Alexandria, VA criminal defense attorney Chris Leibig talks about his experience in handling cyber crime cases.
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When you say cyber crimes what I think of are two things mostly. One is a crime called internet solicitation. That is when someone is on the internet chatting with or attempting to meet or eventually meeting someone, an underage person for sex. Almost all the time that’s a police detective posing as an underage person for sex and that’s called internet solicitation. In Virginia and in federal court the penalties for that are extremely high especially, even in cases where someone never left their home and was merely chatting on the internet. Because even proposing a sexual act to someone who you have a reason to believe is a minor can carry depending on the age difference, five years of mandatory jail time and it can carry even more than that because people are, again, afraid of these kinds of cases.
One thing I’ve definitely learned about that kind of a case is that it’s quite common that a person charged with that has some sort of emotional or mental disability. It might be something as simple as depression but very commonly it’s something more than that such as a person who’s on the autism spectrum who has some liabilities in social interaction. And thus, sort of gets sucked into this internet world but was never going to actually do anything. And so bringing all of that mitigation to bear on the case is very, very important.
The second kind of case I think about when you say cyber crimes is child pornography. This is all over the place, every jurisdiction especially federal court has many of those going on in any one time. Again, this is almost always a case where someone committed the offense while sitting at home on a computer. And the child pornography that actually gets charged in court is usually pretty bad. That is the images are bad and disturbing to almost anyone. However, again, the clients that get into that usually you find once doing a psychological evaluation of them that they’re not a danger to anyone. The harm that’s caused by the child pornography is when it is produced. That’s when children are victimized. And quite often people who are sort of in an internet addiction looking at lots of pornography and some child pornography they sort of get caught up in this world where they don’t realize it’s even real or that someone had to be harmed to create it.
And so, you know sometimes to me, these clients are very compelling, they’re good people, they didn’t mean to hurt anyone. They were never going to hurt anyone in the way most people would look at that. And again, the penalties are extremely high. And so, another thing about them is its usually the case that the evidence against someone in a child pornography case is very strong. And that’s because there’s digital evidence showing what was on their computer, when it was viewed, and most people when confronted by the police or FBI about that admit it. These usually aren’t people that have a long record, they’ve never been confronted by the police before, and they apologize and say yes, I did look at that. What they don’t realize is that could mean five, 10, 15 years in prison. So those cases are very challenging like that.
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