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Federal Child Porn Sentencing Guidelines

ARE THE FEDERAL SENTENCING GUIDELINES IMPOSED FOR THE OFFENSE OF POSSESSION OF CHILD PORN A PRODUCT OF POLITICS NOT
EMPIRICAL DATA AND STUDY ?

What are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?

By:
In imposing sentences in Federal Court judges are required to consider the advisory sentencing guidelines adopted by the United States Sentencing Commission. The Commission (comprised of sentencing experts) is charged with developing guidelines based upon study and analysis of empirical data and national experience. The objective of the guidelines is to provide the court with reliable guidance in calculating a sentence that is sufficient, but not greater then is necessary to effectuate the purposes of the section 3553(a) sentencing factors. Such an objective can only be achieved when the guidelines are the product of empirical data and national experience, guided by a professional staff with appropriate expertise. United States vs. Arrelucea-Zamudio, 581 F.3d 142 at 155 n.12 (3d Cir. 2009).

How were the Guidelines for Possession of Child Pornography developed ?

However, in the case of the guidelines used in child porn cases, they were not developed pursuant to the Sentencing Commission’s characteristic institutional role, but instead were adopted to serve the political interest of certain segments of Congress. For instance, in 1991
the Sentencing Commission, through its expertise, use of empirical date and national experience, assigned the offense of possession of child porn to level 10 on the guidelines. A level 10 has a sentence range of between 6 to 12 months in prison. According to the reports of the Commission, without the input of the Commission’s expert analysis Congress instructed the Commission to raise the level to 13, (12 to 18 months in prison) and then to 15 (18 to 24 months in prison). Against the Commission’s advice, in 2004 Congress again raised the offense level to its current level of 18 (27 to 33 months in prison).

Can the Guidelines go even higher then the level assigned to the offense ?

It is important to keep in mind that what we are talking about here is only the starting point in determining the actual sentence. The basic offense levels can be, and are almost always, increased by the application of a number of sentencing enhancements that can be added to the offense level substantially increasing the sentencing range applied. Many of these enhancements have also been forced upon the Sentencing Commission by Congress. The enhancements routinely place persons convicted of one count of possession into a sentencing range at or above a level 27. A level 27 range is 70 to 87 months in prison. The increases in the offense levels from 10 to18 was established by congressional directives based upon a political agenda and not as the result of the study by the Commission’s experts of the available empirical data and national experience.

How would you want your loved one to be treated ?

Many people argue that, do to the seriousness of the offense involving children, the ends justify the means. One can certainly understand this thinking. However, that is not the position of the people who have had a family members or friends facing a possession charge. Those people, regardless of their political or religious starting point, are united in their hope and belief that the people they care about will be treated fairly in our court system. That means that the guidelines considered in their case, like the guidelines established for all other offenses, should be based upon expert analysis and study and not on a political agenda. That is the only way to assure them that the sentence imposed on their loved ones will be a sentence that is sufficient, but not greater then is necessary for the crime committed.

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