Defending Pornography Possession Charges In Court
The Sunshine State’s laws regarding possession of illegal pornography are very broad. Like most sexual offenses, possession of illegal pornography involves direct and collateral consequences. The direct consequences include lengthy court supervision, high fines, and a registration requirement. The collateral consequences are often worse. Most studies show that the general population views all sex offenders the same way. A person who had a single illegal photograph in his/her email is as bad as a serial rapist.
A Tampa pornography charges attorney can reduce or eliminate these harsh consequences. Possession cases, including possession of illegal pornography cases, have a number of moving parts. Several procedural and/or substantive defenses could apply. So, if you were charged with possession of child pornography or other illegal pornography, do not lose heart. Even accused sex offenders are innocent until proven guilty.
Search Warrant Issues
From a procedural standpoint, pornography cases are a mixed bag. A few involve lengthy investigations from multiple agencies. These investigations usually involve a search warrant. This warrant application must be based on an affidavit which demonstrates probable cause. A few pornographic video downloads from legitimate websites usually don’t establish probable cause.
The ends never justify the means in these situations. Prosecutors cannot argue that if officers found illegal pornography, they must have had probable cause. Incidentally, this argument doesn’t work in reverse either. Defense attorneys can’t argue that if officers came up empty, the search must have been illegal.
Other pornography arrests are spur-of-the-moment incidents. If officers see Dennis acting suspiciously or catch him red-handed in an unrelated traffic or other matter, they might search his cell phone and find illegal pornography. The seized evidence is inadmissible unless a narrow search warrant exception applies. Some examples include:
- Plain View: If officers see contraband in plain view, they can seize it, warrant or no warrant. This exception only applies if the stop was lawful or if the officer otherwise had permission to be in that place at that time.
- Exigent Circumstances: Officers may enter buildings without warrants if they reasonably believe someone inside is in trouble. Once inside, they can seize anything illegal they see in plain view.
- Consent: Property owners may give voluntary, affirmative consent for police officers to search their property. Voluntary consent is free from any threats or coercion, express or implied. Affirmative consent is an overt act which clearly gives officers permission to search.
Smartphones, which were mentioned above, are a special case. The Supreme Court has ruled that individuals have a privacy interest in everything past the home screen. Therefore, individuals don’t have to give officers their passwords unless those officers have search warrants.
Many people don’t know that prosecutors must demonstrate more than proximity to establish possession in criminal court. They must also prove knowledge and control. Furthermore, they must prove all three things (proximity, knowledge, and control) beyond any reasonable doubt.
The control requirement is often an issue in paper pornography cases. Frequently, if officers raid a dwelling and find pornography, they arrest everyone present. In court, it’s difficult to prove that a defendant in the living room had control over pornography concealed in a bedroom, especially if it was someone else’s bedroom.
Knowledge is often an issue in electronic pornography claims. Many emails go directly into an owner’s spam folder. Additionally, many pornographic images are tiny thumbnail pictures. Furthermore, most illegal pornographic videos only have one or two illegal images.
Count on a Diligent Hillsborough County Attorney
A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions.