January 22, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/
-- A person accused of an Internet-related sex crime
needs an aggressive and experienced attorney to defend his or her rights, considering the stigma and potential repercussions of such a charge. Such representation should begin as soon as the charge is made, and should continue all the way through sentencing, if applicable.
As the United States Court of Appeals case of U.S. v. Teuschler demonstrates, an understanding of the complexities of the law can be crucial even at the sentencing phase.
A seizure of computer images
In this case, the defendant allegedly sent child pornography to a Texas sheriff who was pretending to be a 13-year-old girl in an Internet chat room. About two months later, law enforcement executed a warrant and searched the defendant's home. On his computer, the police discovered the images the defendant had sent to the sheriff along with 277 additional images.
The defendant pled guilty to interstate distribution of child pornography. As part of determining his sentencing, the court considered that he had no criminal history, but also added to the sentence on the basis that his offense involved at least 150 but fewer than 300 images.
Based in part on the number of images, the defendant was sentenced to 180 months. The defendant appealed, arguing the district court had erred when it enhanced his sentence based on the number of images involved.
Were the additional images relevant?
The Fifth Circuit United States Court of Appeals noted that it must review sentences for reasonableness in light of the sentencing factors applied to a defendant. In calculating an offense level for sentencing, a court may consider acts, other than those underlying the conviction, if those other acts are "relevant conduct."
Here, the prosecution failed to prove that the defendant's possession of the additional images were "relevant conduct" under the applicable federal sentencing guidelines. There was no evidence that the defendant's possession of the 277 additional images on his computer, beyond the images that had been sent to the sheriff, were used in the preparation of his offense or during the offense itself.
There was no evidence that the defendant had an ongoing scheme to entice girls using the additional images, and there was no evidence that the defendant actually possessed the additional images at the time of his offense. In fact, the chat room offense had happened in May, but the search warrant which discovered the additional images was not executed until two months later.
Therefore, the district court erred in imposing the child pornography
sentencing enhancement based on the number of additional images. The defendant's sentence was vacated and remanded for re-sentencing for a shorter period of time.
Seek counsel immediately
If you are accused of an Internet sex crime, it is crucial that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately, before speaking with law enforcement or taking any actions. Seek an attorney who will investigate all the individual circumstances surrounding your case, and will effectively defend your rights and freedom throughout the entire process.
Article provided by Rush & Gransee, L.C.
Visit us at http://www.southtexaslawfirm.com/