Why Innocent People Get Charged with Child Pornography

There a number of state and federal laws which address the possession, production, distribution, and even the receipt of child pornography. While these laws are certainly well-intentioned and important, the complexity of an internet-based crime has led to many charges being filed against innocent people. In this blog, our Dallas sex crimes defense attorney takes a look at several ways innocent people have been charged with child pornography offenses.

Malware/Computer Viruses

Although they are not as widely reported as in the early 2000’s, computer viruses are still a very real thing. Whether they are made with malicious intent, or as a simple prank, viruses and malware have led to at least several instances in which innocent people were wrongfully charged.

For example, take the case of former government employee Michael Fiola. After a coworker noticed that Fiola was using roughly four times the amount of data as other employees, his boss checked his state-issued computer and found child pornography. After spending a quarter of a million dollars fighting the case, the District Attorney finally admitted that the laptop appeared to have been “compromised by a virus” – the charges were dropped.

Hackers & Trojan Horses

Around 2003, internet hackers developed a new money-making scheme – taking over innocent people’s computers, downloading or accessing child pornography, and then extorting the computer’s owner. With this in mind, it is certainly possible for hackers to “set up” a business rival or other perceived enemy.

Identity Theft

In 2002, the U.K. government launched “Operation Ore,” an investigation into a website called Landslide.com, as the site facilitated the online purchase of child pornography.

Disturbingly, dozens of individuals may have been wrongfully prosecuted – many of the defendants appear to have been identified solely based on their credit card information. At least one defendant was able to prove that his identity was stolen, as he had simultaneously used his credit card in England while someone else used it to purchase child pornography in California.

Technical Violations

There have been several cases in which a person was technically in violation of the law, but perhaps did not violate the intended purpose of the law. For example, the age of consent in Texas is 17, while Oklahoma’s age of consent is 16. A sexual relationship between a 16 year old woman and a 17 year old man is legal in both states; if either party sends nude images to the other across state lines, however, the recipient could spend decades in federal prison.

Like all sex offenses, child pornography charges are extremely serious and carry severe penalties. If you are facing charges, or even an investigation, call our Dallas criminal defense attorney immediately for the tough, trial-tested defense you need.

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