Possession of child pornography, whether by accident or on purpose, is an offence punishable by no less than six months of jail time, as stated in section 163.1 of the Criminal Code. It is not a minor offence, and even if child pornography was accidentally downloaded on your computer, you may be convicted.
If you are convicted or charged with the possession of child pornography, it will result in you obtaining a criminal record and will infringe on your ability to work with children or other vulnerable people. Since this can have a major impact on your life, it’s vital that you have a good defence lawyer at your side from beginning to end.
What Happens if You’re Found with Child Pornography?
If Canadian police discover you are in possession of child pornography or it has been downloaded on your computer, you will likely face criminal charges. This is true whether the download was accidental or intentional.
Depending on the nature of your conviction, you may be faced with longer possible jail time and a heavier sentence. Making and distributing child pornography are bigger offences than possessing or accessing it. While the former is punishable with a jail time of no less than one year and no more than 14 years, the latter faces a jail time of no less than six months and no more than one year.
How Child Pornography May Be Accidentally Downloaded on Your Computer
In some cases, you may not even realize you have child pornography on your computer. Unfortunately, police are unlikely to believe this defence and will still arrest and charge you for possession.
Cases involving children are very sensitive and rarely met with any leniency, which means it can be difficult to defend yourself in the face of child pornography charges. Even if it really was accidentally downloaded on your computer, law enforcement will not be eager to believe this.
In the case of an accidental download, it’s important to be able to prove you had no idea the download had occurred. However, if you aren’t sure where it came from, this can be challenging. Here are a few ways that child pornography could have been downloaded:
#1. File-Sharing Networks
Although file sharing networks are popular and used often, there is always a risk that the incorrect file will be shared. This may include mislabeled files that you downloaded expecting one thing, but end up receiving another instead. This may also include hidden files that are downloaded in addition to your desired file.
Some users intentionally hide harmful content such as child pornography in shared files. If you access or download these files, the content may be downloaded and hidden in your computer. You may notice an additional file, but you may not. In either case, you did not mean to obtain child pornography and had no way of knowing that the file contained it.
If you use file-sharing networks or software so that others may download from your computer, you may accidentally share these hidden files. You may not realize that you’re doing it, just like you may not have realized that the files were on your computer, but if this does occur, you may also be charged with distributing child pornography, which is a larger charge.
#2. Scam Websites
Scam websites aren’t that common, but they do exist, and they may be a cause for accidental possession of child pornography. When these websites are accessed, even for a few seconds, malicious files may be downloaded onto your computer without your consent or knowledge.
#3. Mistaken Identity
While many people do have their own laptops or computers, there are still public computers available in libraries and workplaces that anyone can access. If you don’t properly log out or forget altogether, then the next person who uses the computer will be identified as you. Even if you were nowhere in the building when the crime happened, you may still be blamed.
Another way your identity may be used to download child pornography is if you have a desktop computer in your home that can be accessed by guests. If you leave for the weekend and have someone house sit or watch your pets, there is a chance they may use the computer to download child pornography without your knowledge or consent.
In other cases, someone may hack your IP address to make it appear as though you were the one using a computer while they downloaded child pornography. This may be done from anywhere.
You may have been a victim of a hacker who placed the files on your computer for whatever reasons. By accessing your computer, they may download or place illegal files such as child pornography on your device without your knowledge.
Detecting a hacker can be difficult, and they may not leave any trace of where they came from.
Proving Accidental Possession
Every downloaded file has a history that can be accessed and used as evidence. Even with this evidence, it can be challenging to prove that you didn’t knowingly download child pornography. However, there are a few ways it can be done.
When you access a file’s history, you can see if other files were downloaded at the same time. You can also see if or when the file was accessed. If you never opened the file and you immediately deleted it, this will be evidence in your favour. Even if you did not immediately delete it and never opened the file, you may have a good defence.
You Deleted the File
Deleted files will remain on your hard drive, but if you can prove that you immediately deleted the file, it will be easier to prove that you did not intend to possess the file.
Browser history will play a large role in determining your intent to obtain child pornography. If you did not do any incriminating searches before or at the time of the file download, this could also show you did not intend to download the file.
Child pornography charges, are heavy and if you don’t have a good defence on your side, you won’t be able to dispel them. Hiring a good child pornography lawyer as soon as possible helps improve your chances of having the charges withdrawn and proving your innocence.