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Federal Child Pornography Arrests in Maryland
The following is information regarding arrests in federal child pornography cases and how you are likely to be investigated leading up to an arrest. If you believe you may be under investigation or have already been charged, consult with a Maryland federal child pornography lawyer today to discuss your current legal situation.
Investigations Leading to Arrests
Typically, child pornography arrests take place in the federal system after there’s been a lengthy investigation by the Department of Justice. The federal government does not prosecute many cases—particularly in the Maryland area—that they don’t have very strong evidentiary support for. Usually the federal government does not go out and simply charge somebody because they suspect that the individual has been involved in some kind of a violation of a child pornography statute. Generally speaking, what they have been doing is watching an individual for quite some time. They might have tracked that individual because he or she downloaded a flagged image or a video from the Internet or distributed that flagged image or video; the government will then watch that individual’s history for a period of time on the Internet.
After that, law enforcement would apply for a warrant to search and seize any property of interest in furtherance of the investigation, have a judge sign off on that warrant, and then execute that warrant. The warrant will usually give them access to additional information on a suspect’s laptop, computer, phone, or other things that might further the investigation of a violation of the statute. Law enforcement would be able to then search an individual’s personal property for other evidence that might support criminal charges. Those criminal charges usually come after that search was completed. When somebody is charged with a crime of child pornography in the federal system, it is not unusual for that individual to be well aware that he or she is under investigation in advance of being charged, because usually a search warrant will precede any kind of criminal arrest or charge against that individual.
When to Expect An Arrest to Take Place
In the federal system, the government usually waits until the investigation is complete before deciding to charge you.
Usually, this is because in the electronic world it’s difficult to know who actually is doing the distributing and who is actually committing the criminal offense simply by tracking somebody’s activity on the Internet. For example, somebody who is committing this kind of violation of a child pornography statute from a computer might share that computer with many other individuals. That individual might have that computer in a workplace or at home where other people either have access to it or other people reside. It can be difficult for law enforcement to simply charge somebody based on that Internet activity. What they will then want to do is conduct further investigation to see if they can find a nexus between the individual that they are investigating and the actual criminal activity that took place online before conducting the arrest.
These investigations usually are pretty thorough before a decision is made to charge somebody criminally or arrest them.
Common Scenarios in Child Pornography Arrests
The most common scenario is an individual in a chat room who was either asking for images associated with child pornography or seeking to distribute those images or videos. These individuals are usually in particular chat-rooms that express that kind of an interest. These forums are filled with people like that, but they’re also filled with people who might be undercover police officers or investigators that are working for the government to try and track down these individuals and put a stop to their behavior. Typically speaking, those people might be found in chat-rooms and might fall into a conversation with one or more law enforcement agents who are acting undercover to conduct a sting operation and ultimately charge these individuals with violating the child pornography criminal statute.
The other most common scenario is when somebody is downloading or distributing an image that has been flagged as a child pornography image on the Internet. That flagged image allows government agents and officials to follow it and see whose electronic media it ends up on and who they are then sending it out to.