Billions of people use search engines such as Google every day to look up information, videos, local businesses, and more. Most searches conducted are fairly innocent and will not attract the interest of federal authorities, such as the FBI. Unfortunately, there are some search terms that could catch their attention, and that may even leave you facing federal criminal charges. It is important to know what these search terms are, as even just searching for mere interest’s sake may not provide a valid defense.

Child Pornography

Generally speaking, viewing pornography online is not a criminal act. However, when pornographic material depicts children under the age of 18, it is considered child pornography, a federal offense that state and federal law enforcement officials take very seriously. Searching for child pornography, even if you do not view it, may also be considered a crime as those searches will remain in your history and could technically mean that you were in possession of the material.

In some cases, a person may view pornographic material depicting children by accident. Still, proving your actions were accidental is extremely challenging.

Other Illegal Searches

Although child pornography may be the most commonly thought of search that is illegal, there are other terms that are considered illegal as well. Any term related to terrorist acts, such as how to build a bomb, are also flagged by federal authorities and are heavily investigated. Agencies such as the FBI will likely look at the rest of your search history to try and determine if you were engaging in illegal activity.

Copyright material is also found extensively online. In fact, most of the content online is protected by federal law. Streaming this material or downloading it to your computer is also considered a criminal offense, as it violates federal law.

Penalties for Illegal Searches

The penalties for conducting an illegal search, if convicted, will vary depending on the actual offense committed. Child pornography and searches related to terrorism acts carry the heaviest sentences, with jail time and high fines likely possibilities. Many people think that violating copyright law may not be a major offense, but that crime too, can result in heavy penalties. Fines associated with violating copyright law are quite steep, and it is possible to face jail time, as well.

Any time someone is accused of conducting an illegal search, their computer will likely be seized so law enforcement can delve deeper into their history. Individuals will also be questioned extensively, and perhaps even pressured or coerced into admitting that they committed an act when they did no such thing.

Our Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer is Here to Help

Few people consider that conducting a search online could result in criminal charges. Unfortunately, it happens all too frequently. If you have been accused of conducting an illegal online search and are facing charges, call our skilled Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel today. Attorney Garfinkel knows that not everyone charged with a federal crime is guilty, and he has the necessary experience to help defendants beat the most serious federal charges. Call us at 312-270-0999 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about how he can help.


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