Child pornography crimes are among the most serious throughout the United States. Even if you have not produced the content, in San Diego, California, and elsewhere, possession of child pornography is a grave offense that can result in significant penalties, including a prison sentence and being forced to register as a sex offender.
When law enforcement officials detect this kind of material on someone’s computer, they must first prove who owns the computer to be successful in prosecuting them. After that, they would be required to prove that the individual who owns the computer had knowledge that they possessed a file containing child pornography. However, there are many different factors that are relevant when law enforcement officers try to establish that the possession was intentional.
Temporary Internet Files
Each time a person visits a webpage, whatever has been viewed, including any photos or videos on the page, are automatically downloaded to a folder on the computer’s hard drive. These are known as temporary Internet files or cache files. The computer uses them to load the web content faster the next time the individual accesses the page from which they originated. If there has been significant usage on the web and there is sufficient space on the computer’s hard drive, these temporary files can stay in the system for several months or even years.
The same theory applies to pornographic websites: if a person regularly accesses such sites, the cache folder will contain whatever pornographic images and videos are available on the site. If any of that content includes a minor being shown in any form of sexual activity, the individual who owns the computer is essentially in possession of child pornography.
However, there are some exceptions. For example, some web browsers can access the Internet using a private window or tab. These are known as Private Browsing on Firefox and Incognito on Chrome. In this instance, there is less of a chance of the pornographic images and videos being saved to the computer’s hard drive. At the same time, it may still be possible for law enforcement officers to detect pornographic websites that have frequently been accessed by the user through locating their IP address.
Although many people believe that deleting files and then emptying out the recycle bin or trash can permanently remove the files from a computer’s system, this is not completely accurate. Instead, the files are not actually gone because they can be recovered until new data overrides the used areas of the system.
They are not really visible to the user, but the deleted files can be accessed when using special software. Law enforcement officials use forensics programs to peruse hard drives in cases where possession of child pornography is suspected. There is also software that can find deleted files and emails and bypass encryption measures.
Accidental Downloading or Viewing
Surprisingly, instances where someone may accidentally download child pornography, are common. If it is indeed accidental, law enforcement can determine this by checking where the file originated. Usually, this happens through the use of file-sharing software. If someone believed they were downloading music, for instance, it’s possible that the folder containing the content was named wrong or sent in the wrong place.
Proving Accidental Possession
Special software can be used to retrace the steps leading to the content being downloaded. There is usually an innocuous search term that links to the file containing child pornography. If the content came from file sharing, it’s possible that an expert can find that the folder with the content contains mostly legal content.
If you have been accused of possession of child pornography, you need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.