News
 
Varghese Summersett
5
5
5
5
5

Illegal Internet Search Attorney

When Is An Internet Search Illegal in Texas?

Google averaged 8.5 billion searches a day in 2022. That’s nearly 100,000 Internet searches every second. Anyone with a smartphone – just about everyone these days – has the information superhighway at their fingertips and access to almost anything. We search everything from directions to a restaurant to movie showtimes to the latest news on our favorite team. Some Internet searches, however, are illegal and could land you in trouble with law enforcement. In some cases, just searching certain topics could result in an arrest and legal issues.

If you are being investigated for an Internet computer crime, contact an experienced illegal internet search attorney as soon as possible. The team at Varghese Summersett includes Board Certified criminal defense attorneys with unmatched success for over three decades in North Texas.

What is illegal to search on the Internet in Texas?

Most of us know that possessing pornographic material involving juveniles under age 18 is against the law. And viewing child pornography online is against the law.

However, just searching for child porn on the Internet can be enough to result in a search warrant being executed at your home, or even an arrest. That’s right, just searching for underage pornography without viewing it can be enough for law enforcement to arrest you. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t download illegal material. An active search for child porn could indicate your intent to view or possess child porn to law enforcement officials. Police can use your search history to establish intent or conspiracy to commit a worse offense like possession of child pornography.

A Specific Example of Nationwide Arrests Without Proof of Downloading Illicit Materials

The Playpen investigation involved a child pornography trafficking site that was accessible through Tor, a network designed to anonymize internet usage. During the investigation, the FBO took control of the server and deployed a network investigative technique (NIT) to identify users who accessed the site instead of shutting it down. This technique allowed them to collect the IP addresses and the MAC addresses, host names, and operating systems of the machines that accessed the server.

The use of NIT was significant because it did not require the suspects to download any material to be identified. Accessing the server through Tor was enough for the FBI to capture the necessary information to trace the users. Individuals who merely accessed the site could be identified and were subsequently arrested without the need for them to have downloaded any illegal content. The legal argument was that by accessing the server, users demonstrated intent to engage with the prohibited material, which was enough for law enforcement to make nationwide arrests.

The topics you search and view online, including illegal material, are usually stored in your Internet browser cache. Legally, that can be categorized as possessing child pornography. The laws against child porn at the Federal and Texas levels are severe and can result in lengthy prison terms. Hiring a well-respected illegal internet search attorney is indispensable for a favorable outcome.

Illegal internet searches example

What is the Texas law on possessing or promoting child porn?

Texas Penal Code Sec. 43.26 addresses the possession or promotion of child pornography.

According to Texas law, an offense is committed if:

“the person knowingly or intentionally possesses or knowingly or intentionally accesses with intent to view, visual material that visually depicts a child under age 18 at the time the image was made who is engaging in sexual conduct.
AND
“the person knows that the material depicts the child as described” above.

What if I accidentally viewed child pornography?

Technically, inadvertently viewing illegal pornographic images or videos online is not a crime, but you could be forced to prove it was accidental if investigated by law enforcement.

Of course, child pornography, or at least material that could be construed as child porn, is sometimes viewed accidentally by Internet users searching for what otherwise is considered legal pornography involving adults. Under these circumstances, a person being investigated for a computer sex crime would be forced to explain how the viewing was accidental. This can be challenging to show and embarrassing and requires an illegal internet search attorney well-versed in cybercrime cases.

What if I’m accused of viewing child porn online?

If someone accuses you of viewing child pornography online, consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Even if viewing the material was unintentional, having a lawyer guide you through an investigation is integral. Your future and freedom are too important. A child porn-related conviction could result in years in prison, hefty fines, and other collateral consequences.

If law enforcement officials open an investigation, they will likely confiscate your computers, smartphone, and other electronic devices. Investigators will examine your search history, stored files, and all of your online activities.

Take note: If you didn’t search for the alleged illegal material that instigated the investigation, any previous suspicious search history could be used against you. That’s another reason why seeking counsel from a top illegal internet search attorney is so important.

What about other illegal searches and material online?

Searches related to terrorism or acts of public violence often draw the attention of law enforcement and initiate an investigation and possible arrest.

It doesn’t matter if the person ever acted on the search material. If officials believe the person intends to carry out an act of terrorism or another illegal act, it could result in criminal charges. Certain internet searches could alarm law enforcement that illegal activity could be pending and start investigating.

Search topics such as illegally modifying weapons or creating explosives could be enough to put you in the crosshairs of law enforcement.

