Appeals Court Addresses Sentencing for Child Pornography Offenses

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Hartford Criminal Defense LawyerWhile there are numerous situations where people may face criminal charges, some of the most serious cases involve crimes against children. Possession or distribution of child pornography is taken very seriously by law enforcement, and these cases often result in federal charges. However, these cases can also result in confusion about the penalties that may apply following a conviction. Recently, a ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed how sentencing is handled when considering possession of video depictions of child pornography as opposed to still images.

Child Pornography Sentencing Guidelines Upheld

In the case in question, United States v. Phillips, a man was convicted of possessing 172 images and 92 videos that depicted child pornography. Under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, the sentences in these cases are based on the number of images that a person possessed. However, this leads to some ambiguity, since videos are different than still images. To address this issue, the Sentencing Guidelines include commentary stating that a 75-to-1 ratio should be used for videos. That is, one video should be considered to be equivalent to 75 images. Based on this rule, the defendant in this case was given the maximum sentence enhancement, and he was ultimately sentenced to 151 months in prison.

The defendant argued that following a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, the "75:1 rule" should no longer apply. He claimed that each video should be considered one image rather than 75 images. This change would result in a shorter sentence, ranging from 97 to 121 months in prison rather than 121 to 151 months. 

When considering the issue, the appeals court looked at whether the 75:1 rule is ambiguous. Multiple factors may play a role in determining whether possession of a video is equivalent to possession of multiple images of child pornography. Should each frame of a video be considered a separate image? If that were true, one second of video would be equivalent to 24 images, and the maximum sentence enhancement would apply for a video that is around 25 seconds long. On the other hand, how should a video depicting a single child that is a few minutes long be compared to 100 images of child pornography that each depict separate children?

Clearly, there is some ambiguity in interpreting the severity of a child pornography offense when it comes to possession of images and videos. Because of this, the court looked at the history of law enforcement agency interpretations of these issues. Based on how agencies have handled these issues in the past, the court determined that the 75:1 rule is a valid guideline for determining how sentencing should be handled in cases involving video depictions of child pornography. Because of this, the defendant's original sentence was upheld.

Contact Our Connecticut Child Pornography Defense Lawyer

Offenses related to child pornography are some of the most serious crimes that a person may be charged with. Accusations of possession or distribution of child pornography can lead to both state and federal charges, and a person who is convicted may face a lengthy prison sentence and the requirement to register as a sex offender for the rest of their life. Anyone who is facing these types of charges will need to make sure they are represented by a skilled attorney. At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, our Hartford sex crimes defense attorney can provide strong, effective representation in these situations. We will fight to protect your rights and help you work towards a favorable outcome in your case. Contact our office at 860-290-8690 to arrange a free consultation.

 

Sources:

https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/sentencing-enhancement-rule-for-child-pornography-video-upheld

https://www.opn.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/22a0254p-06.pdf

https://www.ussc.gov/guidelines/2015-guidelines-manual/archive/2010-2g22

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