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Computer Expert Witnesses - How They Can Help in a Child Pornography Case

Many child pornography cases involve computers and hiring a computer expert witness is crucial to help prove or disprove the matter. The professional will perform many checks on the involved computing devices, analyze data from deleted files and assess internet connections to certain chat rooms, browser history and other tasks.

Analyzing the Computer

In the child pornography case, when the defendant claims he or she did not search for or download the illegal content, it is important to search through the computer. An expert is able to both examine and browse through the entire machine for all related content to the child pornography case. Many that have these files that face similar trial cases are innocent because of the lack of intent in receiving illicit images of someone under the age of majority. However, the expert who analyzes the computer can usually discover if the intent was present.

The Type of Evidence

There are multiple ways to use the evidence against the defending party. There are also numerous ways to prove that the intention to download child pornography was not within these incidents. Generally, the evidence will speak for and help defend the accused.
If the pornography is within another file, hidden inside another picture or within a group of files never opened, this usually expresses a computer virus or someone maliciously spreading the materials to others that are truly innocent. Similar items may exist in an opened but never revealed state such as hidden pictures that exist underneath the code of the original picture.

Working Through the Evidence

Depending on what the expert finds, he or she may discover that the defending party is innocent because none of the child pornography on the computer or other computing device was open at any point. When downloading certain files from the internet, it is possible to not know that other files carry over and are in various folders. The user can then have the pornography on the computer but never intend to download it or even look at it. This evidence then usually works in favor of the defendant through a lack of intention. The expert assists in increasing this argument.

Proving the Connection

The prosecution will attempt to prove that the defending party did knowingly download the child images or video with the intent to use it for his or her own means or to distribute it to others. Proving this connection between the materials and the intent is difficult and places the burden on the prosecuting lawyer. The expert can convince the courtroom judge or jury panel that the intent does not exist based on the type of evidence and how it remains on the computer. Some areas of the device will remain inactive or without knowledge by many users. When the file is never open at any point, the user may have little knowledge that it even exists.

The Lack of Intent

One of the strongest defenses against possession of child pornography is the lack of intent to possess or distribute. Possession charges usually occur when there is one or a few images on the device. Distribution charges often happen when there are several on the computer or in the home. If the accused confirms and sticks to his or her story that the images were never intended in any manner, this could bolster a defense for the lack of intent behind the charges. An expert witness may corroborate this through analyzing the computer and determining that no activity on the device shows an intent to download, transfer or receive such material.

The expert may also discover that any images of younger individuals are not what they appear. Through analyzing and examining the pictures, video or other material, the professional may discover that the actors or participants are not below the age of majority in the specific state. This could lead to a full dismissal of the case when proven by the expert and corroborated by crosschecking the personal details of the person in the image.

The Expert’s Testimony in the Child Pornography Case

Working with the criminal defense lawyer, the expert will provide testimony that has a foundation with the defensive strategy used by the accused party. The details the professional provides during the examination on the stand usually support the defense through a lack of intent or that the actor or participant is not under the age. The computer expert can increase the strength of the defense significantly with his or her testimony.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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