If you suspect you’re being investigated by law enforcement for your online activity, consult with an illegal internet search attorney. Don’t wait to be arrested. Contact Varghese Summersett.

What actions online are illegal in Texas?

The Texas Penal Code includes specific internet crimes, including the following:

  • Hiring a person for illicit or criminal purposes
  • Solicitation of a minor
  • Catfishing
  • Phishing
  • Torrent downloading copyrighted material
  • Online harassment
  • Impersonation
  • Breaching computer security
  • Unlawful decryption

What Internet material breaks Federal law?

States have different definitions of what constitutes illegal online content.

Federal law, however, spells it out for the entire country. Some Internet searches violate both federal and state laws.

Federal law prohibits searching the internet for the following:

  • Video and images of child sexual abuse or exploitation
  • Promoting terrorism or advocating terrorist acts
  • Promoting, inciting, or instructing crime or violence
  • Video and images of real violence, cruelty, and criminal activity

Internet crimes are defined in federal statutes, including the following:

Whether you’re facing state or federal charges, a conviction could bring severe consequences. Promptly consult with an illegal internet search attorney.

Is visiting a website that hosts child porn illegal?

Even if you didn’t intend to go to the site or did not know what it contained, it could still be grounds for a crime. Possession of child pornography does not have an intent element. Law enforcement can use your unique Internet Protocol address (typically referred to as your IP address) to trace your search and download behavior. If police find what they believe to be illegal internet activity, you could be arrested. If you are being accused of such, a dedicated illegal internet search attorney will offer a strategy to protect your freedom and your reputation.

What are the penalties for internet crimes in Texas?

Texas law prohibits producing, distributing, or possessing media depicting a person under age 18 engaging in sexual conduct.

What is considered sexual conduct? Texas law defines it as actual or simulated intercourse, masturbation, deviate sexual intercourse, sexual bestiality, lewd exhibition of the genitals, anus, or female breast, and sadomasochistic abuse.

Viewing or possessing child pornography is a third-degree felony in Texas. A conviction is punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. Your freedom is at stake. You need a tough illegal internet search attorney fighting for your rights.

If you have a prior child porn conviction, it’s a second-degree felony, punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Any subsequent conviction for child porn could result in a maximum sentence of 99 years.
The penalties for online sex crimes depend on the specific type of crime, the nature of the victim, and whether the defendant has a criminal history.

The penalties for Texas’ most common online sex crime charges include the following:

Class B misdemeanor: Maximum 180 days in jail, $2,000 fine
Class A misdemeanor: Maximum one year in jail, $4,000 fine
Third-degree felony: Two to 10 years in prison, $10,000 fine
Second-degree felony: Two to 20 years in prison, $10,000 fine
First-degree felony: Five years to life in prison, $10,000 fine

What are defense strategies against computer crime charges in Texas?

An experienced illegal internet search attorney will use every possible defense strategy at their disposal to defend their client. In the case of computer or online crimes, the defense could include the following:

Unaware: Some online computer crimes require that the defendant knew and intended to do what they did to be charged and convicted.

Identity theft: The defendant’s online identity or computer was hacked with a virus. According to antivirus software company McAfee, the online identity of 15 million Americans was stolen in 2021.

Coercion: The defendant was forced to commit a computer crime under threat of harm to themselves or a family member.

Have you been charged with computer crime? Call us.

Prosecutors often seek the maximum penalty for internet sex crimes, especially ones involving child pornography. Just being implicated in such a crime can ruin a person’s reputation and destroy lives. That’s why contacting an illegal internet search attorney at Varghese Summersett is vital.

Police need a warrant before searching your home or property. Make them get one, and don’t answer any questions without a lawyer. Contact one of our sex crimes defense lawyers. Cybercrime cases can be complicated and require experienced criminal defense attorneys with a strong understanding of the internet and computing. Our team has unmatched success in North Texas, defending clients in such cases. For a complimentary consultation with one of our attorneys, call us at 817-203-2220.

Varghese Summersett is a premier criminal defense firm based in Fort Worth, Texas. Our attorneys focus exclusively on criminal law and represent clients charged with crimes at both the state and federal level. We handle everything from DWI to capital murder to white collar crime. Collectively, our attorneys bring together more than 100 years of criminal law experience and have tried more than 550 cases before Texas juries. All of our senior attorneys served as former state or federal prosecutors and four are Board Certified in Criminal law, the highest designation an attorney can reach. We are the firm people turn to when the stakes are high and they are facing the biggest problem in their lives. - Contact Varghese at  
Related Posts