What to Do If You’re Under a Child Pornography Investigation?

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingMay 25, 2022

What is your next move after federal law enforcement agents or local law enforcement officers raid your house and take your computers, tablets, and cell phones related to a child pornography investigation?

Child Pornography Criminal Investigation

If you are found possessing, producing, selling, or distributing any material depicting a child under 18 in a sexual manner, you could face serious federal charges of child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2252.

Subsections within this statute describe various categories of conduct, such as knowingly transporting child porn using interstate commerce, by computer or mail, and visual depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

These subsections make it a federal crime to receive or distribute child pornography images, such as downloading child porn online or sharing images with other internet users through a file-sharing service. There are several related federal laws, such as:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 1462 – transporting obscene matters,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1465 – transporting obscene matters for sale,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1470 – transferring obscene material to minors,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2251 – sexual exploitation of children,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2251A – selling and buying of children,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252A – activities related to material with child porn,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2260 –producing explicit depictions of minor to import.

Peer-to-peer networks frequently create serious severe issues for anyone accused of violating federal child pornography laws. If a federal prosecutor can prove someone was responsible for distributing child porn, they will be facing a much harsher sentence. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review further below.

What Are the California Child Pornography Laws?

California Penal Code 311 PC describes a child pornography offense as when someone knowingly possesses, distributes, produces, publicizes, duplicates, sells, or prints child porn in any form.

In other words, there are numerous ways to commit a child porn crime, from mere possession, downloading, and viewing all the way to the more severe crime of distribution.

Despite which law you allegedly violated, every child porn offense has a primary factor in common.  The prosecutor has to prove all the elements of the crime, beyond any reasonable doubt, to convict you, such as:

  • You knowingly possessed images or videos depicting minors engaging in sexual activity;
  • You should have known that the images included someone under 18 engaging in sexual activity.

In other words, to be convicted of a child pornography crime, it must be proven that you intentionally possessed or controlled any obscene material depicting a minor (under 18) engaged in sexual conduct or simulating sexual acts.

Will Police Seize Property in a Child Pornography Investigation?

Yes. Law enforcement officers will seize property in a child porn investigation. This happens all the time, especially with federal agents. They will receive some information on the internet.  Next, they will obtain a search warrant and take all their electronics, including home computers, cell phones, and tablets.

Will Police Seize Property in a Child Pornography Investigation?

They will interview the person to try to confirm that everything they took is theirs. Police will also try to get them to incriminate themselves and admit that they were involved in the possession or distribution of child pornography.

It is pretty standard that many child porn investigations that I deal with involve either the state police or federal government, coming into someone's home with a search warrant and seizing all of their devices.

Their computers, personal phones, or whatever else could contain child pornography.  Often, they will try to talk to the person and try to get the person to admit that all of the devices they took were theirs. 

If they find any child pornography, they can blame it on them, and the person won't have the escape hatch saying it must have been someone else's information on there.  Then, many times, they will give them a receipt for the property they took, give the person a business card, and then leave the location.  Now, the person is trying to future out what to do next.

Will Law Enforcement Use a Forensic Expert?

Yes. First and foremost, understand that what they're going to be doing is forensically evaluating all of your devices to see if you have any child pornography or any other illegal information on there, and that's going to take some time. 

Child pornography investigations often take a lot of time because they are using a forensic expert to go through the computer to see if there are any encryptions, see what is downloaded, and often they can get through the encryptions and get the data on the computer, but all of this takes time to. 

Should You Retain a Criminal Lawyer During the Investigation?

Yes. What you should do in the meantime is hire an attorney.  Let the attorney contact law enforcement and let them know you have an attorney.  I do that all of the time.  A lot of times, your attorney can get extra information, like:

  • whether the case is being investigated at the state or federal level;
  • whether there's a prosecutor involved.

Even if there's no prosecutor involved yet, your attorney can let the police or FBI agents know that you have a criminal defense lawyer for whoever is investigating the case.

California Child Pornography Defense Lawyer

We will give them our information, and then when the prosecutors do become involved when the forensic analysis is back, and the prosecutors are figuring out what to do, instead of just filing a case against you, coming to find you at your home or your job and arresting you, a lot of times the prosecutors contact me. 

We arrange a surrender in court.  Often, I can arrange a signature bond or another way that you can get out while the case is pending and discuss what type of evidence the government has against you and a potential resolution before you ever hit the courtroom. 

That's a crucial thing that you can utilize by having a criminal defense attorney with you from the beginning to deal with your matter. So, if you need the best, you've come to the right place. 

I've been doing this for nearly 30 years.  I've handled hundreds of these investigations just like yours.  Pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding; I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles and offers a free case evaluation by phone, or you can fill out the contact form.