What to Do If You Accidentally Viewed Child Pornography?

In Minnesota, all sex crime is considered very serious, but none more than sexual acts with or depicting children. Yet, not everyone who views child pornography is guilty of “viewing” it, so to speak. There is a lot lewd material on the internet, and not everyone can be sure that what they are viewing is legal and aboveboard.

As child pornography is almost always distributed through the internet, a number of people find themselves at risk for accidentally viewing it. You might clear your browsing history and take other precautions, but once you view it, then it is hard to get rid of the trail that links it to you. It is for this reason that you can find yourself facing criminal charges for what is actually an accidental sex crime.


Fortunately for many accidental viewers, in order to be convicted of child pornography in Minnesota, the prosecutor must prove that you knowingly viewed the illegal material. It needs to be proved that you had reasonable knowledge that you were viewing a minor engaging in sexual activity. The way the law is worded, using nomenclature like “reasonable knowledge,” actually makes it so “accidentally” viewing an image is a legitimate defense for this sex crime.

Common defenses for the accidental viewing of child pornography include:

  • You did not know the material was depicting minors – There are many producers of pornography that have employees that are legal age, but made up to look younger. If you were looking for that specifically, it looks bad for your reputation but it is an easy set up for accidental viewing.
  • Someone else was using your computer – If your computer is in a common area and you have roommates or family that lives with you, this can easily be argued. However, if you live alone, it is unlikely to fly that someone else was using your computer. Furthermore, it can be messy business attempting to place the blame with someone else. It may not be an avenue that you want to personally pursue.
  • It was made to seem legal – If you go to a particular site to view these images, then you have a certain expectation that the content is going to be legal. However, some sites accept many submissions from different sources, meaning an illegal image can sneak in.

One potential hang up to any of these defenses is the act of downloading. Most files should be clearly labeled before downloading so you know what you are getting. If it was clearly labeled to be illegal material, then clicking it and downloading it is seen as an intentional act which can be used as proof. This means that the prosecutor can argue that you knowingly engaged in illegal activity, thus your accidental viewing defense is invalid.

This is often where accidental viewing becomes difficult. If your lawyer begins to argue that you didn’t mean to view it, there are a lot of ways a prosecutor can argue that you did. As whether you meant to view illegal material can be somewhat vague, and it makes your case more difficult. However, this is a defense that can work if done correctly.


Have you been arrested for child pornography or any other sexual crime in Minnesota? Sex crimes carry not only serious punishments, but a serious social stigma as well. This is why you want to fight these charges with the best possible legal representation at your side. If you have been arrested for child pornography or any other sex crime, contact us today. Let Speas Law Firm fight for you and to make sure you get the best possible outcome.