Sites such as BitTorrent, BearShare, Gnutella, Shareza, Ares, eMule, Limewire, and Kazaa, are file sharing sites called Peer to Peer (P2P) networks. They are used for the sharing of files, such as videos, music, photos, and movies. Peer to Peer sharing allows users to create index to share from their computer with other people across the world. This network is created without the use of a central server (which can be shut down). This means people in Arapahoe, Denver, and Jefferson County can search an enormous network of files for content they want. Often, this content is sexually explicit material depicting children. The possession or creation of this illegal pornography is called Sexual Exploitation of a Child – a sex offense in Colorado.
The Ease of Finding Images Leads to Greater Prosecution
Pornography involving children is a hot topic right now. In 2003, the government did an in-depth study on how easy it is to find sexual photos of kids. Law enforcement agencies in Adams, Douglas, and El Paso County have developed strategies to find people who download such material – more and more people are being charged with Sexual Exploitation of a Child. A person will be charged if they create, possess, or distribute (such as making them available to others on P2P networks) such images or videos. A conviction of this crime results in:
- Possible prison time
- Sex offender treatment
- Sex offender probation
- Sex offender registration
How Peer to Peer Users are Tracked Down by the Police
Peer to Peer networks are closely monitored by the police. They do this by identifying and tracing illegal materials based on a few key elements:
- Responses to search queries
- File hash values
Each file has a “fingerprint” – a specific set of numbers called a hash value. Police officers in Denver, Littleton, and Aurora keep a database of known illegal files in a national database of thousands of hash values. When a file is made available using a Peer to Peer network such as Limewire or eMule, sheriff’s deputies in Boulder, Jackson, and Washington County identify the location of the person downloading the files by finding their Internet Service Provider (ISP). Search warrants are then obtained to confiscate all the computers and electronic devices in the person’s home where the download occurred.
The internet isn’t anonymous – it is closely monitored by the police.
The Internet isn’t Anonymous: Be Wary
We are contacted by people all the time who have been arrested for Sexual Exploitation of a Child. They often think the internet is an anonymous place where they can download what they want without repercussion. Nothing is further from the truth. The internet is closely monitored by police officers throughout Colorado who get grants from the government specifically for keeping an eye on Peer to Peer networks. Continued funding is based on results – or arrests. Once a specific hash value from the database is downloaded, it is a few minutes work to check the ISP registration and knock on the door of the person who downloaded the illegal media. And, judges are quick to issue search warrants in Sexual Exploitation cases. Once the police knock on someone’s door with a search warrant, they can confiscate any electronic device or digital storage hardware to search closely. The internet is far from anonymous. Keep this in mind when you visit P2P networks – the police are watching with sophisticated systems to track down anyone who uploads or downloads sexually explicit material involving children.
Peer to Peer Downloading Got You in Trouble? Why You Need a Lawyer
If you downloaded illegal images on a Peer to Peer file sharing site and have been contacted by the police, do these two things immediately:
- Exercise your right to remain silent – don’t talk to the police about anything.
- Contact an unbeatable criminal defense lawyer immediately.
The criminal justice system is brutal when it comes to sex crimes involving children. You need an advocate by your side if you have been charged with Sexual Exploitation of a Child. There are defenses to this crime, but you must be silent and contact a lawyer who knows how to utilize the tools available to protect your future. Don’t stand alone in the courtroom – work with an accomplished attorney who fights to win.