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Child Pornography

Production, distribution and possession of child pornography is a serious offense in Florida. Both state statutes and federal law pertaining to these offenses are strict and carry severe penalties.

In most cases, by the time a person learns law enforcement has targeted him or her as a suspect in a child pornography investigation, it is late in the game. Authorities already have a head start in preparing the case against the defendant, so it is critical to avoid delay in hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney.

At The Ansara Law Firm, we work to preserve both your freedom and reputation by conducting our own independent investigation of the facts. We comb through all available computer data, consult with technology experts and identify weaknesses in the state’s evidence.

We have experience in defending criminal cases that include:

Those who are charged with any of these offenses face especially severe penalties, so it’s important to consult with a lawyer right away.

What is Child Pornography?

This used to be a relatively straightforward question, but the waters have become a bit muddied as minors now have access to smartphones with video cameras, social media accounts, instant messaging and more. This has allowed them to transmit their own images or do so for others at request, and the issue of whether those depictions cross the line into child pornography is one that has been raised in recent years.

But let’s start first at the ground level definition. F.S. 847.001 defines:

  • Child pornography: “Any image depicting a minor in sexual conduct.”
  • Minor: “Any person under the age of 18 years.”
  • Sexual conduct: “Actual or simulated sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse, sexual bestiality, masturbation or sadomasochistic abuse; actual lewd exhibition of the genitals; actual physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed private areas for purposes of sexual arousal; any conduct or act that would qualify as sexual battery or simulated sexual battery. (The statute expressly excludes mothers breastfeeding their babies.)

So these could be photographs, video or other images that depict minor children under the age of 18 nude, engaged in sexual activity or engaging with sexually explicit materials. These images are increasingly created, sent and received via cell phone, but such files can also be shared on personal computers and laptops. They could also be on a disc or USB device, or even in a magazine, printed photo or VHS tapes.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) advises that if you come across any images of child pornography on a website or if someone emails or messages them to you: DO NOT OPEN OR DOWNLOAD THEM. The problem is that by doing so, you have effectively come into possession of that material under the statute – even if you never asked for it and never wanted it. If you forward it to someone, you may be in even worse trouble.

But of course, such images can be deeply unsettling, and most people without a background in criminal law aren’t sure what they’re supposed to do. We’ve seen cases where people inadvertently do the wrong thing and wind up facing arrest.

Another problem we have seen is with F.S. 847.0141, which is Florida’s statute on “sexting.” A minor (person under 18) commits the offense of sexting if he or she:

  • Uses a computer or other electronic device to transmit or distribute to another minor any photograph or video of any person (including themselves!) that depicts nudity and is deemed harmful to minors.
  • Possesses any photo or video of any person transmitted or distributed by another minor that depicts nudity and is harmful to minors.

As to the second offense, the minor will be able to successfully assert a defense if they can show they didn’t ask for the images, they took reasonable steps to report it to a parent, school official or law enforcement and they did not transmit the image to any third party.

This offense could be simply a civil citation, but a minor with a prior offense or failure to successfully complete the prescribed penalties under the civil citation could be facing a first-degree misdemeanor or even a third-degree felony, punishable by a maximum 1-to-5 years in prison, respectively.

Penalties for Child Pornography

Most people facing child pornography charges in Florida are looking at punishment far in excess of a civil citation.

Knowingly compiling, transmitting, entering, printing, publishing, reproducing, buying, selling, exchanging, receiving or disseminating child pornography: Maximum five years in prison. That’s even assuming you never even touched a single, actual child.

If you actually travel to meet a minor for sex after using a computer or electronic device to seduce, lure or solicit that child, you will be facing a second-degree felony: Maximum 15 years in prison. Here again, the statute does not require proof that a defendant made actual physical contact with a child.

If you intentionally masturbate or expose your genitals in a lewd or lascivious way and then transmit those images via computer or other electronic device to a child under 16, it’s a second-degree felony: 15 years in prison. The only exception would be if defendant was under 18, in which case it would be a third-degree felony: Maximum five years in prison.

Further, any business or computer service that knowingly allows a subscriber to use their service to commit any of these violations faces a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum 1 year in jail sentence.

Contact the experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (954) 761-4011.

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