Covid 19 Increases Potential for Online Sexual Predation of Children

Fear of the Covid 19 virus means more people are spending time at home, often alone, in front of their phones or computers. Unfortunately, some of those people are sexual predators looking for their next sex crimes victim. According to news sources, this means that the risk of sexual predators finding victims is also increased.

How are Sexual Predators Finding their Victims?

Sexual predators use various tactics to gain access to and communicate with their targets online. One of the biggest threats comes from communicating with potential victims through apps and sites that children and young adults use most frequently- YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook. Once a predator is connected to a potential victim, some purport to be someone else by using a profile picture that looks like someone the same age as the victim. Once a predator is connected to a victim, the predator usually aims to elicit sexual photos from the victim and, potentially, meet the victim in person.

Is this a Crime in Michigan?

Often yes. An adult who simply communicates to a child online is not guilty of a crime. However, according to the Michigan Sex Crimes Lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm, several of Michigan’s sex crimes laws can be triggered if a predator elicits pornographic pictures from a minor.

What are the Basics of Michigan’s Child Pornography Laws?

There are three basic sections laid out in Michigan Compiled Laws section 750.145C outlawing child pornography.

  1. Possession of child pornographic material: anyone who knowingly possesses child porn is guilty of a felony. The sentence for possession of child porn is up to 4 years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000.00, or both. This part of the statute also makes it a crime for someone to merely access child pornography.
  2. Distribution of child pornographic material: anyone who sends or finances the sending of child porn is guilty of a felony. The sentence for sending child porn is up to 7 years in prison or up to a $50,000.00 fine, or both.
  3. Inducing the sending of child pornographic material: This section applies to anyone who induces or knowingly allows a child to engage in child sexually abusive activity to using it as child porn. It also applies to anyone who reproduces child porn. The sentence for violating this section is up to 20 years in prison or a $100,000.00 fine, or both.

There are some important things to keep in mind about Michigan’s child porn laws. First, what does “knowingly” mean? It can mean a few things. It can mean that the evidence shows that the person knew the person in the pornographic material was under the age of 18. However, the law states that a person can be found to have met the “knowing” element if the person has reason to know or should reasonably be expected to know the child is a child, or did not take reasonable steps to obtain the age of the person in the pornographic material. Therefore, someone isn’t off the hook if they claim they didn’t know the child in the pornographic material was, in fact, under the age of 18.

Michigan Sex Offender Registry for Child Porn

Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA) lays out the crimes that require one to be registered on the sex offender list. Michigan’s child porn law is included in SORA. Therefore, if you have been convicted of violating one or more of the sections of Michigan’s child porn law listed above, you must register yourself on Michigan’s sex offender list in addition to the other life-altering sentences included in the crime.

If You or Someone You Know is a Victim of an Online Sexual Predator

First, call your local law enforcement immediately. There is also a reporting hotline through the Department of Homeland Security’s iGuardian initiative- 866-347-2423. For support group services in the metro-Detroit area there are several resources including HAVEN and Common Ground Sanctuary. On the west side of the state, there is the Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County.

What to Do if You are Being Charged with a Child Porn or Sexting Crime

If you are being charged with any type of child porn or sexting crime in Michigan, contact an experienced sex crimes lawyer immediately. Even if you have not yet been charged but have been initially contacted by law enforcement, it’s crucial you have an attorney helping you immediately because an attorney can help you avoid charges before they’re filed. The focused criminal defense attorneys at the Barone Defense Firm can help.



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