Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys often find that Child Pornography cases are among the most difficult cases to successfully defend. If outlawed pictures are found on a Defendant’s computer the Government’s burden of proof is very low. By the very nature of these cases no victim contact need be proven and the amount of prison time established by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines is often greater than it would be for actual child molestation. In fact the Government need not establish that the Defendant actually looked at any picture as mere possession of the image on the computer hard drive is sufficient for a conviction.
|Van Gogh, Schoolboy, 1888|
Yet even when the Federal Government can’t find any outlawed pictures on a computer that hasn’t stopped them from pursuing criminal cases.
Barclay Johnson, defense attorney in the District of Vermont sent me a new Motion to Suppress in Child Porn prosecutions based on challenging the software used by the Federal Government to snare users of peer-to-peer networks using outlawed images. Here’s an excerpt from his email concerning the Motion to Suppress based on problems with the search warrant:
Government agents used to use an enhanced version of a peer-to-peer program to conduct key-word searches in an effort to find suspect outlawed child pornography files. Using the peer-to-peer program the Government would download files directly from the Defendant’s computer/IP address. However, recently the Federal Government began using a new software program to match secured hash algorithm values of files on the network with hash values of known child pornography in the Government’s database.
What concerns a Clearwater Criminal Lawyer is the due process violations for Defendants when Government Agents are no longer actually downloading the files from a Defendant’s computer, but relying only on the match between the hash values to establish probable cause. Yet many Government Agents may be misleading Judges into signing incomplete Search Warrants when the Agents’ sworn affidavits fail to accurately depict the fact that they are merely matching hash values rather than having any direct knowledge that there is likely to be outlawed pictures on suspects’ computers.