That I found an image of what looked like illegal activity and didn't call the police may warrant further investigation into why I didn't call, meaning an investigation into whether or not I was involved myself, but the very fact that I didn't call the police should not be a crime.
I agree. The fact I didn't call should not be a crime, but some legal ground has to be given to allow authorities to investigate. To rate this as a crime is an overkill, but to have something at the same level as witholding the evidence from court (contempt of court) should give grounds for investigation and possible fine, but not full blown criminal case. The only problem with this approach that I know is California. If I recall correctly "three strikes and you're out" policy applies even to minor offenses like jaywalking... but this I see as a problem of California laws in general. This particular case only compunds it.
In the United States, we have a protection against mandatory self-incrimination.
And nowhere in the world can police count on you telling anything if you feel that you have done something questionable in view of the law. I don't exepct that, and I agree that having the picture shouldn't be a crime. Removing the "criminal" part from the equation should enable people to act more in line with their conscience instead in line with their survival instincts.
If the legal environment was such that just having the picture was not a crime, I might agree that we have at least a civic duty (though not a legal duty, in my opinion) to alert the authorities if we thought that doing so would avert further crimes, ...
I agree with this as well, but some legal ground to allow for investigation to proceed should be given. The spirit of any such legislation should be to compell the people to report what they think could prevent or clarify actual crimes, but not legaly require them. I realize the way things stand in USA any such legal requirement would efectivelfy stiffle both sides. You could be doing perfectly legal things, but automation prevents you from actually screening each and every image you have. This would be undue burden. On the other side authorities would be swamped with images that would need to be sorted, evaluated, and linked back to source. Even if there would be any "real things" inside this material, the S-N ratio would be so low nothing could be truly done with the material.
On the other hand you still need to have something to investigate on. You can not be investigated without any legal grounds. If somebody stops illegal production site and obtains the list of all "customers", there should be a way to investigate (interview) those "customers" as some might know of other such production sites. Without the law that gives legal grounds to do this, the authorities can not do anything in this direction. As with every law that enables somebody to invade others' privacy (investigation) it is always tricky to strike the right balance between the needs of society and protections of the individual so I think the debate should concentrate here.
At the most basic level of argument, I don't think people should go to jail just for looking at pictures.
I will state something insidious here. There is a difference between looking and looking at pictures. I hope you know what I think, eventhought I'm not sure I can explain it without resorting to flawed stereotype wording. If you look at the pictures with the goal of satisfying some inner sexual urge, I would be extremely worried. Not that you might one day go out and start doing it, but because you are willing to tolerate others doing it, even if just to get pictures of it. On the other hand you might look at it, see nothing about it, delete it and forget about it. The way things stand today, there is probably some evidence left that you had it, and that you've seen it.
One, IMHO, needs some serious therapy to resolve the issues and should be required to undergo the threapy (I hate it, but can you give me a better proposal?), the other should be left alone. The insidious part is to differentiate between the two. The only way I know is to force both of them to undergo psych. evaluation, but any such evaluation IMHO can't be admissable to court. This science is simply too subjective to be used in determining the fate of person when the wrong choice (and amlost always it is simply a personal choice of evaluator) brings some truly hard consequences for the wrongly accused. I don't know how to pass this obstacle, therefore I don't really see a way to prosecute anyone just for having the pictures. I certainly don't want thought police running around finding shady persons and locking them away.
I will not quote last two paragraphs, as it is too much to quote, but I would still like to comment on them. I will leave alone the harmless part. I think I already commented on it above.
For examples I can say they are both good, and meaningless. Good, because they illustrate how hard it is to legislate moral norms, especialy at the time when these norms can change so quickly. On the other hand, they are meaningless because they truly don't rank in the same league. I think that pedophilia falls out of "moral" league into something completely different. Unfortunately I'm also aware that the same thing was (and even still is) said about sodomy, so the argument itself is flawed. It reflects only my current moral norms, that can never be common for all humanity.
As far as the applicability of the law goes, all laws are local. There are certainly some global agreements, but none of them is applicable to local crime laws and most of applicable agreements only apply when the subject leaves the jurisdiction where the crime was committed. At the end it always comes down to the local legislation to regulate investigations and sanction the perpetrators.
If you see pedophilic picture and feel (in context of your local laws and moral norms) you are able to provide it as a solid evidence, you should be allowed to do so without the fear of incriminating yourself. After that, it is up to the authorities to determine whether the image is a fake, is "old stuff", can help solving a crime, ... They should have power to investigate on such leads which, without the proper law, they don't have. In general they will want to establish (among other things) that you're not planting evidence to somebody else, that you're telling the truth, that you're acting in good faith, that you're not witholding some other information, and most importantly that you're not a pedophile yourself. This is always a hassle, so performing a civic duty will always be a hassle. It is less hassle, when laws are properly written (i.e. having a picture is not a crime, hiding evidence is, ...)
Any law that enables the police to simply arrest and prosecute the one that reports a possible crime without any other investigative work can, will, and is abused by the police, so such laws should be replaced or removed. This one included. On the other hand, you still want do investigate the guy that reported burglary in store... it might be that he was the burglar. In effect this means that every time you report something, you become subject of investigation, but there is no need to get arrested and prosecuted just based on "having a picture on your person" when questioned at police station. This is absurd and bad logic that police affords because of seriously flawed legislation. Not that the subject shouldn't be legislated, I think it should be, but because it is legislated in completely alarmistic, borken, flawed way, that actualy discourages investigations that would actualy find "real" pedophiles that might be even gaining material profits from their crime.
Thank you for your time.
--- To boldly invent more hot water ---
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