What is the “Zombie Computer Defense” in Child Porn Cases?

What is the “Zombie Computer Defense” in Child Porn Cases?

The possession or distribution of child pornography is a serious criminal offense that can result in lifelong consequences. Unfortunately, in some cases, people who have no intent to engage in either find themselves facing serious criminal charges and social ostracization by virtue of having an internet-connected computer. If you are facing child porn charges related to digital files found or distributed by your computer, you should speak to an attorney as soon as you can.

The Possession and Distribution of Child Pornography is Often Digital

In 2023, it’s safe to say that most pornography is shared online – and this holds true for illegal child pornography. That said, because it is illegal, the methods of distribution of child porn differ significantly from that of legal pornography. In many cases, these illicit files are transmitted on the dark web or through peer-to-peer file-sharing networks that run “in the background” unbeknownst to users. In other words, if certain software or a virus is installed on your computer, your computer may be downloading and sharing child porn files without your knowledge.

Zombie Computer Defense  – Lack of Intent or Knowledge

Under Wisconsin Law, offenses related to child pornography require intent or knowledge on the part of the accused. For example, Wisconsin Code Chapter 948.12 criminalizes possessing or accessing with the intent to view media of a child engaged in sexually explicit conduct under all of the following circumstances:

  • The person knows that he or she possesses or has access to the material.
  • The person knows or reasonably should know, that the material that is possessed or accessed contains depictions of sexually explicit conduct.
  • The person knows or reasonably should know that the child depicted in the material who is engaged in sexually explicit conduct has not attained the age of 18 years.

If software on your computer – whether legitimate software or a virus – downloaded files without your knowledge, you would not be guilty of possessing child pornography under this statute.

Of course, the police are not going to give you the benefit of the doubt. If you find yourself in this situation, you should retain an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. An attorney can carefully review the facts of your case and look for evidence that supports your assertion that you were unaware of the child pornography on your computer. Facts that could support your defense include other people having access to your computer, a lack of searches related to child pornography in your search history, or the fact that the software downloading the material was malware that you did not affirmatively install.

Accused of a Crime Related to Child Porn? Call a Waukesha Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

If you have been accused of possessing child pornography, you should speak to an attorney as soon as you can. At Waukesha Criminal Defense, we have what it takes to bring your strongest defense to protect your rights and your future. To schedule a consultation with an attorney, call our office today or contact us online.