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How Videoconferencing Can Lead to Child Porn Charges

Nowadays, we have access to various apps and programs, allowing us to connect and chat virtually with one another. During the time of COVID-19, when millions of people around the globe are stuck at home because of efforts to slow the spread of the disease, the use of such programs has increased. With more and more people holding videoconferences, the FBI has received numerous reports of uninvited guests disrupting those meetings through various types of conduct, including displaying pornographic images.

If the videos or images the individual transmits involve minors, they could be facing federal child pornography charges. Additionally, depending on the specifics, the person who receives the images could also be accused of committing a federal crime.

Sending Child Pornography via Electronic Means

Federal laws concerning child pornography make it illegal to knowingly distribute depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit acts. The statute provides that sending such images or videos through any means, including computers, is unlawful. Thus, if a person enters a videoconferencing meeting and shares with other attendees their screen displaying child pornography, they are violating federal laws.

Receiving Child Pornography

In some cases, not only can the person who sends sexually explicit visual depictions of minors face federal charges, but so too can the person who receives them. The same subsection of the law that forbids distributing child porn also prohibits receiving it.

However, that does not mean the guests who were a part of the videoconferencing meeting and unwittingly received the depictions are committing crimes. The receipt has to have been done knowingly. Thus, the participants must have joined the chat room knowing that they were going to receive videos or images depicting a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

It is possible that if one of the participants keeps the images, they could be charged with possession of child pornography. For them to have a defense against this charge, they must have made a good faith effort to remove the depiction from their computer and/or reported the incident to law enforcement.

What Are the Potential Conviction Penalties?

Knowingly distributing, receiving, or possessing child porn are serious offenses and are severely punished.

Distributing and receiving can lead to up to 20 years in prison for a first offense and up to 40 years for a second or subsequent offense.

If someone knowingly possesses child pornography, they could face up to 10 years imprisonment. However, that sentence increases to up to 20 years when the visual depiction involved a prepubescent minor or a child under 12 years of age.

Investigations into Child Porn Cases

When an alleged child porn case is reported, federal investigators thoroughly look into the matter. Generally, a person becomes a suspect and apprehended after investigators trace the IP address used to distribute or receive the materials to a person's residence.

Some individuals might use various methods to disguise their IP address, such as routing theirs through other people's servers. This means that an innocent person might be investigated for a crime because of the channels the individual used to remain anonymous.

If you've been charged with a federal crime, contact us at (319) 499-5524 to discuss your case. At Keegan, Tindal & Mason, our Iowa City team has over 50 years of combined experience and can aggressively fight your charges.