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Child Pornography Crimes in Florida

Many people assume that anyone who looks at child pornography is either a child molester or will become a child molester. Scientific research shows that many passive viewers of these images never molest children. Nevertheless, Florida law provides for incredibly harsh sentencing requirements for these types of charges.

As a practical matter, the penalties for child pornography charges are typically harsher than the penalty for actually committing an act of child molestation. If you have been charged with any child pornography charge under state or federal law then contact a criminal defense attorney in Tampa, FL, at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case.

After the investigation begins, never speak with any law enforcement officer or any other person about the accusation until after you have consulted with and hired a criminal defense attorney. You can invoke your rights by saying, "I am taking the 5th and 6th amendment. I will not make any statements until after I have spoken with my attorney and my attorney is present for any questioning." Then give the officer your name, address and date of birth upon request, but refuse to answer any other questions.

In most of these cases, a person's first indication that a criminal investigation for child pornography has begun is when law enforcement officers descend on the home or business with or without a search warrant to seize computers and other evidence. If your home or business was recently named in a search warrant, then call an attorney immediately.

Even completely innocent people should invoke their right to remain silent. Your attorney is in the best position to present your side of the case and favorable evidence to the prosecutor and law enforcement officers investigating the case. In most of these cases, the prosecutor has a much easier time prosecuting the case if you make any statements.

Attorney for Child Pornography Crimes in Tampa, FL

The criminal defense attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm represent clients charged with child pornography and other sexually motivated crimes throughout Tampa Bay, Florida, including in Tampa, Hillsborough County, New Port Richey and Dade City in Pasco County, Bartow and Lakeland in Polk County, Brooksville in Hernando County, Bradenton in Hernando County, and St. Petersburg or Clearwater in Pinellas County, FL.

Juveniles who are under the age of 18 years old are often accused of "child molestation" because they possess or send an image or video of another person their same age on a cell phone, tablet or computer. The Florida Legislature recently created a special statute for juveniles accused of "sexting" although any accusation remains extremely serious.

Call us to find out more about how to fight sex crimes involving computer crimes and other technology-facilitated crimes against children. Our offices are located in downtown Tampa, just a few blocks from the federal courthouse and the state courthouse. Let us put our experience to work for you. We can begin your defense today.

Call (813) 250-0500 today.


Definition of Child Pornography under Florida Law

Florida Statute 847.001(3) defines the term "child pornography" to mean any image including an image on a website or downloaded from the internet depicting a minor child under the age of 18 years old engaged in sexual conduct. Florida Statute 847.001(16) defines the term "sexual conduct" to mean: 

  • deviate sexual intercourse;
  • actual sexual intercourse;
  • actual lewd exhibition of the genitals;
  • simulated sexual intercourse;
  • sadomasochistic abuse;
  • sexual bestiality;
  • masturbation;
  • actual physical contact with a person's unclothed or clothed genitals, buttocks, pubic area, or, if such person is a female, breast with the intent to gratify or arouse the sexual desire of either party; or
  • any act or conduct which constitutes sexual battery or simulates that sexual battery is being or will be committed.

Florida Statute Section 847.001(16) further excludes under any circumstances a mother's breastfeeding of her baby from the definition of "sexual conduct."

Florida law makes a distinction between "child pornography" which is illegal and "child erotica" which is generally not illegal. The term "child erotica" includes children being photographed in a manner that does not meet the definition of sexual conduct even though the minor child is photographed in a partially nude or nude pose.


Third Degree Felony for Possession of Child Pornography

Third-degree felonies for child pornography under state law include transmitting, distributing, possessing, and manufacturing child pornography under Florida Statutes Section 847.0135, 847.0138 and 827.071. A third-degree felony is punishable by five (5) years in Florida State Prison and includes an allegation of viewing or downloading any child pornography image. 

Sharing the image with another person can increase the severity of the charge to a second-degree felony which is punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison.

Promoting or producing the child pornography image carries the most severe penalties which can be charged as a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in Florida State Prison for each charged, and the crime can carry a minimum prison sentence of 5 to 13 years in Florida State Prison.


