Houston Child Porn Charges: How People Get CaughtPublished: May 08, 2020 in Child Sex Crimes, Criminal Defense, Federal Crimes, Sex Crimes, Sex Crimes Involving Children
Child pornography investigations in Harris County often involve a combination of federal, state, and local law enforcement.
The involvement of several agencies happens because of the seriousness of the charges, and because child pornography rings often cross state lines and even international borders. For instance, a 2013 international child pornography investigation known as Project Spade resulted in the arrest of over 350 people in 50 countries.
Nowadays, Hoston police rely more and more on technology in child porn investigations – particularly file-sharing networks.
If you are accused of possessing or distributing child pornography in Houston, you need a lawyer who will fight hard to protect your rights, freedoms, and reputation. At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we know how these investigations work and where mistakes happen.
What is Child Porn?
Child pornography is any visual depiction of a minor (under 18 years of age) involved in sexually explicit conduct.
According to former Attorney General Holder, there’s been “a historic rise in the distribution of child pornography, in the number of images being shared online, and in the level of violence associated with child exploitation and sexual abuse crimes.” One Department of Justice report showed a 2,500% increase in child pornography in recent years.
Houston Child Porn Cases & P2P Networks
Peer to peer (P2P) networks are increasingly prevalent in child porn cases. These networks, like Limewire or Gnutella, make it possible for anyone with a computer and an internet connection to access millions of illegal photos and videos.
However, once infiltrated, P2P networks also let the police track down anyone who downloaded child pornography.
Child pornography networks generally use encryption techniques and the “dark web” to share files. Inaccessible with a normal web browser, the dark web is a portion of the internet used by governments, corporations, and criminals. But law enforcement has drastically increased its ability to monitor dark web traffic.
How Police Access P2P Networks
Many child porn investigations begin when the FBI or police sign on to a P2P network using fake usernames or recognized users’ credentials. Other users can restrict who accesses their files. But the FBI can bypass these preferences.
Once child pornography is found in a user’s content, they can identify and track that user’s IP address.
Child Porn by IP Address
The next step involves subpoenaing an Internet Service Provider (such as Comcast or AT&T). This reveals the personal information and location associated with an IP address suspected of possession and/or sharing child pornography.
With this information, law enforcement can request a search warrant for any computer equipment, electronics, DVDs, cameras, and papers found at the address associated with the IP address.
Other Ways Suspects are Identified
Besides infiltrating file-sharing networks, which is highly technical, the police also rely on the following to identify suspects:
- Tips. Many investigations start when someone alerts the authorities after finding questionable items on a computer. For example, this is seen when friends borrow a laptop or when a technician repairs a computer.
- Infiltrating Networks. Police might pose as someone seeking child porn – in person or online. Their goal is to trick someone into sharing illegal material.
- Tracking IP Addresses. When websites hosting child pornography are taken down, law enforcement can access the computers that visited the website. Once they have the IP addresses, they can identify and locate suspects.
- Investigations for Other Crimes. The police often find child porn when they go through the computers of people suspected of other crimes.
Deleting & Hiding Child Porn Files
It’s important to know that sex crime investigators can still extract files from damaged hard drives. This means they can see files that may have been hidden or deleted.
In fact, digital forensics has become so advanced that it’s very difficult to hide a file if they get a hold of your hard drive.
This is very important in child porn cases because many people have second-hand computers and devices. Technically, you could have child pornography on your hard drive and not even know it.
A Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Can Help
If you’ve been targeted in a child pornography investigation, it’s essential to contact the best sex crime lawyer possible. The authorities will spare no expense in prosecuting you for the possession, distribution, or production of child pornography.
However, with a skilled Houston child pornography attorney Ned Barnett, you stand a chance of having your freedom and reputation restored. In many cases, we can avoid formal charges by explaining misunderstandings and showing faults with how you came to be suspected. If the case does move forward, we will aggressively pursue the best possible outcome, like a dismissal, reduction in charges, or proving your innocence.