This week, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that looking at child pornography online does not amount to criminal possession or procurement of the pictures. Instead, in order to amount to possession or procurement, an individual must take an action in regards to the pictures, such as printing, saving or downloading.
The ruling was in response to a case involving a former college professor whose computer was found to contain pornographic images of a child. The images were found during a virus scan the professor requested because his computer was running slowly. The professor appealed his sentence.
The Court of Appeals upheld his conviction, finding that he was properly convicted because he had downloaded, saved, and deleted over 100 images. However, some images that were on his computer could not be held against him under law, because they were simply automatically stored from sites he had viewed in the past in his Internet cache. The Court found the prosecution failed to prove the professor even knew about the cache feature. The professor claimed that the images were for a potential research project on child pornography regulation.
In making the ruling, the judges agreed that child pornography is despicable, but they did not agree that it was necessary to criminalize all child pornography to the maximum extent possible. The court agreed that the criminalization of pornography is for the Legislature to decide, not the courts.
There’s no doubt that child sex crimes are horrendous. However, in many cases the defendant is not guilty of the behavior of which he or she is accused. Child witnesses are often unreliable, and the prosecution may be eager to severely punish the defendant because of public sentiment.