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Child Porn Sentences Can Be Unreasonable

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Child Porn Sentences Can Be Unreasonable

Are federal and state sentencing guidelines for child sex offenses like possession or distribution of child pornography too harsh? U.S. Appeals Courts say yes...

In today’s climate of public shaming, media scrutiny and emotional overreactions at trial, child porn sentences can be unreasonable. In fact, child porn sentences have become so unreasonable that appeals courts are striking them down.

Child Pornography Sentences Vacated in Jenkins Case

Take the recent case of Joseph Vincent Jenkins, found guilty of one count of possession of child pornography and one count of transportation of child pornography by a jury in a New York federal court. Jenkins received concurrent sentences of 120 months (10 years) for possession - the maximum allowed by law - and 225 months (almost 19 years) for transportation.

His child porn punishment also included 25 years of supervised release and broad post-release restrictions, such as allowing use of a computer only at a place of employment.

A U.S. Court of Appeals recently found the sentencing “substantively unreasonable.” It vacated Jenkins’ sentences and remanded the case for resentencing.

Jenkins had never been charged with a felony crime and had one prior misdemeanor offense. He was arrested by Canadian authorities after crossing the border from New York to visit his parents, when child porn images were found on his laptop and thumb drive. After failing to appear later for trial in Canada, he was arrested in the U.S. and placed on trial in New York.

When Jenkins appealed his harsh sentencing, the appeals court found the sentences had been imposed “without regard to the personal characteristics of the defendant and the circumstances of his offense.” It held that Jenkins, age 39 when arrested, “would be incarcerated and subject to intense government scrutiny for the remainder of his life,” provided he lived to be 88 years old. 

The appeals court also cited the “irrationality” of the harsh sentencing, which was “substantially more severe” than for an adult who actually sought a 12-year-old on the Internet, convinced the child to meet across state lines and had repeated sex with the child.

The appeals court held that Jenkins was treated like a defendant who seduced and photographed a child and distributed the photographs, and treated even worse than a defendant who actually raped a child. It found the sentencing “shockingly high” for a “non-production child pornography” offense and also held that the trial court had failed to distinguish between Jenkins’ conduct and that of offenders “whose conduct was far worse.”

Hire an Experienced Child Porn Defense Lawyer

What does this mean for you if you’ve been charged with a child porn offense? It means you may face extremely harsh sentencing at trial court. It also means you should hire an experienced child porn defense lawyer to handle your case.

Houston sex crime defense lawyer Neal Davis is skilled and knowledgeable in tackling child porn cases for defendants who could face the same “unreasonable” and “irrational” sentencing that’s coming under fire at appeal.

Neal Davis understands.

Neal Davis understands the distinctions made by the New York appeals court in Jenkins’ case. These accounted for “the important differences” between the sentence received by Jenkins and those who produced or distributed child pornography, and the distinction of whether or not a defendant had, or tried to have, contact with children.

Houston sex offense lawyer Neal Davis also understands the distinctions the court made about transporting child pornography for personal use, rather than to sell or distribute it.

All such distinctions can be crucial for defendants in child porn cases, who still could face extremely harsh or unreasonable punishments.

Child Porn Sentences Have Increased

In fact, at the direction of Congress, the length of federal child porn sentences has increased by 500 per cent in the last 15 years. That’s according to Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), whose mission is to “highlight the human costs of mandatory sentencing laws, and advocate for more efficient and effective protection of public safety.”

FAMM raises concerns about “lengthy mandatory sentences” for such things as someone visiting a website and downloading images of child pornography, or an 18-year-old high school boy “sexting” photos of his naked and underage girlfriend to others via cell phone.

Public polling has shown a preference for markedly lighter sentences for child porn than those advocated by tough-on-crime legislators grandstanding for publicity or political advancement. Many jurors have agreed with FAMM’s concerns about “overly harsh and outdated sentences,” which actually punish persons who view child pornography more severely than persons convicted of violent crimes.

Neal Davis shares these concerns. Appeals courts may be finding child porn sentences unreasonable, but that may not keep trial courts in Texas and elsewhere from imposing similarly harsh sentences for child porn cases.

This makes it vital to engage a child porn defense lawyer with the experience and knowledge to handle such a case. That lawyer is Neal Davis.

Whether in Houston, Harris County, Montgomery County or Fort Bend County, Neal Davis gets results for his clients. Contact the Neal Davis Law Firm today for a free and confidential legal review of your case.

 Additional reading:

WHAT IS CHILD PORNOGRAPHY UNDER STATE AND FEDERAL LAW?

 

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