Child Pornography

Over the last decade child pornography has received as much media attention and scrutiny as violent crimes such as rape, armed robbery and murder.  As a result, defendants that are charged with any offense involving the pornographic depiction of a minor are treated just as harshly, and in some cases much worse than violent criminals by the justice system.  From the second law enforcement receives a tip about a possible child pornography case they will go all out to make an arrest regardless of how reliable the tip may be.  If you or a loved one is being investigated for child porn do not wait until an arrest is made to hire an experienced attorney.  A lawyer can help assure that your rights are protected and that no evidence is illegally obtained or fabricated.  Federal and state law enforcement officers will often conduct search warrants for these cases without any warning, and they will not be courteous when ransacking your house or apartment.  They will then attempt to get statements from all persons with access to the home regardless of whether they have information of wrongdoing.  Do not let the police or the FBI take advantage of you in this critical stage of the case.  Statements are often the most powerful type of evidence that prosecutors will use to build a case, and an attorney can prevent the police from further interrogation.

Generally speaking there are two common types of child pornography charges in Maryland under state law.  The first is possession under section 11-208 of the criminal code.  This law prohibits the possession and retention of a video or picture depicting a child under the age of 16 in a sexual manner or engaging in some sort of sexual conduct.   The law requires that the possession and retention be knowingly, and this can often be an absolute defense to prosecution if not knowledge is not proven.  Possession of child pornography is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison for a first offense, and a felony with a 10-year maximum for any offense thereafter.  As we stated above defendants facing this type of charge will be treated unfairly from the outset, and therefore all defendants should come to court with a lawyer with the experience and determination to fight for the best possible outcome.  A conviction of this offense carries not only the possibility of jail time, but the requirement that the defendant register as a tier one sex offender.  This designation lasts for 15 years and may not be terminated early absent extenuating circumstances.  Over the last couple of years the prospective punishment for a child pornography conviction in Maryland state court have increased significantly due to changes in the sentencing guidelines.  The State may now add special victim points that raise the offense score, and in turn raise the overall guideline score.  Even defendants with no prior criminal record may face a significant jail sentence if convicted of child pornography possession, but criminal defense attorney Benjamin Herbst will do whatever it takes to level the playing field.

Maryland law also prohibits the distribution or production of child pornography under section 11-207 of the criminal code.  An important distinction with this law is that it includes all minors, and not just those under the age of 16.  Despite the fact that the age of consent in Maryland is 16 a defendant may be charged with a felony for causing, soliciting or allowing any minor to be filmed or photographed engaging in a sex act or for distributing material with this depiction.  A violation of this law carries a 10-year maximum penalty for a first offense and a potential 20-year sentence for a second offense.  A conviction under 11-207 also carries the potential of a tier two sex offender designation, which could last for 25 years.

Over the last few years we have seen the United States Attorney's Office take on a large amount of child pornography cases in the Baltimore and Greenbelt federal courts using 18 U.S. code 2252A.  This statute includes sections for possessing, transporting, mailing, receiving and distributing child porn.  Simple possession carries a 10-year maximum penalty upon conviction, while other crimes such as distribution carry a 20-year maximum jail sentence with a 5-year mandatory minimum.  The mandatory minimum triples to 15 years for repeat offenders and those with previous convictions for other sex offenses.  The federal child pornography laws are generally tougher than state laws, and must be defended by a lawyer with skill, knowledge and commitment.  Under federal law a child depicted in pornography does not have to actually exist, which means a defendant can be charged with a child pornography offense when the material is a drawing or cartoon.  Federal law section 1466A of U.S.C 18 makes it illegal to possess, producing, distributing or even receiving visual representations such as drawings or cartoons that appear to depict minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.  This means that a person can be charged in Maryland for possession of animated child pornography.

For further information contact Benjamin Herbst for a free consultation about your case.  Benjamin has represented numerous individuals charged with sex offenses and he is committed to fighting for all of his client’s rights in state and federal court the minute he is hired.  He also has experience representing those individuals with impulse and addiction disorders that are unable to overcome their desire to download or view child pornography, and has worked with psychologists and counselors to aid in the successful resolution of cases.

If you have been charged with or are being investigated for possession or distribution of child pornography in a Maryland state or federal court Benjamin Herbst is available anytime for a free legal consultation.  Child pornography cases are almost always treated more harshly than other crimes with comparable maximum penalties, which makes it extremely important to hire a criminal defense lawyer who can protect you.  It seems that even violent offenders convicted of assault and robbery can receive a slap on the wrist while those charged with child pornography offenses are treated like career criminals.  This is exactly why retaining an attorney with expertise in these kinds of cases can mean the difference between a jail sentence with a life long conviction and a just resolution.  Benjamin Herbst is an experienced Maryland child pornography lawyer that fights tooth and nail for his clients who are often treated unfairly by prosecutors and law enforcement.  He is not afraid to challenge the government by filing motions to suppress evidence or taking the case to trial if need be.  Benjamin is available 7 days a week to all clients and is accessible by cell phone on nights and weekends.

There are two main components of the Maryland child pornography law, with the most common being section 11-208 of the indecency and obscenity code.  This section makes it illegal to intentionally possess any image or video depicting a person under the age of 16 years old engaged in sexual conduct or in a sexual state.  While a first violation of this offense is classified as a misdemeanor with a five-year maximum jail sentence, there are often multiple counts involved in these cases.  The state can charge a person for each individual picture or video, and the sentences on these counts can be imposed consecutive to each other.  In addition a conviction for possession of child pornography could trigger mandatory registration as a tier one-sex offender, which lasts for 15 years.  A second offense increases the maximum punishment to a 10-year felony, but the sex offender tier remains the same.  Regardless of the statutory punishments there are still some tactics that a lawyer can use to protect defendants charged with child pornography, and knowing how to navigate around the law is key to a fair resolution of the case.  The Maryland sentencing guidelines classify possession of child pornography as a level 5 offense, which means a first time offender will score probation at the bottom of the guidelines.  In addition, the probation before judgment statute does not exclude child pornography cases, and a defendant may not have to register if he or she is granted PBJ.  On the other hand, the judge may grant PBJ and order that the defendant register as a condition of probation, which is why it is imperative to be thoroughly prepared to argue against the registry requirement.

Section 11-207 is the felony version of the child pornography statute, and it deals with the production or distribution.  Distribution of child pornography has a very broad definition, and can encompass any type of file sharing with another person.  In many cases the defendant did not even intentionally share his or her files, but simply made them available.  Distribution does not require an exchange of any type of compensation, and law enforcement is always looking for ways to charge this offense along with possession, as it is a felony with a 10-year maximum penalty and requires tier two sex offender registration for 25 years.

There are number of ways that law enforcement can initiate investigations in child pornography cases.  Some law enforcement agencies will assign detectives to pose as anonymous collectors or distributors of the material, and then apply for search warrants after they locate an IP address linked to child pornography.  Other times the network providers will provide information to law enforcement officers and an investigation will begin.  Either way, it is imperative to retain a lawyer immediately so your 5th Amendment right to remain silent is protected.  Law enforcement often receives strong incriminating evidence straight from the defendant, and this can put the defense in a less than desirable negotiating position.  If you are charged or are being investigated there is no need to take on the government alone.  Call Maryland child pornography lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime at 410-207-2598 for a free consultation.  Benjamin has handled both state and federal child pornography cases as is prepared to fight tooth and nail for his clients.

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