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Study shows disparity in child pornography sentences

It doesn't matter what type of crime it is. Whether it's a sex offense, a robbery or some other crime, sentences are supposed to be fair, in the sense that the punishment fits the crime. Under federal sentencing guidelines, a sentence should therefore be based on the severity of the crime, as well as the number of previous convictions someone may have had.

A new study by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, however, has found significant sentencing disparities for in child pornography cases. In a report to Congress last week, the commission concluded that sentences in Internet crime cases involving pornography failed to properly distinguish the degrees of severity.

In other words, sentences in child pornography cases tend to be of the one-size-fits-all type. The sentences often fail to take sufficient account of differences in factors that include:

• How much illicit material an offender had on his computer

• What types of sexual conduct were portrayed in the images

• Ages of the victims

• How long an offender has been collecting the images

•· Degree of involvement with others on the Internet regarding child pornography

Far too often, the sentencing commission report found, offenders with significant differences based on these factors receive sentences that are more similar than they should be.

As a result, some people convicted of sex offenses may receive harsher sentences than is really justified under the law.

Meanwhile, the average length of federal prison sentences in child pornography cases has nearly doubled in the last ten years. In round numbers, the average sentence for possession of child pornography is now five years.

Source: "Study: Sentencing in child porn cases uneven," The Washington Post, Pete Yost, 2-28-13

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post in the St. Louis area. To learn more about our practice, please visit our page on sex charges defense.

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