Florida’s Tough Laws on Child Pornography Possession

February 9, 2023 Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

One of the most strictly prosecuted criminal charges in Florida is the possession and distribution of child pornography. Any crime involving children is taken with extreme care, and once the authorities find evidential proof on a person’s digital devices, they will likely try to enforce the harshest penalties.

This article will define possession and Florida’s penalties for a person accused of possessing child pornography, along with recent possession cases in Florida.

Defining Possession

When a person is accused of being in the possession of illegal content, it means that they have the physical ownership, control, or occupancy of any object, asset, or property. It’s considered against the law for both State and Federal law to have anything considered child pornography in their possession.

Under Florida Statute Section 847.001(3), child pornography is defined as any image or video which depicts a minor—meaning any person younger than 18-years-old— engaged in sexual conduct.

Sexual conduct is considered any sexual intercourse, simulation of sexual intercourse, sexual bestiality, masturbation, or sadomasochistic abuse. Additionally, it can include the lewd exhibition of genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or breasts.

A mother breastfeeding a child is not considered to be sexual conduct under the statute and is therefore exempt from being considered child pornography.

Unit of Prosecution

During a criminal investigation surrounding the possession of child pornography, it is common for authorities to find multiple traces of child pornography. It is important to note that while the term “child pornography” has the connotation of including multiple images, each individual image or trace of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is charged as a separate offense. Additionally, if an image includes multiple children, then the accused is charged with a separate offense for each child in the image. This is why a person accused of possessing child pornography can receive multiple charges and extensive penalties. A person accused of possessing one image could result in 10s to 100s of possession charges after reviewing the defendant’s digital devices.

Penalties for Child Pornography Possession in Florida

Florida Statute Section 827.071(5)(a) explains that it is unlawful for any person to possess an image, video, show, exhibition, or any other presentation of child pornography. Florida law states that the possession, control, or intentional viewing of each photograph, video, or other depiction of child pornography is considered a separate offense. The penalty for child pornography possession is a third-degree felony in Florida. A third-degree felony has penalties of up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Each individual image or depiction of child pornography would be a separate third-degree felony charge. Section 827.071(4) of the Florida Statute states that a person caught in the possession of three or more copies of such photograph, video, or other representation is considered sufficient evidence to charge that person with the possession of child pornography with the intent to promote. This is a second-degree felony charge in Florida, which has penalties of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

In addition to the fines and imprisonment, any person in Florida who is convicted of a sex crime is required to register as a sex offender under the Florida Sex Offender Registry. The registry is public record, which means any person could find out if a person was convicted of a sex crime—and they are typically required to remain on the registry for the rest of their life. The stigma of being a convicted sex offender can have life-altering consequences. The convicted person may have trouble finding a job, a place to live, or maintaining relationships with those around them.

Recent Cases in Florida

The following are two recent cases in Florida that resulted in possession of child pornography charges:

  • Tampa – The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office arrested Skipper Bickford, 55, for multiple charges of child pornography possession. According to the report, the Crimes Against Children Unit received a report on August 24th, 2022, that child pornography was being uploaded to the internet. The detectives assigned to the case identified Bickford as the suspect. Five months after the initial notification of the illegal downloading, Pinellas sheriffs obtained a warrant for Bickford’s arrest. During the interview, Bickford admitted to intentionally viewing child pornography for the last 15 years. Bickford is now facing eight counts of possession of child pornography. He has since bonded out of jail on an $80,000 bond.
  • Belleair – The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office arrested Michael Hugill, 69, after finding multiple traces of child pornography being uploaded to the internet from his devices. According to the report, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or NCMEC, provided information that child sexual abuse material (CSAM) was being downloaded and viewed. The investigation led police to Hugill, and after they obtained a warrant for his internet account they collected several digital devices which had images of child pornography located on at least one of the devices. When detectives interviewed him, Hugill admitted to owning the account and saving the illegal images onto his computer. Hugill has been charged with ten counts of possession of child pornography.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Getting accused of a crime like possession of child pornography can be extremely scary, stressful, and can make you feel like you have no possible options for a future. Since these types of offenses can be charged by both State and Federal law, the repercussions are extremely serious. A person convicted of possession of child pornography is likely to have their world flipped upside down. While each alleged child pornography case should be taken with serious care, it does not mean the accused person is immediately guilty.

There are ways that unwanted images or videos can appear on a person’s device without them even knowing. Yet, Florida prosecutors are likely to push for the harshest extent of penalties no matter what the defendant claims. This is why it is extremely important to work with a skilled Florida sex crime defense attorney in your area. A defense attorney can work with digital expert witnesses, to track down where and how the incriminating evidence ended up on a person’s devices.

Don Pumphrey and his attorneys have represented clients from all walks of life across Florida. We understand that your future is at stake, and will do everything in our power to protect your rights and build a strong defense for your case. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today and receive a free consultation today. Call us at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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