You can distribute child porn to yourself

Believe it or not, people in Michigan are now being charged as distributors of Child Porn merely be downloading it on their own computer. There is not need for it to be forwarded to a third party.

Recently, I have noticed a number of cases in which the prosecution is charing my client with possessing and distributing child pornography, or in the technical term of the statute, child sexually abusive material. The possession is usually straightforward enough; a person allegedly has it on his or her computer, tablet or mobile device.

The distribution is what concerns me. Not so long ago, a person charged with distributing child sexually abuse material had to actually attempt or in fact give or sell the material another person. And in some cases, that is exactly what has happened. However, in many recent cases, the charge of distribution has been based the statutory language “copies” under MCL 750.145(c)(2). That is not what the legislature intended. This is a case of prosecutorial heavy-handedness.

The distinction between possession and distribution is important because possession carries a maximum penalty of 4 years whereas distribution carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.

I have even had cases where the prosecution couldn’t prove possession due to to chain of custody issues but then tried to force a person to “take a deal” by threatening to add distribution charges. These cases are tough enough without the added charges.

In short, in Michigan, you can distribute child porn to yourself even if you merely download to your own computer. Be very careful at what you are looking at online. File sharing services are watched closely by law enforcement because they know that these services are often used to peddle child porn. Don’t get wrapped up in something you are not actively looking for. You have have the police show up at your door.

 

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