for mitigation. Staying out of trouble during this time period is something your attorney can argue to the judge at sentencing.
What Are Some Common Defenses to Child Pornography Charges?
Each New York Child Pornography case is unique and requires extensive review for development of a defense strategy. Here are some frequently used defenses in New York Child Pornography cases:
- Issues with the Search Warrant – a lot of litigation in child pornography cases is dedicated to issues with the search warrant. Frequent issues that come up with warrants is whether the Magistrate Judge was properly informed about how the network was set up, what was going on with the computers, whether the material actually belonged to the client, and whether it was deleted. Additionally, the scope of the warrant, or what the police were able to search is often an issue in New York Child pornography cases.
- Whether Client Knowingly Possessed Materials – frequently computer experts are hired by criminal defense attorneys to determine whether client knowingly possessed these materials. Inadvertent download and no access of the file both are viable defenses in New York Child Pornography cases.
How Are Plea Offers on Child Pornography Cases Handled?
Possession, Distribution and Production of child pornography are all different charges, which carry different minimums and maximums. In plea negotiations on New York Child Pornography cases, it is important to try to negotiate a plea without a mandatory minimum. In federal cases, both in the Southern and in the Eastern District of New York, there is a way to appeal the plea offer that is extended on New York Child pornography cases. In the Eastern District of New York, there is a committee that you can appeal the plea offer extended to you by the line assistant. Similarly, in the Southern District of New York, the appeal is done to the Chief of General Crimes. In state court, plea offers that are extended are less regimented than those extended in federal court. However, most cases involving New York child pornography in the state system will most likely result in jail time. The only way to persuade the prosecutor to offer a plea without jail time is to do a conditional plea, down to a misdemeanor with counseling and completion of a program.
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