Capital Sex Crimes Defense Attorney Peter D Aiken
Ever since the Feds shut down Craigslist Casual Encounters and Backpage.com there has been a shift in the types of sex crime investigations, particularly here in Sarasota, Northport and Bradenton.
Local law enforcement has shifted its focus from Internet sex stings to investigating and prosecuting child pornography. The sad truth is that transmission of child pornography could be stopped or at least reduced by 95% by simply blocking its transmission. We need more crime prevention, instead of imprisoning men for looking at pictures or videos.
The State attorney in Sarasota and Manatee has a policy of filing as many charges as possible and seeking as long a sentence as is allowed in child pornography. There is a mistaken belief that men who look at kiddie porn images go on to commit crimes against children. In almost every case here in Sarasota, the State Attorney files 40 counts of second degree felonies. That runs up the sentencing guidelines, and runs up the punishment to 20 to 50 years in prison, simply for looking at something on a computer. So far, the judges have gone along with this policy and have imposed incredibly harsh sentences that constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Many of the men arrested are mentally challenged or have some degree of autism. I have represented many autistic defendants and have found that most of the prosecutors simply do not understand this mental condition. The police for sure do not, and target the low hanging fruit, in making unnecessary and often cruel arrests.
Sadly, many criminal defense lawyers do not understand how to defend a person with Autism. Often, the person has not been formally diagnosed with autism and has been simply run through the education system as a “special needs” student. Everyone knew he has a problem but no one ever formally diagnosed it. Defending the mentally challenged person is a challenge itself.
Why not just stop child porn transmission? Law enforcement routinely gets reports from the Internet providers each and every time a child pornography image is sent or received. Each child porn image has a “fingerprint” called a “hash value”. Law enforcement knows the second it is sent. Why not just pass a law that blocks it instead of letting it go through?
Instead, the police identify the IP address and the computer “signature” and set about to prosecute rather than prevent. The police have a program that allows them to secretly target a person’s IP address and to secretly enter a person’s computer and download images. They can view and download the child pornography image at the exact moment the person is receiving it. The police may get the image even before the person sees it. The person may have never even seen it by the time they get arrested. All of this could be prevented
As a child pornography criminal defense lawyer I have tried to educate the State Attorney and the local judges as to the terrible inequities of the harsh policy presently being followed. It is my personal belief that many of the men who look at this stuff do so because of sexual abuse they suffered as a child. It is a treatable illness that needs treatment, not imprisonment.
Crime prevention is more important than crime detection and crime punishment. If you prevent it, you don’t need to detect it or prosecute it.