Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Child Porn Under Review - FindLaw Blotter
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Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Child Porn Under Review

Do the crime pay the time.

But exactly how much time should those who are charged with possession of child pornography serve?

That's what federal judges around the country participating in series of hearings before the U.S. Sentencing Commission are trying to decide.

Some federal judges who have testified before the commission, which sets federal punishments, say the current federal sentencing guidelines for possessing and viewing child pornography are too severe.

Currently, the commission has put the federal sentencing guidelines (which call for sentences of up to 25 years for child porn convictions) under review.

Judges from New York, Chicago, and recently Denver, based their argument on a belief that some of the defendants who view child pornography have never molested a child or posed a risk to the community and may be better served by treatment rather than prison, the Denver Post reports.

But many child advocates say that some judges don't realize that possessing the images revictimizes the children in the photographs and fuels online businesses built on victimizing children.

They say hundreds of thousands of Americans currently possess illegal images and may be tempted to generate child pornography themselves by molesting children.

The federal sentencing guidelines under review now use the number of images possessed and the way the contraband is obtained to enhance prison terms. First-time offenders with no criminal history can be sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for child porn related convictions.

In federal cases, the mandatory minimum for downloading images is five years in prison without parole.

The commission's challenge is to examine impact of federal sentencing guidelines on the justice system, particularly since a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision changed the guidelines from mandatory to advisory, meaning judges have more discretion when handing down punishment.

Hearings were held this year in in Atlanta, Stanford, Calif., New York, Denver and Texas. Another hearing will be held in Phoenix in January.