How Michigan Child Pornography Charges Can Be a Federal Offense

If you are being investigated for the alleged possession, distribution, or production of child pornography in Michigan, then you can be charged in either the State system, the Federal System, or sometimes, both systems. This article will explain how and why this can occur. We will also discuss how the decision of where to file the child pornography charges is made.

Who prosecutes, the state or the feds?

When someone commits a crime in Michigan, that person is always subjected to the laws of the State of Michigan and any ordinances in the city or county in which the crime was committed. Many acts also trigger federal laws at the same time. Whether federal law enforcement would ever be interested in holding someone accountable for their actions in Michigan depends on several factors.

Assuming a federal law is triggered, it would usually be applied if federal law enforcement (like the FBI) carried out the investigation and arrest. This can happen, for example, if the FBI conducts a sting trying to catch violators of a law that is a particular area of concern. Sting operations are quite common in child pornography cases. Federal prosecution can also happen if a federal agent witnesses a federal law being broken; like when someone crosses a border with illegal drugs.

Sometimes, federal and state officials work together on an investigation and make an arrest. In these cases, sometimes only the state will prosecute an individual because the federal government may not, in the end, be interested in spending the time on the prosecution. In other cases, the federal government may handle the prosecution because of how large a case may be, or because the suspects committed federal crimes in more than one state or on the internet (i.e., interstate commerce). And finally, sometimes both the state and the federal government prosecute an individual separately for the same situation.

The child porn case in Michigan

Sometimes the best way to learn or to teach something is to use real world examples. In a recent child pornography investigation and arrest in Michigan, a couple in West Michigan was arrested for producing and distributing child pornography. This investigation was carried out by the FBI’s Child Sex Exploitation Task Force.

Many child pornography arrests in Michigan start with someone interacting with law enforcement on the internet. Examples would be through a file sharing website or a messaging app on their phone. In this case, the defendants exchanged messages with FBI agents on apps called Wickr and Snapchat. Other common platforms are Kik and BitTorrent. This is also quite common- FBI agents making themselves available to interact with on the internet in hopes of “bumping into” someone doing something illegal. At times, this behavior can blend into entrapment.

The defendants in this Michigan case ended up sharing with the FBI agents several images depicting children in sexual situations. One of the defendants was in the pictures with the children and the other defendant took the pictures, according to the allegations. The FBI used an Emergency Disclosure Request (EDR) to Snapchat to find the location of the phone used in the communications. The EDR, created under The Patriot Act, required Snapchat to share the phone’s location. The FBI then raided the home at the location, arrested the two individuals, and seized electronic devices and other evidence.

State and Federal Child Pornography charges

Federal law makes it a crime to produce, distribute, and possess child pornography in the United States, including Michigan. Simply possessing child pornography can get you up to 10 years in federal prison. Distributing it gets you a minimum of 5 years and up to 20 years in federal prison. And producing child porn, also charged as Sexual Exploitation of a Child, carries a MINIMUM sentence of 15 years and up to 30 years.

The male defendant in this Michigan child porn case was charged with sexual exploitation of a child and distribution of child pornography. The female defendant was charged with sexual exploitation of a child and aiding and abetting.

Federal Criminal Law and Federal Criminal Procedure

If you are charged with a Federal crime then you may want to know that the Federal Court System is considerably different from the State Court System. For more information on Federal Criminal Law and Federal Criminal Procedure, see this series of articles:

What to do if accused of federal child pornography charges in Michigan

The second someone senses that law enforcement might be interested in investigating them for involvement with child pornography, they should contact the best child pornography criminal defense attorney. The sex crimes attorneys at the Barone Defense Firm have years of experience defending these cases for both the innocent and the guilty, at both the federal and state levels. The sooner we’re hired, the better our chances.



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