Sexual Exploitation of a Child — Colorado — Questions & Answers

Common Questions and Answers About Child Pornography Charges

Here are common questions we receive from good people contacted by the police in sexual exploitation/child pornography cases in Denver County, Adams County, Arapahoe County, Douglas County, Jefferson County, Weld County, Larimer County and other Colorado counties:

Just What is Sexual Exploitation of a Child in Layman's Terms?

This crime is also known as child pornography in Colorado. It usually involves allegations that someone has pictures of children in a state of undress. Child pornography generally involves images of children involved in sex acts.  The relevant statute, (Colorado Revised Statutes) C.R.S. 18-6-403, calls this "sexually exploitative material." There is a difference between having a photo of a child without clothes on, and a photo of a child engaged in sexually explicit sexual conduct.

What Is the Difference Between Child Nudity and Sexually Exploitative Material?

Sexually exploitative material involves a child involved in a sex act or sexual arousal. A mere nude picture or video of a child is not criminal, unless the child is in some sort of a state of arousal or related to sexual arousal. The bottom line is, when in doubt, don't possess images of or view images of children in any state of undress. Your lawyer will be able to make fine distinctions in the law between legal nudity and unlawful nudity, but don't take the chance that you will be arrested and charged.  Even if you ultimately win the case, you will lose a lot in the process.

How Do Police See What People Have on Their Computers?

Generally, Colorado police gain access to someone's computer in one of two ways. First, they gain access through peer to peer networks like Limewire. The police monitor and search file sharing sites and look for Colorado child pornography (even police from other states who refer cases to local police).  They will conduct electronic searches of common child pornography file names or file properties (like hidden picture traits/codes). Many times, peer group members advertise that they have child pornography, ignorant of the fact that the police are looking at the photos they make available to other peers. Once the police download images, it is a simple process to contact your Internet service provider and get an address for your home, where they will execute a search warrant and seize your computer. We recently had an Adams County, Colorado, case where the police located our client's parent's home after downloading images through Limewire from our client's computer.

Second, police access your computer when they have evidence of another type of sexual offense, and seize your computer in connection with that crime.  These crimes usually originate with sexual chat rooms.  Police pose as children under 15, and encourage sexually explicit chat and eventual meetings. Once the participant agrees to meet or shares nude pictures of himself or herself, the police make an arrest.  Part of the arrest involves seizing the computer, which the police then search. Even if child pornography was not involved in the main charge, police will search the hard drive of the computer for child pornography, whether it was deleted or not.  It is rare that a deleted file is not still on a person's hard drive. A person must assume any image ever stored/viewed on the hard drive is still there.

How Can Deleted Images Serve as a Basis for a Criminal Case?

Deleted images always stay on a hard drive, even after being deleted. Once a file is deleted, only the address for the file is deleted. The file remains. Using special software, forensic examiners can resurrect or view images in what is called "unallocated space." As long as the computer has not overwritten the image, it can be viewed by police. Only when hard drive wiping software is used to wipe a drive will the images be truly erased. The government will argue that even a deleted image was once possessed or is still possessed by the computer owner or operator.  In Jefferson County, Colorado, a jury acquitted our client of possession of Child pornography after, on cross-examination, we were able to get the government expert to admit that our client may never have viewed or known about the image of Child pornography on his computer.

How Do Child Pornography Images Get onto a Hard Drive?

Often, people viewing legal pornography in Grand County, Weld County, Mesa County and other Colorado counties get into the habit of viewing child pornography once they lose arousal to adult pornography.  When the images are viewed, either intentionally or unintentionally, they are stored on a hard drive.  Every file you view is stored in your temporary internet files.  Even if these "temporary" files are deleted, they remain on a hard drive until wiped or overwritten. If a person downloads the photos intentionally, they are stored on the hard drive. Many times we defend people against Colorado child pornography charges when they had no idea about and had never seen, the child pornography images. We have successfully defended people who had child pornography images on their computers. There is hope. There are several defense theories we can advance, with the assistance of a good computer forensic expert and a client who has not given a statement to police.

What Is Good Colorado Lawyer / Attorney Advice Concerning Child Pornography?

We recently consulted on a Boulder County, Colorado child pornography case.  The young man had viewed pictures of children in his age group thinking that was OK. That was still investigated and charged by police as child pornography. Any viewing of images of children under 18, by anyone is prohibited by Colorado and federal law.  Stay away from those images. If you inadvertently download or unintentionally see pictures of child pornography on your computer, do not view them or save them. Quickly get away from them. Do not go near peer to peer file-charging sites. They are dangerous. Do not engage in sexual chat on the Internet. Never download files if you don't trust the sender or are unsure whether they are involved in child pornography. Never, ever, send pictures or videos of yourself in a state of undress over the internet. Chances are that your recipient is a police officer. Never ask for nude pictures of another person over the Internet.  Chances are that they are a real child or police posing as a child.  If your gut says your conduct is dangerous and risky, it probably is.

Whether you've just been contacted by police for a few questions or for an arrest, don't give a statement.  Theories of defense are foreclosed when you talk.  Colorado police question citizens in Denver County, Arapahoe County, Douglas County, Adams County, Jefferson County, Elbert County and other Colorado counties to gain evidence for their case against them.  We represent clients throughout Colorado. Be smart, exercise your right to remain silent and call us at 303-731-0719.  Together, we can protect your future.

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