Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Primer on Child Pornography Sentences

Ever wonder why mandatory minimum sentences for child pornography crimes are a bad idea?

Well, FAMM has its own brand new primer that answers your questions.

For example, did you know there's a five-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for "receipt" of child pornography ... but no mandatory minimum for "possession" of child pornography?  (If you receive something, don't you also possess it?  So why the difference?)  An increasingly common example:  your 18 year-old son receives a picture of his 16 year-old girlfriend's naked breasts in a text message on his cell phone. Your son could now be looking at a five-year mandatory minimum federal prison term for receipt of child pornography -- and if he forwards the message to a buddy, he could also be facing prison time for distribution of this single image. Clearly, this is not the kind of child pornographer Congress was aiming at, but mandatory minimums treat everyone the same.  It's another classic scenario in which a scary-sounding category of crimes may not actually be as scary in every situation in real life. Judges need sentencing discretion to sort out the teenage sexters from those who are the more serious and threatening child predators.

In one survey, over 70% of federal judges thought the five-year mandatory minimum for these child pornography "receipt" crimes was too long.  And as with all mandatory minimums, the harsh sentence is tied to the charge -- so a prosecutor, not a judge, decides what your punishment will be, just by deciding what to charge you with.  You're lucky if you're charged with "possession"; not so lucky if you're charged with "receipt."  And you can't challenge or appeal that charging decision, either -- which means you and the judge are stuck with the mandatory minimum.

Child pornography, to be sure, is something we want less of in our society.  But we shouldn't sacrifice individualized justice even in these cases.  As in all cases, the facts, circumstances, and offenders in child pornography cases are unique -- and they deserve a punishment that fits and is fair, not a one-size-fits-all sentence that steals judges' power to do justice.

3 Comments:

Miz Kizzle said...

It's a disgrace that downloading child pornography on the internet -- in other words LOOKING at an image posted by some unknown person -- nets a far more severe penalty than sexually molesting a child.
The argument that looking at online child pornography leads to child molestation is no more valid than saying that men who are devotees of Playboy will go on to rape adult women.
Add the fact that many defendents in these cases have no prior criminal record and are breadwinners with families depending on them, the end result of the Justice Department's prosection of these defendants tears families apart and plunges children into poverty.
The reality is that it is far easier to catch someone downloading CP online than it is to track down the people who are doing the hands-on abusing.
Our government would serve the public far better by eliminating mandatory minimums for CP and let judges impose appropriate penalties.

Anonymous said...

Participating in child pornography is child molestation. Would you stand and watch a child be molested in "real" life? Well, every time some one views child pornography it is the same as standing by and watching while an innocent child is raped and sexually exploited. It is a spineless argument that simply viewing child pornography isn't as bad as hands on abuse. That fact that any one would view child pornography and think that they weren't participating in child molestation is a farce. The whole reason these innocent children have to endure the exploitation by sick and twisted adults who make this filth for other sick and twisted adults who view it is one and the same. It is the perverts who view this that generate the exploitation process. Every time a child is sexually exploited, their life is taken. Their childhood taken. The public is best served by enforcing mandatory minimums and I think we out to castrate every last SOB that receives and possesses child pornography. It is just as bad as committing murder. Any one who has suffered the horrific ramifications of child sexual abuse has had their life taken without actually dying. The traumatic event is carried by the child throughout their life, never to be erased no matter how much therapy received. That is a life sentence. I have little tolerance for people that feel sympathy for child predators and a person that views child porn is a child sexual predator. Abused children suffer the repercussions for the rest of their lives. So if we are really going to be fair, the mandatory minimum for child sexual predators needs to be a life sentence rotting in prison.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anoymous....
Can't wait till someone in your family opens up a file that is mislabeled or looks for a music video that is mislabeled and contains Child Porn.... Then we can watch as your family spends their life rotting n prison....... Or you get a malware bot on your computer then you will be singing a much different tune. It's very easy to come across Child porn on the internet without even looking for it...