Preventing Accidental Possession of Child Pornography Files
Interviewer: Say you go to a pawnshop for computer equipment. I notice there are a lot of laptops at really good prices. Sometimes these people at the pawnshop really don’t know too much about the equipment there. They just go on eBay. Could it be possible if someone bought a second-hand computer and that information was there, they could track stuff from previous owners?
Paul Cramm: Absolutely possible. That’s one hundred percent possible. The safest thing to do for buying previously owned computer equipment is, before you load your software and programs on there to run, I would use a very, very advanced virus software that will actually overwrite all of the unused space on the computer. That will eliminate all files and then overwrite any unused or slack space, so that you do not run the risk that an unknown, or hidden, or buried file maybe containing embarrassing or, worse yet, criminal imagery.
Interviewer: Okay. I think the average user doesn’t have knowledge of that.
In regard to cases like this, is there anything else? We’ve come to the end of our interview here. Is there anything else that I may have failed to mention, or anything else that you want to touch on?
Paul Cramm: I think the most important thing is just being proactive and preemptive. We are all responsible for our mouse clicks. I certainly understand that it is absolutely possible in any realm. Let’s step away from the child pornography realm. It is 100% possible to click on a link thinking it’s going to show you one thing, and in fact it directs you somewhere else entirely. Occasionally you’ll have someone say, “I was just online looking at used cars online on an automotive website. I clicked on a linked, and all of a sudden all these images just started popping up.”
Interviewer: That happens.
Paul Cramm: I think that it’s just best to be proactive and not visit the types of websites that are likely to overlap with, or bring you into the purview of, anything you don’t want on your computer. That’s the number one step. Number two: if it does appear as though there questionable images popping up or appearing or you are redirected to a site you had no intention of visiting, certainly talk to a lawyer before you contact law enforcement.
18 U.S.C. 2252(c) actually provides a statutory affirmative defense to alleged possession of Child Pornography. That subsection provides: ” It shall be an affirmative defense to a charge of (possession of child pornography) that the defendant- (1)possessed less than three matters containing any visual depiction proscribed by that paragraph; and (2)promptly and in good faith … took reasonable steps to destroy each such visual depiction; or reported the matter to a law enforcement agency and afforded that agency access to each such visual depiction.”
I know some people have said, “Well, I wanted to take this to the police, and let them know right away that I didn’t do it.” Goodness – be careful. Talk to a lawyer first. If an investigation is underway, absolutely, positively do not answer any questions. Answering the simplest of questions can absolutely derail the most straightforward, factual defenses. It can just eliminate any doubt upon which you might really need to rely at a later date. Don’t answer questions; don’t make statements. Just contact counsel right away.
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