Sex crimes involving children are some of the most particularly grievous and thus carry some of the most severe criminal consequences. They also often permanently damage an offender’s reputation.
What you may not know is that not all sex crimes committed against children involve actual sex acts — or any contact with a child at all.
In Minnesota and nationwide, it is a crime to possess sexually explicit images or videos of a child. So with the advent of the Internet, this particular sex crime is increasing exponentially.
You May Not Be Aware You Possess Child Pornography
The scary thing about the types of criminal images and videos being distributed online is that you may not even be aware you have child pornography on your computer at all.
So we’ve put together a guide covering how child pornography laws work, and how to defend yourself if you’ve been charged with possession of child pornography that you weren’t aware you possessed.
Defining Child Pornography in Minnesota
Child pornography is defined in a fairly straightforward way. In Minnesota any of the following constitutes child pornography:
- Visual depictions of a minor engaging in a sex act
- Sexually explicit images of a minor, for example, a naked child, or child in a sexually suggestive pose
This also includes sexually explicit images or depictions of a minor under 18 sent by the minor to a romantic partner, as we see in cases of sexting.
What If Someone Sends You Child Pornography in Minnesota?
If someone sends you child pornography, it’s important to be proactive. Your actions (or inactions) may determine whether (and how) you are prosecuted for possession of child pornography in the state of Minnesota.
It’s recommended to do the following:
- Report the incident to the local police and/or the FBI immediately
- Inform your cable or internet provider
- Once instructed to do so by law enforcement, delete the images or depictions from your computer
The following acts could lead to child pornography charges, even if you received the images unexpectedly and without requesting or downloading them:
- Opening the child pornography, then keeping it on your computer for a few days plus
- Sending it to another person to get their opinion about it
Defenses to Possession of Child Pornography Charges in Minnesota
When found in possession of child pornography, but you truly weren’t aware you had it, you have not committed any criminal act. The possession of child porn must be intentional to be considered a crime.
Depending on the specifics of your case, it may be possible to employ one of two possession-related defenses. One common defense is the material doesn’t belong to the defendant. The other is that the defendant unknowingly possessed it.
Defendant Is Not in Possession
This defense applies when the material is found on a shared computer, such as a work computer. In this case, someone else could download the material and then accuse the defendant of doing so.
This defense could also apply if another person is seeking revenge. They could download the material in an attempt to frame the defendant of possession.
A computer forensics expert can establish how and when the material in question was downloaded, establishing that it was not possible for you to have personally downloaded it.
This defense makes sense when a defendant receives child pornography through email or by accidentally clicking a link on a website. Simply visiting these sites by accidentally clicking or making a typographical error can result in the material being immediately downloaded.
A criminal defense attorney can make a case for this by pointing out that the defendant spent a limited amount of time at the site accidentally visited.
Currently facing possession of child pornography charges? Need help explaining? Contact an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney for help! They can review your case and develop a sound defense strategy based on the unique circumstances surrounding your situation.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).