Representation in cases involving Possession and Distribution of Child Pornography require expertise that only an Aggressive Criminal Law Specialist can provide. I am a full time Maryland Criminal Attorney and former Baltimore County Assistant State’s Attorney with more than 20 years of experience. Throughout my career as a prosecutor and full time criminal defense attorney, I have handled hundreds of cases involving the Possession and/or Distribution of Child Pornography in Baltimore County and across the State. Over the last 20 years I am aware of no other criminal attorney in the state who has handled more of these cases than I have along with my partner, Former Assistant United State’s Attorney and Chief of the Sex Offense Unit, Andrew C. White. As I have written before on this blog, these cases are prosecuted extremely aggressively and often result in substantial state and federal prison sentences. This is why is is so imperative to hire attorneys who specialize in these types of cases.
Unfortunately, there are many lawyers who advertise for these cases who simply do not possess the necessary experience and expertise to effectively represent people who are charged with these offenses. I strongly suggest that anyone who is considering hiring a criminal attorney for a case involving child pornography possession or distribution (or any criminal case for that matter) , research all prospective attorneys on Maryland Case Search. This is the official court record for all cases filed in Maryland and it does not allow for exaggeration of an attorney’s experience or credentials.
Today, the typical Child Pornography case involves the use of peer to peer, (P2P) networks such as, Bit Torrent, Shareaza, Gnutella, eDonkey2000 and Kademlia (commonly referred to as Kad) which allow people using P2P software to download and share files with other people on the network. A Detective named Reese handles all of these investigations in Baltimore County and he is very good at his job. In the typical case, the detectives will conduct online investigations using law enforcement investigative software. When an IP address located in Maryland become associated with a device known to be of investigative interest to child pornography, they will link up with that computer and simultaneously download the material from the Maryland IP address as it is downloading it from the device known to contain child pornography. Once they have this material, they will research the IP address and draft an application and affidavit for search and seizure warrant.
The first time the person who is charged knows anything about this interaction is when the police show up at their door with the search warrant – usually around 5:00Am. The detective will then search the house for computers, laptops, phones, ipads, etc., and conduct triage of these devices to see if they find child pornography. They also typically question the target and any other residents to try to get admissions to downloading child pornography or at the very least, an admission of exclusive use or access to the suspect computer or device. They will then not only charge the target with possession of child pornography but also with distribution and possession with the intent to distribute child pornography. These second two charges are felonies and are, in my view, a legal fiction under these circumstances. The theory behind the felony charges is that in order to download from another computer on a P2P network, one must enable that function on their own computer. In other words, they must make their files available to others to be downloaded, which is exactly what the police do unbeknownst to the person who is downloading. The argument that the person who did this intended to distribute is simply false. The clear intent of the person was to only possess it. The distribution was exclusively due to the conduct of the police. Still, many individuals are essentially coerced into pleading guilty to these felonies by the threat of federal indictment where the penalties for these offenses can be truly draconian.
As I have discussed before in this blog, these are very serious cases that upon conviction can result in substantial incarceration even in the state system – typically between 1-5 years. They also result in the requirement by the defendant to register as a sex offender for 15 years if convicted of possession of child pornography and 25 years if convicted of distribution. But by far the biggest risk for any defendant charged with possession or distribution of child pornography is the threat of a federal indictment. In the Federal System mere possession (know as receipt) carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in federal prison. Distribution or possession with the intent to distribute, carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years and manufacturing carries 15 years. These are just the minimum mandatory sentences. Convictions for these offenses in the federal system often result in even longer sentences.
For all of these reasons it is imperative for anyone who is charged with in a case like this to research the background and experience of any attorney that they are considering hiring. To ensure the best possible outcome it is essential to have a criminal defense team such as ours with decades of expertise in both the state and federal criminal justice systems.