That’s how experts are describing North Carolina’s problem with child pornography. According to a report from the Charlotte Observer, local law enforcement officials have identified 14,000 computers in our state featuring illegal images of young children being sexually exploited.
Lawmakers and law enforcement officials are not standing idly by. Governor Pat McCroy has requested two million dollars to fund anti-child exploitation efforts in North Carolina. If lawmakers approve the request, half of this money would go to hire child pornography investigators for the state’s Internet Crimes against Children Task Force, while the other half would go to the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child-Rescue (H.E.R.O) Corps.
H.E.R.O corps is a project of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the US Special Operations Command. The program enlists former US soldiers to help our state crack down on child pornography and hunt down child sexual predators.
When hired on for the H.E.R.O program, veterans go through 11 weeks of intensive computer forensics training and an internship with the ICE division of Homeland Security. After completing their training, Veterans team up with local law enforcement agencies to locate child exploitation criminals. When offenders are arrested, the veterans assist police officers and confiscate computers.
Child Pornography Laws in North Carolina
Child pornography is a serious crime with tough penalties on both a state and federal level. Under both state and federal law, it is illegal to possess, receive, share, transport, or produce images of child pornography. And contrary to some beliefs, as a form of child exploitation, child pornography images are not protect under the constitution.
Below, we’ve listed some of the common different types of child pornography crimes.
Since these types of crimes often involve the internet and may cross state and international lines, child pornography charges are typically handled in federal courts. However, in some circumstances, you can be charged with child pornography on both a state and federal level.
Below, we’ve listed the most common examples of child pornography crimes in both federal and North Carolina courts.
Federal Child Pornography Crimes
Production of child pornography. Under federal law, the production of pornographic images depicting children is a crime punishable by a minimum of 15 years in prison.
Receipt, distribution, or possession with the intent to distribute child pornography. You could be charged with a federal offense for receiving or distributing child pornography, or being found in possession of child pornography if it is believed that you may intend to sell or share it with others. The penalties for this type of offense may include up to 20 years in prison.
Possession of child pornography. If child pornography is found on your computer or in your possession, you could be charged with possession of child pornography. This federal offense is punishable by up to 10 years in prison if the victims are older than 12, or up to 20 years for younger victims.
North Carolina Pornography Laws
First-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. Under North Carolina law, you can be charged with first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor for producing pornographic images featuring subjects under the age of 18. The penalties for this offense may include a sentence of up to 92 months.
Second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. You can be charged with second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor if you are found copying or distributing child pornography. Second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor may carry a sentence of up to 31 months.
Third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. If you are found in possession of child pornographic images, you can be charged with this level of offense. Consequences for conviction may include up to eight months in prison.
If You Are Charged with a Child Pornography Crime
Not only will you face lengthy prison time and huge fines if you are convicted of a child pornography crime, you will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life. As a registered sex offender, you could face devastating consequences to your reputation, career, and social life. You may be barred from visiting certain areas or holding certain jobs, and be left with a terrible social stigma that will last a lifetime.
If you are facing child pornography charges, it is of the utmost importance that you consult with an experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney may be able to prove that you relied on a claim that the model was over 18, or that the files did not belong to you. An aggressive lawyer could also be able to demonstrate that you were a victim of entrapment or illegal search and seizure, thus rendering any evidence against you invalid. A skilled sex crimes defense lawyer will be able to determine the best defense possible in your unique circumstances, and fight tirelessly to protect your rights, freedom, and reputation.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.