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TexCrimLawyer, J.D.
TexCrimLawyer, J.D., Lawyer
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Experience:  Experienced in state and federal criminal litigation.
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Is it illegal to visit a child pornography site?

Resolved Question:

is it illegal to visit a child pornography site? I have no interest in child pornography whatsoever, but I somehow ended up clicking a link that led me to a page that said "big brother is watching you" and my address is known and that I could be prosecuted for child pornography. I haven't seen any actual pictures and I most certainly did not download anything. Is it possible to be prosecuted for some perceived intent of viewing child pornography?
Submitted: 6 years ago via Cornell Legal Info Institute.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  TexCrimLawyer, J.D. replied 6 years ago.

I formerly prosecuted federal child pornography cases. This is an area I'm quite familiar with. The main question that needs to be asked is this: how did you end up there? That will make a huge difference in whether or not it is a prosecuteable case.

JACUSTOMER-fc4qdnp3- :
well I am an amateur writer and I was gathering information to write story with a character who was a pedophile.

TexLawyer :
So, did you intend to access the child porn site, or were you doing search terms for "pedophile" and ended up in one of these sites?

JACUSTOMER-fc4qdnp3- :
I think I searched "child porn". I figured there would be articles on it

TexLawyer :
Well, this puts you in a bad position. Objectively, if someone does a search for "child porn," a reasonable person may think they were looking for child pornography.

How many times did this happen?

JACUSTOMER-fc4qdnp3- :

TexLawyer :
Is there anything else on your computer that would cause you concern related to child pornography?

JACUSTOMER-fc4qdnp3- :
Well I've visited a porn site one or two times, but they were all adults. Nothing weird

TexLawyer :
OK. Is there anything on your computer or in your house that corroborates the fact that you are doing research (i.e. manuscripts, other types of research)?

JACUSTOMER-fc4qdnp3- :
well my internet history shows me going to a wikipedia article about pedophilia and a couple other articles about pedophilia

TexLawyer :
OK. Good. Based on what you've said, I think it is very unlikely that you would be prosecuted. Under federal law, it is illegal to possess, receive, distribute, or access with the intent to view.

TexLawyer :
However, the government needs to prove that you intentionally accessed the CP.

In your case, it appears that you were not intentionally looking for CP, and your internet history would tend to corroborate that, as does your lack of other attempts to access CP or download CP.

Now, that isn't to say that you won't get a visit from law enforcement (if it was, in fact, a sting website, your IP address was likely captured. However, if that doesn't happen within 6 months or so of the visiting of the site, it is unlikely to ever happen. Past 6 months, the IP information is considered "stale."

JACUSTOMER-fc4qdnp3- :
so law enforcement would come to the address from which I was on the site?

TexLawyer :
Yes. If you accessed the website from your home, then that is the address they would get. If you accessed it from a public place or someone else's home, they would go there.

JACUSTOMER-fc4qdnp3- :
ok. What should I do if I get visited by law enforcement and what do you mean be visited. would they arrest me?

TexLawyer :
If you are confident you have not done anything intentionally wrong, there should be no harm in letting them look at your computer. If you have some concerns, just assert your 5th Amendment right.

They wouldn't necessarily arrest you. In fact, they would need to analyize your computer before they arrest you, assuming you didn't admit you were looking to download CP.

JACUSTOMER-fc4qdnp3- :
ok. So is there anything I should do right now?

TexLawyer :
No. I know it is nerve racking, but you don't have much to worry about.

JACUSTOMER-fc4qdnp3- :
ok. One more question. When I first ran into the site, I panicked and deleted it from my history. that was probably a bad thing to do, wasn't it? not my entire history, just that site

TexLawyer :
Probably won't matter. Most people would to the same.
Is there anything else I can do for you?

JACUSTOMER-fc4qdnp3- :
Yes, one last question. I stumbled upon the website on a wifi at my parents' house in Utah, but I live in Indiana. So if law enforcement were to visit, I would most likely be out of town. What should I do in that case?

TexLawyer :
There isn't much you can do. The IP address they captured is your parents'. As such, they would go there and have no probable cause to search your house in Indiana. If they got a search warrant, it would be for your parents' house.

If that were to happen (and it probably won't), how to handle that with your parents is your call.

JACUSTOMER-fc4qdnp3- :
ok thank you very much. that's all

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