Separate Images Result in Separate Charges and Increased Penalties

Each image can be charged as a distinct criminal offense. The number of different criminal offenses or charges will increase the penalties. Prosecutors argue that each image requires effort and time to acquire and therefore is an indication of the interest and involvement of the person accused.

However, when images are downloaded from the internet, it is possible to download hundreds or thousands of images at a time which decreases the likelihood that the number of images reflects a need for stricter punishment.


Child Pornography under Federal Laws

Child pornography crimes can be prosecuted under state or federal law. Federal law, under 18 U.S.C. Section 2256(1) and (8) defines child pornography as the visual depiction of a child under the age of 18 years old engaged in sexually-explicit conduct. Illegal contraband would include any image of a child engaged in any type of conduct that is considered "sexually explicit."

The term "sexually explicit" does not require that the image shows the child engaged in sexual activity but can include even a picture of a naked child if it is sufficiently sexually suggestive. The visual depiction can include:

  • photographs;
  • videotape;
  • video;
  • images or videos downloaded from a website or the internet;
  • undeveloped videotape or film;
  • data stored electronically which can be converted into a visual image; or
  • images stored on a computer disk or other electronic forum.

Examples of child pornography laws in the State of Florida include:

  • Giving Obscene Material to a Minor § 847.0133, Fla. Stat.;
  • Transmission of Material Harmful to Minors by Electronic Device or Equipment § 847.0138(2), Fla. Stat.;
  • Transmission of Child Pornography by Electronic Device or Equipment § 847.0137(2) and (3), Fla. Stat.
  • [Possession] [Control] [Intentional Viewing] of Material Including Sexual Conduct by a Child § 827.071(5)(a), Fla. Stat.; and
  • Possession of Material Including Sexual Conduct by a Child with Intent to Promote § 827.071(4), Fla. Stat.

Under federal child pornography laws, it is illegal to receive, produce, distribute or possess any type of child pornography that affects foreign or interstate commerce. Federal jurisdiction to prosecute child pornography can arise when the visual image is moved across state lines or when the image was created using equipment or materials that were moved across state lines including:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 2251- Sexual Exploitation of Children (Production of child pornography);
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252- Certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors (Possession, distribution, and receipt of child pornography);
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252A- certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography; and
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2260- Production of sexually explicit depictions of a minor for importation into the United States.

The jurisdictional element in federal child pornography charges can be satisfied when the pornographic images are moved electronically through a computer connection on-line, via e-mail, or the mail. As a practical matter, because of the nature of electronic communications most if not all such communications would invoke federal jurisdiction.


Additional Resources on Child Pornography Prosecutions under Florida Law

Child Pornography Computer Crimes - The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) website discusses child pornography including definitions, facts, history and child safety prevention tips. Find out more about recent investigations and people accused of these serious criminal offenses.

Central Florida ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) affiliates - Learn more about how the Polk County Sheriff's office in Florida is an affiliate of the ICAC. Founded in 1998, the Internet Crimes Against Child Task Force Program (ICAC Program) started with 10 Task Forces across the United States. Today, it has grown to 61 coordinated Task Forces representing more than three thousand prosecutorial agencies, local law enforcement agencies, as well as state and federal law enforcement agencies that engage in proactive and reactive investigations and prosecutions. Learn more about Child Pornography investigations in Polk County, Florida.


Finding an Attorney for Child Pornography Charges in Tampa

If you have been charged with or are under investigation for any child pornography case, sexual battery, or lewd and lascivious behavior in the Tampa Bay area then contact a criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm.

We represent clients charge on a wide range of crimes considered to be sexually motivated including child pornography charges in Tampa for Hillsborough County, Bartow or Lakeland for Polk County, New Port Richey or Dade City for Pasco County, Bradenton for Manatee County, Brooksville for Hernando County, or Clearwater or St. Petersburg for Pinellas County, FL.

Many of these cases start with the execution of a search warrant by the SWAT Team and detectives with the local police department. The search warrants are often obtained after an ongoing investigation that was initiated because of information received from the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce (ICAC). ICAC is an entity which monitors the internet for criminal activity involving children.

Our offices are located in downtown Tampa, just a few blocks from the federal or state courthouse. Call 813-250-0500 today for a free consultation. Let us put our experience to work for you.


This article was last updated by on Friday, December 22, 2017.

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