Supreme Ct. on Child Porn Restitution: 5 Key Facts - FindLaw Blotter
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Supreme Ct. on Child Porn Restitution: 5 Key Facts

The U.S. Supreme Court determined Wednesday that child porn victims cannot collect restitution for their total losses from a single child porn possessor, but offenders do have to pay something.

In a 5-4 decision, the High Court determined that "Amy," a woman whose explicit child photos are among the "most popular" for traffickers in child pornography, could not recover $3.4 million for her total losses from one man who possessed two child-porn images of her, reports USA Today.

Victims of child porn, however, are still owed restitution under the law, the Court explained. Here are five key facts to help you understand the Supreme Court's position:

1. Child Porn Victims Can Get Restitution.

Possessing child pornography is a serious federal crime, and not only will convicts potentially face years in prison, they will be expected to pay restitution to victims. The Supreme Court determined in Paroline v. U.S. that child porn victims like "Amy" can receive restitution for their losses under federal law -- not just from the persons who created the pornographic images of the victims, but also from those who viewed and circulated them.

2. Proximate Cause Is Required.

In order for restitution to be mandated under federal law, the child porn offender's actions must be the proximate cause of the victim's injuries. This means that the injuries must be the reasonably foreseeable result of the crime. This is easy to determine when someone is creating child pornography, but it may be more difficult to determine a causal connection for defendants who simply possess child porn images.

3. There's No Exact Formula for Restitution.

While the High Court determined that "Amy" wasn't entitled to $3.4 million in restitution, it noted she was entitled to something from the man who possessed her child porn images. There is no exact formula for determining what this restitution should be, but it should track with the offender's "relative role" in causing the victim's losses, the Court explained.

4. The Trial Judge Has Discretion.

Like with determining sentencing, trial judges are given great discretion when determining the proper restitution in child porn cases. Based on the number of photos and the specific defendant's conduct, a judge may determine proper restitution for a victim's losses.

5. Restitution Does Not Bar Civil Lawsuits.

If child porn victims do not receive much in restitution for their losses, they may still sue the defendants in civil court.

Though the Supreme Court vacated "Amy's" $3.4 million award in the Paroline case, the matter now heads back to a lower court to determine the amount of restitution.

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