One of the most serious cases a person can be accused of is possession or promotion of child pornography. Typically, judges will set an extremely high bond, forcing most persons accused of possessing child pornography to fight the charges from jail. In this type of situation, it is extremely important to hire an experienced child pornography defense lawyer that is knowledgeable in how child pornography investigations are conducted.
In Houston, Texas the Harris County District Attorney’s Office has a specialized division that investigates and targets allegations of possession or promotion of child pornography. The prosecutors in this unit work in cooperation with the United States National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The typical investigation begins with a law enforcement officer trolling peer to peer (P2P) internet sites looking for child pornography available for download. Once child pornography is located, the officer will attempt to download the images or videos and then locate the IP address of the computer where the images were located. After locating the IP address, the officer will typically seek a grand jury subpoena from a Harris County Prosecutor to identify the account holder of the IP address.
Once the identity of an account holder is confirmed, the police officer will seek a search warrant from a Judge to search the residence of the account holder and seize any computers, phones, and other devices that have the ability to contain and store data. In Harris County, merely identifying the account holder of the IP address where an officer downloaded child pornography will be enough to arrest the account holder and charge them with possession of child pornography and promotion of child pornography. All items seized that are alleged to contain child pornography will then be sent off to be analyzed by the government to determine if child pornography is in fact located on the items seized and a forensic report will be generated.
After the defendant is arrested and charged, a magistrate will set bail. There are two types of charges that come from a child pornography investigation; possession of child pornography and promotion of child pornography. Possession of child pornography is a third degree felony punishable by confinement of 2 – 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Promotion of child pornography is a second degree felony and is punishable by confinement of 2 – 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. The difference between the two charges is that promotion of child pornography means that the accused allowed the images or videos to be shared from their computer. Promotion of child pornography also includes manufacturing and distribution of child pornography. Although a first time offender is eligible for probation, it is rarely granted in Harris County.
When looking at the way child pornography investigations are conducted, it is quite possible that a person could be wrongfully charged simply because they are the account holder of an unsecured wireless network. If it can be proven that the computers and devices owned by the account holder do not contain any images of child pornography and it can be proven that the computers that law enforcement accessed to download the images were on an unsecured or shared network, then it is likely the charges could be dismissed or the case could be won at trial.
However, if images are located on the account holder’s computer or other devices, then the defense strategy will typically turn proving that the accused was not the only person who had access to or used the computer.
Dustan Neyland has years of experience handling Possession of Child Pornography cases and Promotion of Child Pornography cases in Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County and all across the State of Texas as well as federal charges in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. If you have been accused of Possession of Child Pornography or Promotion of Child Pornography anywhere in the State of Texas, contact us today to schedule a free in-person consultation at our office in Kingwood, TX, conveniently located within a short drive from Houston, TX and Conroe, TX.
Contact us at (281) 312-0155 to schedule a free consultation.