There was a time when possession and distribution of child pornography was rarely prosecuted because child pornography was part of a secretive sub-culture that dealt in the mailing of actual images of child pornography, often produced in Eastern Europe, to consumers willing to pay top dollar in the United States and elsewhere. There was also a time when people bought CD's at the mall. But the internet changed all that. Suddenly what you used to have to pay good money for became easily accessible and free via the World Wide Web. As a consequence of technology, many people who would never have had access to child pornography before the advent of the internet found themselves easily accessing it through their home computer.
But if you are doing this, you are going to get caught. Here's how:
Most internet exchange of child pornography occurs through what are called "peer to peer" networks. Peer to peer originated with the now defunct "Napster" network, and has developed through the years to Limewire, Kazaa, Gnutella, and countless others. These networks involve the sharing of digital media (songs, movies, etc.) through the internet. Membership in a peer to peer network requires a user to create what is called a "shared file" on their computer. A shared file is where the peer to peer user makes available some of their own computer files so that other users on the network can download the files to their own computer through the network. In exchange for making your files available for download, you can download a proportional amount of files from other users on the same network. This seems like a harmless arrangement, but there are serious problems with it in terms of your expectation of privacy.
Think of it like this: if you are smoking marijuana in your front yard and a police officer walks by and sees what you are doing, he can arrest you. You have no expectation of privacy in your front yard, so the officer can take action for what he sees you doing in such an open manner. However, if you smoke marijuana in your basement and the officer walks by, he (a) won't know what you are doing, and (b) even if he does, he still needs a warrant to mess with you. That is because you DO have an expectation of privacy in your basement.
Let's return to the peer to peer situation. If you are at home on your computer looking at files on your internal media, like the hard drive, you have an expectation of privacy. Law enforcement can't look into your hard drive without a warrant. But if you place files into the shared drive, then everyone who can download them (i.e. anyone on the peer to peer network), can see them! So you have no expectation of privacy.
Here's where it gets interesting. Every image on the internet (yes, every image), has a unique "hash value". That picture you just posted on Facebook? It has a unique hash value. Well, so does every picture of child porn on the internet. You can rename images all day long, but the hash value NEVER CHANGES. The police aren't stupid. They know the hash values of hundreds, if not thousands of known images of child pornography. All they do is run massive searches for hash values of known images of child pornography through the shared files of peer to peer networks looking for matches. When they find matches, they identify the IP address (unique to the computer) of the user, and get a warrant. Then they come to your house, seize all electronic media, and arrest you.
So you see, it is exceedingly easy to get caught if you are looking at child pornography. It is a virtual certainty. But if it has happened to you, or someone you love, contact us immediately! The stakes are high, and you must hire an attorney who understands this complex area of criminal defense, and is ready to fight for you!