Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Complex Issues in Establishing Possession of Child Pornography

A man in Quincy was recently arrested after federal workers executed a search warrant at the man’s residence and located video footage on a computer owned by the man that depicted a child being sexually abused. The man was subsequently charged with possession of child pornography. 

The judge presiding over the case ordered the man to be detained in advance of a hearing. Federal workers, as well as local law enforcement, later executed a search warrant of the man’s residence in an attempt to find more incriminating evidence. The man shares his residence with his parents.

During their search, law enforcement discovered several pieces of electronics including two personal computers in the house’s basement. The man now facing charges told law enforcement that he was the only person who used this equipment. 

Additionally, federal law enforcement discovered two custom-built computers as well as a network drive, a type of storage device connected to a local area network that various devices within the network can then access. 

Notably, one of the computers was determined to contain a folder that held 401 video files that totaled 114 gigabytes of data. The most recently downloaded date for a file stored in the folder was toward the end of March, 2022. An early review of these electronics shows that many of the files depict various forms of child sex abuse. 

The Elements of Child Pornography Charges 

Any type of child pornography charge in Massachusetts is a challenge on multiple levels for the prosecution. While many other crimes like drug-related offenses require some type of corroborative evidence before charges can be brought against you, law enforcement and juries are inclined to believe unsubstantiated evidence against a person related to a child pornography offense. As a result, it is critical to obtain the assistance of a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after charges are made. This way you can create the strongest defense possible.

What Constitutes Possession of Child Pornography?

If law enforcement finds child pornography on an individual’s computer, the prosecution will then need to establish that the computer was in the person’s possession. The prosecution will also need to establish that the individual knowingly possessed the file. This can introduce some complex issues in cases, which include:

  • Each time a website is viewed, media on the page are downloaded to a hard drive folder. These temporary “cache” files are then used by computers to more quickly load web pages the next time they are accessed by a user. These temporary files can remain on a person’s computer for months or years afterward. If any temporary files show a minor participating in any type of sexual activity, the computer’s owner will be considered in possession of child pornography.

  • People make the mistake of thinking that deleting files on a computer permanently removes them. In reality, these files are not erased. Instead, these files remain on a person’s computer. Until other data is written over these sectors, the files remain recoverable. Certain software can be used to recover files that a person thinks they have deleted by emptying the recycling or trash bin.

  • Some people end up accidentally downloading child pornography because these files unfortunately are prevalent on the internet. Accidentally downloading illegal pornography most often occurs when people utilize peer-to-peer (P2P) programs.

Contact a Sex Crime Defense Attorney

Massachusetts takes sex crimes seriously, particularly though involving children. If you or a loved one is charged with a sex crime involving a child, it is in your best to immediately contact an experienced defense lawyer like Attorney Edward R Molari