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Florida Court Discusses Intent in Child Pornography Crimes

Many criminal statutes include an element of intent. In other words, the prosecution must prove that the defendant possessed the mental state needed to commit the crime to obtain a conviction. In child pornography cases that involve the use of technology and sharing of files, however, the prosecution may not be able to establish intent. In a recent Florida ruling, a court described what evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that a defendant charged with distributing child pornography knew or should have known he was committing a crime. If you are charged with a child pornography offense, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Florida criminal defense lawyer to discuss your potential defenses.

The Defendant’s Charges

It is alleged that a detective involved in investigating child pornography used a computer to communicate with the defendant’s computer. The defendant’s computer had a peer-to-peer file-sharing program that allowed parties to share torrents. When the defendant’s computer was running, it indicated that it had child pornography, and the detective was able to download two videos that contained child pornography from the defendant’s computer on two occasions.

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with the transmission of child pornography by an electronic device. He moved for an acquittal, arguing that the prosecution could not prove that he knowingly transmitted pornography. Following the trial, he was sentenced to eleven months in jail, followed by three years of probation. He appealed his conviction, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion for acquittal.

Proving a Defendant’s Intent in Child Pornography Cases

A court reviewing the sufficiency of evidence will assess the evidence in a light most favorable to the State, and in this perspective, determine whether a rational trier of fact could have found the existence of each element of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The State has to present substantial and competent evidence to sustain a verdict, and evidentiary conflicts and reasonable inferences from that evidence are resolved in favor of the verdict.

The statute the defendant was charged with violating provided that any person who knew or reasonably should know that he or she transmitted child pornography to another individual commits a felony of the third degree. Transmission is defined as sending and delivering any data, information, or image from one person or place to another. The State can prove transmission by showing that the defendant created a folder and explicitly allowed others to access its contents, as it is reasonably foreseeable that the images in the folder will be accessed and downloaded.

In the subject case, the software the defendant used did not require him to grant access to each individual that wanted to access the folder, but the evidence made it clear that anything that was moved into the folder would be shared with others as long as the computer was running. Thus, the court found that the evidence was sufficient to prove the defendant knew or should have known he was sharing child pornography, and his conviction was affirmed.

Speak to an Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

A conviction for a child pornography offense can irreparably impair a person’s liberties, and it is vital for people faced with such charges to meet with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to determine their rights. Florida criminal defense attorney Genine Ann Mejia is well-versed in what it takes to obtain a favorable outcome, and if you are charged with a crime, she will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Ms. Mejia via the online form or at (386) 463-0849 to schedule a meeting.

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