Long prison sentences for downloading child porn questioned by judges

Federal judges throughout the US are taking issue with mandatory sentences for possession of child pornography. These legal professionals argue that a lengthy prison sentence is not the answer

Federal judges are challenging the current sentencing practices used for those who are convicted of downloading child pornography on their computers. Federal judges Stephen Reinhardt and John Noonan are a part of this debate and question whether a prison sentence of five to twenty years for a first offense of viewing child pornography serves any purpose other than to create "a class of people with ruined lives."

The conversation is not new. In 2010 The New York Times published a piece on Judge Weinstein, a New York judge who was publicly fighting against these long prison sentences. The current debate revolves around the case of an otherwise law abiding citizen who was sentenced with ten years in prison for the sex crime of downloading child pornography on his computer.

More on the case at the center of the controversy

The man who faces ten years imprisonment has no previous history of similar activity. This is a first offense. The man alleged that the file was downloaded either accidentally or by a hacker. It is important to note that this controversy deals specifically with those who view child pornography, not those who distribute or produce the content.

Debate on whether imprisonment is the best option

Critics of the long sentence argue that imprisonment may not be the best solution for these offenses. Instead, they contend that individuals who commit these crimes most likely suffer from a psychological impairment and would be better served by psychiatric treatment as opposed to incarceration.

Those against these harsh sentences also argue that part of the problem is a lack of knowledge. The general public is unaware of the long prison sentences that can be tied to simply downloading an image. Increasing public awareness of the seriousness of the crime and the severity of penalties attached to the charges could help reduce the risk of accidental offenders.

Similar sentences possible in Florida

Penalties for sex crimes are harsh across the country, including here in Florida. It is illegal to view or possess child pornography, defined by state law as the performance of sexual conduct by a minor. Third degree felony charges can be pursued for these allegations, potentially leading to a five year prison sentence and a fine of $5,000. These penalties increase in severity if the accused has any prior convictions.

Although a lack of knowledge of the age of the participant in the sexual act is not a defense, other defenses are available. Building a strong defense is difficult and likely requires the use of experts such as a computer forensic expert to review the files and help build the case. As a result, those who face these or similar sex charges are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced Florida sex offense defense attorney. This legal professional will be your advocate, working to better ensure your legal rights are protected.

Keywords: criminal defense

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