U.S. First Circuit - The FindLaw 1st Circuit Court of Appeals News and Information Blog

Mandatory Minimum Appeal for Accessing Child Pornography Denied

The appeal of Douglas Blodgett over the 10-year sentence he received as a result of his guilty plea to criminal charges for accessing child pornography with the intent to view it has been shot down with more explanation than anyone likely expected.

Blodgett was convicted in 2016 after a DHS investigation discovered that he had downloaded and viewed child pornography. However, due to a prior conviction for molesting a 13 year old in 1997, he was subject to the mandatory minimum sentence under the PROTECT Act, which was passed in 2003. The PROTECT Act was designed to penalize participants in the child pornography distribution chain at all levels, from producer to consumer, as well as enhance the penalties for repeat offenders.

Mandatory Minimums and Due Process

As the First Circuit Court of Appeals explained that Blodgett's due process argument was an unwinnable uphill battle. Basically, if the laws proscribing mandatory minimum sentences meet rational basis review, they will be found to be valid.

Unfortunately for Blodgett, rational basis review is a rather low bar for a government to satisfy. In order to win the due process claim, the defendant must "show the irrationality of any and all justifications potentially undergirding the challenged sentence." Since the legislative history is filled with justifications for increasing mandatory minimums for recidivist child abusers and consumers/producers/distributors of child pornography, the court did not have to do much digging to deny the due process challenge.

Cruel but Not Unusual

In addition to the due process challenge, Blodgett claimed that the 10-year sentence was a violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The appellate court explained that while the 10-year sentence may be cruel, there was nothing unusual about mandatory minimum sentences for recidivists. 

Additionally, the court noted that disproportionate sentences must be "grossly disproportionate" to rise to the cruel and unusual level, and this case clearly was not "grossly disproportionate."

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