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Child Pornography Possession vs. Distribution in Maryland


May 18, 2020

Are you suspected of child pornography possession? Has your computer been seized? Has a detective tried to contact you? Don't wait and don't make any statements to anyone, and call us immediately.

At Craig M. Kadish & Associates, LLC we have been helping in and winning cases for our clients involving child pornography; both possession and distribution. The differentiation between the two is not as simple as one might think. Once your computer or other digital device has been seized, usually pursuant to a warrant, law enforcement computer forensic teams go to work to uncover what is on the hard drive; it is crucial that you understand the consequences of police finding child pornography. In this article, we will discuss what child pornography charges look like for both possession and distribution and how those charges will affect your life moving forward.

Possession of Child Pornography

Maryland State child pornography laws are governed by Sections 11-207 and 11-208 of the Maryland Criminal Code.

Maryland Criminal Code, Section 11-208 deals with simple possession of child pornography.  Pursuant to this section, it is a crime to knowingly possess child pornography. The definition of child pornography can be any obscene matter depicting a minor in lewd, sexual, or sadomasochistic conduct. This includes photos (physical and digital) and video.

In fact, now in the State of Maryland, even computer-generated images, (if they are indistinguishable from a real child), will be considered child pornography.  In 2020, nearly all child pornography is linked to computer and internet usage.

Potential Penalties for Possession of Child Pornography

In the state of Maryland, simple possession of child pornography is punishable by 5 years in prison and/or a $2,500.00 fine for a first offense, and 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000.00 fine for a second offense. If your heart rate just increased, now is the time to hire an experienced and battle-proven criminal defense attorney.

Usually, charges have not yet been filed when your electronic devices are seized, so if there is even a chance that the police forensics team is going to find something on your computer or device, contact us immediately, we can help.  There are many instances where if our team is brought in before you are charged, we may be able to keep you from being charged.

Child-Pornography-PossessionIndividuals sometimes unintentionally download images that they did not think were child pornography, but which turn out to be just that. In this type of situation, it may be (as it has been for our firm’s child pornography possession clients) a winning defense to this type of child pornography charge that you immediately made “reasonable efforts” to delete the images.

Warrant and Seizure

Unfortunately, the images are nearly always still somewhere on your computer, and the police can get information from the websites that you visited, often see your searches, obtain a warrant and seize your computer, cellular phone, iPad, etc.

Physical items such as computers and phones which are seized are taken to a forensic computer analysis lab and put in a “line” where they often sit for months until an analysis is performed; usually, child pornographic images (which are sometimes “buried”) are found in your computer’s memory.  If they were put in your computer’s unallocated memory space (ie. deleted), then it is imperative that you obtain a Maryland child pornography attorney who has a close working relationship with a team of computer forensics experts.

At Craig M. Kadish & Associates, LLC we work closely with our team of nationally renowned computer forensics experts to determine what successful defenses must be mounted to your child pornography possession charges regardless of where or on what type of device these images are found.  We have also successfully represented individuals who have created “virtual machines” to view child pornography.

Remember, it is a defense in the State of Maryland to possession of child pornography charges is you: 1) took reasonable steps to destroy each image when you realized you had child pornography, or 2) you immediately called law enforcement to report it.

Distribution of Child Pornography

Maryland Criminal Code, Section 11-207 governs individuals charged with Distribution of child pornography.  Distribution does not necessarily mean that an individual was selling child pornography.  In today’s internet-driven world, nearly all defendants, a charge of distribution of child pornography arises from exchanging images of child pornography with another person or persons, and it is a felony.

Using a “peer to peer network” such as Limewire or Onion, and/or employing a “bit torrent” program allows an individual to collect bits of the same image from a variety of users all around the world who possess that image and have the parts reassembled as a whole on their computer.  That reassembled image, if substantially complete would qualify as possession of child pornography.

Unfortunately, most clients who use these file-sharing programs to get their images also “allow” others to get “bits” of images from them as well.  In other words “file sharing” programs SHARE between users, and unless a client changed their setting to “only receive” (which very few do), they will not only be charged with possession but will also be charged with distribution of child pornography, thereby facing the more serious felony distribution of child pornography charges, even though they never “intended” to distribute.

Potential Penalties for Distribution of Child Pornography

Pursuant to  Maryland Criminal Code, Section 11-207, the felony of distribution of child pornography carries up to 10 years in prison and/or a $25,000.00 for a first offense and 20 years and/or a $50,000.00 fine for subsequent offenses.

Our Experience with Child Pornography Possession Accusations

Our firm has unparalleled experience over many decades in successfully defending those charged with violating Maryland’s child pornography laws. From high school and college students downloading child pornography (one even using an Xbox) to a leading internationally acclaimed scientist in the “wrong” chatroom on his iPad, to career military members, our experience in child pornography matters runs the gamut of society.

In recent years our firm represented an employee who worked directly for the President of the United States who was downloading images of “cheerleaders” and the resultant search yielded what the State of Maryland declared was child pornography. (though his computer was seized by the United States Secret Service, the case was, fortunately for the client, ultimately prosecuted in State Court).

Through long hours of legal motions, memoranda, and our own computer forensics team producing a forty-three page report disputing the prosecution’s claims, he was able to leave court a free man with no conviction and no sex offender registration.

Additional Consequences of a Child Pornography Conviction

A conviction for child pornography will result in sex offender registration unless your attorneys win, or are able to mount a defense that is potent enough to cause the prosecutor to dismiss the serious charges of child pornography that all require registration and proceed on a lesser offense.

Pursuant to Maryland Criminal Procedure Article Secs. 11-701 and 11-707, a conviction for possession of child pornography will result in a defendant being labeled a Tier I sex offender; this registration lasts for 15 years.  A conviction for the more serious felony of distribution of child pornography will result in a defendant being labeled a Tier II sex offender; this registration lasts for 25 years.

What to Do Next

It is crucial that a defendant has the best child pornography criminal defense attorney in Maryland by their side from the beginning.  We are a law firm dedicated to criminal defense; no law firm has more experience with or gets better results than Craig M. Kadish & Associates, LLC in the defense of child pornography cases in Maryland. Contact us today to schedule a complimentary case evaluation.

Craig M. Kadish - Criminal Defense Attorney Maryland

Craig Kadish

With 30 years of experience and a lengthy track record of success, Craig Kadish has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s most highly sought after criminal defense attorneys. Mr. Kadish has practiced criminal law for three decades, winning an array of high-profile cases. He has had the honor of being recognized both locally and nationally for his dedication, diligence, and prowess in representing clients in exacting and innovate ways. He’s known as a leader in his field. His tenure as a criminal defense attorney and law professor has given him invaluable expertise that few other attorneys possess.

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