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A conviction for child pornography and the unexpected punishment

The U.S. Supreme Court is now weighing another consequence of a child pornography conviction--mandatory restitution.
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    February 05, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- A conviction for child pornography and the unexpected punishment

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Federal law makes it a federal criminal offense to knowingly mail, transport, or ship, in interstate or international commerce, including the use of a computer, any child pornography. Similarly, it is unlawful to knowingly receive or distribute any child pornography by mail or other means of interstate or international commerce, or to knowingly reproduce such pornography in the same manner, again including by means of a computer. Conviction for a violation of these federal laws can result in fines and imprisonment for a range of five to 20 years. As severe as these penalties are, the U.S. Supreme Court is now weighing another consequence of a child pornography conviction--mandatory restitution.

In 1994, Congress enacted a provision that requires federal courts to order a defendant convicted of certain sex crimes to pay restitution to the victim. Possession of child pornography is one of the crimes triggering the provision. In addition to any other criminal penalties that may be imposed, a defendant is required to compensate the victim for "the full amount of the victim's losses as determined by the court." Those losses may include medical services relating to physical, psychiatric, or psychological care; physical and occupational therapy or rehabilitation; attorneys' fees; and any other losses suffered by the victim as a proximate result of the offense.

The question to be decided by the Supreme Court in a case recently argued, Paroline v. United States, is whether anyone who is convicted of possession of the image of a specific child can be held liable for such restitution for that child, even if that individual has no part in the producing or acquiring the image. While that might seem harsh, that is exactly what the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Texas, did in the case before the U.S. Supreme Court (In re Amy Unknown) saying: "It is not grossly disproportionate to the crime of receiving and possessing child pornography." The defendant who has brought the case to the Supreme Court was convicted of possessing child pornography, including two images of the victim Amy. Authorities have already discovered 3,200 instances where pornographic images of Amy were downloaded. In the cases of 182 other defendants who were similarly convicted, she was won over $1.5 million dollars in restitution. Since other courts of appeals around the country have reached contrary decisions on the question, the Supreme Court agreed to consider the question to establish a unified policy in such convictions.

Charges of the possession or distribution of child pornography are serious and have serious consequences regardless of how the Supreme Court decides this restitution case. Anyone who is charged with such an offense should seek the immediate advice of an experienced Texas criminal attorney.

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