Few criminal cases come across our desks presenting more paradoxical facts than those involving the possession or distribution of child sexually abusive material (CSAM). Setting aside for a moment the most serious versions of CSAM felonies in Michigan—those involving the production of this type of content—it is worth mentioning that these cases are far more complicated than most prosecutors and computer crimes units across the state will admit.
Mas/Stig-Nielsen’s attorneys have worked with clients in Grand Traverse County and elsewhere who have had their doors kicked in by the police, their electronics seized and their freedom curtailed. Generally, individuals charged with CSAM and related computer crimes are not permitted to use the internet while on bond pending trial.
We know that individuals charged with possession and distribution of CSAM are usually not the monsters that the news and the Government makes them out to be. More often than not, these individuals are lonely, shy and confused. Many would never dream of harming a child and several generate low scores when evaluated with modern psychological risk assessment tools.
There is a troubling, demonstrable trend of those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) being prosecuted for CSAM possession. Those who have studied this topic suggest it may be due to a combination of an ASD individual’s obsession with collecting, coupled with a “frozen” image of self that does not correspond to the individual’s age and an equally immature sexual curiosity. To be clear, being on the autism spectrum does not in any way make a person more likely to possess CSAM. However, it has been demonstrated that those on the spectrum may not share the criminal and predatory culpability of other individuals who are caught with CSAM.
In today’s virtual world there are also many individuals who unintentionally possess only portions of these criminal images because they have downloaded other content, such as music, games or Hollywood movies using bit torrent software. Law enforcement regularly engages in invasive drag net style operations in which innocent computer users are caught along with culpable individuals.
It takes a combination of technical, psychological and legal knowledge to effectively defend against CSAM offenses. Our attorneys have represented clients from all walks of life who have been charged with CSAM felonies in Michigan. We have challenged search warrants and other acts of government overreach, sought treatment for clients and educated prosecutors and judges about defendants’ individual histories and backgrounds.
Whatever the case may be, being charged with CSAM felonies in Michigan is frightening and devastating. You may feel more alone than ever, embarrassed and alienated from your friends and family. We will stand by you, even when your mother won’t. Together with Mas/Stig-Nielsen you can start to forge a path back to normalcy.