Downloading Pornographic Material Constitutes Possession, Not Producing

Eggleston Township Treasurer Brian Lee Hill is free after more than three years in prison Hicks was sentenced to “time served” on charges of “possessing” child-pornography with a requirement that he complete “targeted sex offender therapy” and maintain, or at least be searching for, full-time employment. His sentence was reduced from “producing” child pornography, a felony carrying with it a 20-year sentence to “possessing” child pornography, a 4-year felony.

In a precedent setting decision, the Michigan Supreme Court determined that when someone downloads information from the internet for his or her own personal use it constitutes possession, not producing or manufacturing. This case has widespread implications in a variety of areas, affecting the legal ramifications of downloading any type of material from the internet.

As a result of this decision, Hill was freed on “time served.”

Often laws written before the explosion of personal computers, internet usage and cell phones have unintentional consequences when applied to modern day life. Here, the Supreme Court examined legislative intent and determined that the statutory scheme did not support imprisoning someone for a significant amount of time where it wasn’t clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused intended to distribute the materials. The court explained “It is clear that the Legislature intended only that defendant could be convicted of the 4-year felony of knowingly possessing child sexually abusive material…Those who copy or duplicate existing prohibited images do not produce or make child sexually abusive material … rather, they are only in possession of it.”

Unfortunately in many situations law enforcement officers seek convictions on activities that do not fit within the original legislative intent. As a result, it is critical to obtain a knowledgeable and aggressive sex crimes defense attorney at once if you’ve been charged with a Michigan sex crime to fight for your future and ensure you don’t become the victim of overzealous prosecution.

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