In the state of Georgia, as elsewhere in the country, possession of any material deemed child pornography is a serious crime. By definition, child pornography is any material depicting a person under the age of 18 (or any portion of their body) engaged in explicitly sexual behavior.
More often than not, these charges will be prosecuted under Georgia state law and are enforced by state agencies accordingly. However, if the circumstances of the crime contain elements that involve commerce or travel across state or international borders, it can be prosecuted under federal law.
Under Georgia law, the two requirements that must be satisfied in defining possession of child pornography are as follows:
- The defendant was in possession of the offending recording, image or materials, either physically or digitally.
- The defendant was aware that said recording, image or material depicted a minor in a sexually explicit manner.
Georgia law often uses the crimes of child pornography in tandem with sexual exploitation of a child, the definition of which is outlined in Georgia Code O.C.G.A. § 16-12-100. Under the statutes of Georgia law, sexual exploitation of a child involves the actual creation of child pornography, but also makes illegal the possession, sale or distribution of those materials.
The exact medium of the material is irrelevant. Whether it’s a printed photograph, film or digital files contained on a device, hard drive or optical media, it qualifies so long as it satisfies the two bullet points above. Even online chats of an explicit nature, either through an Internet message board or through “sexting” can be considered child pornography.
Sting Operations in Georgia
A popular tactic among Georgia law enforcement is an online sting operation, wherein police pose as minors and attempt to solicit sexual advances from adults. These often begin with an officer creating a profile or placing an advertisement on dating websites, although they rarely state explicitly that the person they are portraying is a minor.
Besides the problems posed by law enforcement’s duplicitous actions – it is, in essence, an adult posing as a child posing as an adult – these sting operations are also criticized due to the structure under which they are funded. Financed by federal law enforcement, these sting operations are funded partially based on the number of arrests they result in. This puts an emphasis on the quantity of arrests, rather than ensuring full dedication to due process. The result is usually an overly aggressive set of tactics that can lead to innocent people being falsely arrested.
Consequences of a Child Pornography Charge
Under Georgia law, the two interrelated but separate charges of possession of child pornography and sexual exploitation of children each carry their own ranges of prison time. For possession of child pornography, the sentence can range from 5-25 years or more. For sexual exploitation of a minor, the sentence ranges from 5-20 years or more.
But there are two long-term consequences they both carry beyond a prison term:
Registration as a Sex Offender: As a registered sex offender, those convicted will be restricted in where they can live and work, will be required to attend treatment and be monitored with further probation and other parole conditions, and will be commanded to make their status known to neighbors. In addition, their status will be a matter of public record, hampering their ability to secure employment and affecting their role in the community.
Permanent Criminal Record: A conviction of child pornography or sexual exploitation of children will remain on a criminal record in perpetuity. Functionally, this will keep them from applying for certain professional licenses, working in certain fields and enjoying their full civil rights. Beyond that, this will greatly impact their ability to secure housing, advance their education, secure citizenship if necessary, and retain custody of children.
A Charge is Not a Conviction
Apart from the myriad issues with sting operations, there are a number of circumstances in which an innocent person may be charged with possession of child pornography, whether through mistaken identity, blackmail, or unauthorized intrusion by hackers. As such, there are a number of ways to defend against these charges, including:
Ignorance: It’s entirely possible the defendant was unaware of the presence of child pornography either in their possession or on their electronic device. They may have been added by another user, left on the device by a previous owner, inserted by hackers, or accidentally downloaded via malware.
Law Enforcement Error: The defendant may have been mistakenly identified as the possessor of the illicit materials. They may be the victim of entrapment, persuaded to commit the crime by law enforcement. The evidence against them may have been collected illegally, if police failed to obtain a warrant or consent to search the defendant’s property.
Children Were Not Involved: If the defendant can show that the individual or individuals depicted in the material were above the age of 18 at the time the material was produced, that material is considered perfectly legal in the eyes of the law.
It ultimately comes down to preparation. The Turner Law Firm has established a reputation for digging deeper in defense of their clients, conducting thorough investigations into the circumstances and evidence involved, to gain a more complete understanding of the case than the prosecution. This greater understanding has consistently led to our attorneys achieving the best possible outcomes for our clients.
The first step in creating this meticulously planned, exhaustively researched defense is to request a confidential consultation with one of our attorneys. By making the investment in your own defense, you establish an unbreakable bond between attorney and client which allows us to freely communicate with you on the particulars of your case, craft a compelling argument for your innocence, and begin gathering the evidence and testimony that will prove it. Remember, you are innocent until proven otherwise. We stand ready to believe you, and to fight for you.
The Turner Firm has dedicated itself to safeguarding the rights of countless clients who have found themselves unjustly accused of these crimes. We prepare more thoroughly than the prosecution, we fight harder, and we add to our track record of favorable outcomes. Review our case wins, read the positive reviews on-line, then complete the form below to schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation.