There Is Hope

Trend in Courts Being More Lenient in Child Porn Sentences

Sentences are simply too harsh, despite the facts of these cases. And they're too extreme from one end to the other, even in similar cases, with people accused of the same type of offense. Federal judges-some of them, anyway-are starting to see the federal sentencing guidelines as being a little heavy-handed.

This trend of federal judges going easier on defendants is, without a doubt, a very good thing for those accused and their concerned family members.

The Sentencing Commission's Multi-Year Study Finds Problems

The U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2012 published a study of sentences for child pornography offenses around the country. What did the Commission find? In its own words: "[A] growing number of courts believe that the current sentencing scheme in non-production offenses is overly severe for some offenders."

Also, as per the Commission, many of the "enhancements"-those factors that make potential punishment worse-apply to almost everyone and thus "fail to differentiate among offenders in terms of their culpability."

In other words, the enhancements often apply across the board to all people accused of child pornography offenses, no matter what kind of offense. You can be accused of simple possession. You can be accused of the more serious charge of production or distribution. It doesn't matter - which is exactly the problem.

And federal judges are starting to recognize that.

What to Make of This Trend?

In the words of the Commission:

"[O]ffenders with no criminal history who were sentenced in fiscal year 2010 revealed substantial sentencing disparities resulting from how they were charged and sentenced under the guidelines. On average, offenders convicted of possession but who knowingly received child pornography were sentenced to a term of 52 months of imprisonment, while on average similarly situated offenders convicted of receipt were sentenced to a term of 81 months of imprisonment. On average, offenders convicted of possession but who distributed child pornography in exchange for other child pornography received a sentence of 78 months, while similarly situated offenders convicted of distribution received an average sentence of 132 months."

The Commission knows that there's a serious problem when it comes to fairness in sentencing, and in all likelihood so does the federal judge.

So here is what to make of this trend: Even if the worst possible thing has happened to you or your loved one-the federal authorities have made an arrest on child pornography charges-it's possible to make a good case for leniency.

It's possible, in other words, for people like me-criminal defense lawyers who practice in the federal courts and have experience defending people against federal child pornography charges-to get a better result, a better outcome, than otherwise.

It's a good reason to know that not all hope is lost.