How Can Digital Evidence Affect a Child Pornography Criminal Case?
March 31, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes Social Share
Getting accused of a child pornography crime is an extremely serious matter. Florida has extremely strict laws regarding child pornography, which you can read more about here. With a child pornography conviction comes high fines, long prison terms, sex offender registration, and the social stigma with family, friends, and peers.
Although it may seem like an impossible charge to beat, there are cases where the person accused is innocent, even if there is evidence on their computer. With the evolution of technology, child pornography cases are likely to be based upon digital evidence. This is where the help of a computer forensic expert witness comes in.
Child pornography cases are not like they used to be in the past. No longer does it involve the police going to your house and seizing pictures, magazines, or recorded videotapes. Now the police tend to focus on illicit images or videos that have been sent, received, or possessed through digital devices. All the information from the internet is stored on your device, which is what will be analyzed in an investigation. With a search warrant, the authorities are allowed to search all of the information stored on your electronic devices, and can do the following:
- Seize your devices such as a computer, phone, or tablet;
- Confiscate the memory card from a camera, CDs, thumb drives, and storage devices;
- Receive access to the online accounts, social media profiles, chat rooms, or other internet platforms;
- Track any online activities or messaging on online websites.
The use of digital evidence is now imperative for the prosecution to try and prove the defendant guilty of possession of child pornography. Forensic experts are now more likely to be called upon to help the prosecution in finding evidence against the defendant to prove whether there the defendant possessed, promoted, or distributed child pornography. However, the defense is now also likely to use a computer forensic expert to double-check the work of the investigation and help to prove that the defendant is innocent. This blog will cover how a computer forensic expert witness can help provide defenses to child pornography charges in Florida.
The Role of Digital Evidence and the Computer Forensic Evidence
There are certain steps that the computer forensic expert must take in researching a child pornography case. The professional computer expert will need to follow the following steps to complete their role in the criminal case:
- Analysis of the Computer – If the defendant in a child pornography case claims that they are innocent, the computer forensic expert must search through their computer. By both examining and browsing the entirety of data available, they can search for all related content to the child pornography case. An expert will be able to analyze whether there was intent present, or if there was a lack of intent in receiving the illicit images or videos.
- Reviewing the Type of Evidence – There are ways to prove that the intention was not present to download child pornography. For instance, if the illicit images or videos are found hidden within another picture or group of files that were never opened, it can help prove that it was a computer virus or another person maliciously sending the content to the defendant who is innocent.
- Working Through the Evidence – By working through the available evidence on the defendant’s computer or other devices, they can show that the accused is innocent. For instance, if the illicit images or videos were never opened at any point, it can help prove the defendant’s innocence. If someone is downloading files from the internet, it is possible to also receive other files that the person is unaware of, which also works towards the defense of lack of intent.
- Proving the Connection – The prosecuting team will try to push the claim that the defendant knowingly downloaded the illicit images or videos with the intent to possess or distribute. A computer forensic expert on the defense team can help by convincing the judge and jury that the type of evidence shows there is a lack of intent. All of the found evidence can be provided by the testimony of the expert in the courtroom.
Defenses to Possession of Child Pornography
With the use of a computer forensic expert on the prosecution’s side, there are a number of ways to try and prove the defendant is guilty. However, the defendant’s guilt needs to be proven without a doubt. It is then the responsibility of the defense team to show that there is doubt.
The defendant may plead not guilty for various reasons. Using a computer forensic expert for the investigation of the case can help provide a professional explanation of how the defendant accused is actually innocent. The following is a list of potential defenses to a child pornography case with the help of a computer forensic expert:
- The defendant could have acquired a virus that could have resulted in images of child pornography appearing on the computer.
- The defendant could have acquired it through a trojan or worm, which embedded images or video onto their computer.
- Another person could have created a backdoor into the computer to push images or videos onto the defendant’s computer.
It is necessary to use such defenses in a child pornography case to try and fight the charges. It is also important to use the help of an expert witness with the proper tools and equipment to back these defenses. An expert hired by the defense team can provide help using their professional methods to extract and analyze the evidence on the defendant’s computer or other digital devices and provide a testimony in court to explain how the defendant did not intend to acquire or possess any child pornography.
Refuting Criminal Charges and the Expert
In a case regarding child pornography, the defendant facing possession charges will require an expert to help prove that they are not at fault. Just as a computer forensic expert will be on the prosecuting side trying to find incriminating evidence on the defendant’s computer, the defense side will need an expert to analyze the computer and help provide a defense to the charges.
The computer forensic expert witness will be in charge of the task of testifying their own analysis of the digital evidence. The expert must be able to prove that the computer is at fault, or that someone else pushed the defendant into the situation. The expert can also indicate that the media was received on the device without the consent or permission of the defendant.
The testimony of the expert witness plays a crucial role in the case. The expert’s analysis and testimony to refute the charges are crucial in defending the accused from a conviction. Having an expert witness on your side in the courtroom to provide a full understanding of how the defendant did not intentionally acquire the evidence could increase the chances of a positive outcome for the case.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
If you or a loved one have been accused of a child pornography crime, it is an extremely serious matter. You should not delay in reaching out to an experienced defense attorney. It may seem like a losing battle with such a serious charge, however there are defenses to child pornography charges. With the help of a computer forensic expert witness, a skilled Florida defense attorney can work closely to ensure you have the best possible means of defense. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients all over the state of Florida and are prepared to stand in your corner and fight for your freedom. Call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message for a free consultation today.
Written by Karissa Key