DC federal child pornography sentencing can be harsh. An important aspect to focus on is whether there is a mandatory minimum sentence that a judge has no discretion to go below. When someone is charged with receipt of child pornography, that carries a mandatory five-year sentence for each image. If a person is charged with possession of child pornography, there is no mandatory minimum and it is often a matter of discretion as to whether someone is charged with possession or receipt. Some prosecutors use that to try to force someone into a guilty plea. Stay informed with a professional DC child pornography lawyer.
When a person is convicted of possession or receipt of child pornography, in addition to a potential jail sentence, they face mandatory registration on the sex offender registry. They can lose federal benefits and lose the ability to vote. Once a person is on a registry, there may be restrictions on where they can live, who they can associate with, and whether they can have contact with children in an unsupervised fashion. It is also possible that these things are reported to the person’s place of employment. There are many collateral consequences in a DC federal child pornography sentencing.
With all cases in the federal system, once a person pleads guilty or is found guilty at the trial, a probation officer is assigned to the case and prepares a pre-sentence report. The probation officer interviews the individual with an attorney present. They gather biographical information, educational information, employment information, and information about substance abuse. The attorney has the individual make an agreement with the probation officer to not discuss the offense itself. The attorney may want to have a person write a letter to the judge after a guilty plea, explaining what happened.
The probation officer also analyzes the sentencing guidelines and develops what they believe are the sentencing guideline ranges. A draft pre-sentence report is circulated and the defense side has an opportunity to make objections and corrections to the draft pre-sentence report.
If there are disputes when the objections are made, the defense lawyer can argue about that in court at the sentencing. Before the sentencing hearing, the defense lawyer files an extensive memorandum talking about the objections, what they believe are the appropriate guideline ranges, and what factors the judge used in sentencing the client. The federal sentencing guidelines are not mandatory as they used to be in federal DC child pornography cases.
Once an advisory guideline range of the low and high number of months is established, the judge can go as low as they want, unless there is a mandatory minimum sentence that must be imposed. They can go as high as they want as well.
The defense lawyer puts their position in writing as to what the sentence should be. The government does that as well. There is a final sentencing hearing where a final determination is made after arguments are heard about the sentencing guidelines, the range, and the actual sentence. Witnesses can also testify. There can be an impact statement by the other party affected in a possession of child pornography case.
One of the aggravating factors in child pornography cases is the number of images. For example, there is a sentencing enhancement when the number of images is over 600. A video that contains child pornography equals 75 images, so it is easy to get over 600 images. Sadomasochistic conduct exhibited in the images and images that exhibit children under 12 years old can be aggravating factors. Also, the actual distribution of the images by the individual as opposed to downloading or receipt can be an aggravating factor. Aggravating factors can raise the guideline range when the judge knows they are present. That can lead the judge to impose a longer sentence in a DC federal child pornography case.
Judges have enormous discretion in sentencing unless there is a mandatory minimum sentence that must be imposed. When there is, the judge can go as low as the mandatory minimum sentence allows. When there is no mandatory minimum sentence, the judge can sentence from probation up to the statutory maximum. Usually, judges look at the guideline range. They also look at how other people in similar situations were sentenced.
The trend in the District of Columbia and Maryland is to have sentences that tend to be lower. In Virginia, which is the Fourth Circuit in the Eastern and Western District of Virginia, the sentences tend to be a little bit higher.
A lawyer makes extensive arguments at a sentencing hearing about what the sentence should be. It is not out of a person’s hands and the individual has an opportunity to speak at sentencing in addition to writing a letter to the judge. The lawyer can work with the individual on the letter they write to the judge and include it with their memorandum to the judge. In addition, other people in the community who know the person such as their neighbors, relatives, family, and friends can write letters of support for the individual that is included in the package the defense lawyer sends to the judge. DC federal child pornography charges are very serious and they come with severe sentencing, so do not delay in calling an attorney if you need assistance.
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