Child Porn & Federal Forfeiture Law


Regarding child pornography, AB of Pennsylvania wrote:

“2 yrs ago. I was accused of child porn. They took at least $7.000 worth of software and hardware and I never got any of it back. Can someone help me get it back? I am now charged with porn and thats it. I have not been sentenced yet. A few months I would guess. Thanks.”

In follow up email correspondence, AB advised that he was charged with 4 counts of child pornography in Pennsylvania. He also advised that he is represented by counsel, but feels he is not “getting the best help” and that he is “very angry I have not got anything back at all that they took of mine”. He asked if I could or would help him from California.

In response, I told AB that I could not represent him in Pennsylvania, as I am not licensed to practice law there. He should, of course, raise his concerns about his representation with his current lawyers, as they should be keeping him fully informed about the status of his case and his property.

As for getting his computer equipment back, however, that is highly unlikely. As long as the case and/or any possible appeal is pending, the equipment will be held as evidence.

Under federal law, computer equipment used to commit child porn offenses is also subject to forfeiture. If AB is convicted (either by a guilty plea or in a trial), his computer equipment will be subject to the federal criminal forfeiture process. Property forfeited under this law belongs to the federal government and can then be sold or otherwise used by the government. If it is not worth using or selling, it will be destroyed.

Even if no criminal conviction occurs, there is also a federal civil forfeiture statute under which property used for child pornography can be forfeited.

No brainer advice to everyone: do not mess with child pornography. It is becoming easier and easier for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to track child porn over the internet … right back to your computer. If you get caught, you almost certainly will be prosecuted and sent to prison. And, whether you get convicted or not, they almost certainly will take and keep your computer equipment.

___________________________________________________________

The federal criminal child pornography forfeiture statute, 18 U.S.C. section 2253, is available on the Cornell University Law School website at:

http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/2253.html

The federal civil child pornography forfeiture statute, 18 U.S.C. section 2254, is also available on the Cornell University Law School website at:

http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/2254.html

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