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Child pornography Sentencing Disparities Highlighted in Recent Study

The Internet has increasingly informed Americans' approaches to daily life in recent years. From shopping to how business is conducted, from interpersonal communication styles to the ways that students study, the Internet has become a fixture in American life. As a result, our society and its legal system have had to continually adjust to the ways in which the Internet informs, influences and inspires us.

Unfortunately, the advent of the Internet has also led to unacceptable rates of privacy infringement, fraud and sentencing disparity for crimes linked to Internet activities. Most recently, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has determined that sentences related to child pornography charges are increasingly disparate and are often overly severe since the advent of child pornography proliferation on the web.

The commission has recommended that the sentencing structure for child pornography offenses be altered in light of this disturbing trend. Over the past ten years, the number of child pornography cases prosecuted domestically has nearly tripled. These offenders are too often lumped together and sentenced similarly despite clear differences in their situations.

For example, offenders are not generally sentenced differently based on whether or not they pose a sincere danger to children. A relatively low-level offender may be sentenced quite similarly to an offender who has been grossly reckless and poses a genuine danger to children in the future. If one of the fundamental foundations of our criminal law system is that we punish offenders in accordance with their crimes, the current system is clearly broken.

The commission is currently arguing that Congress must amend sentencing laws to better reflect differences in child pornography cases. Failure to do so will allow low-level offenders to be continually punished in the same ways that truly dangerous high-level offenders are.

Source: The Washington Post, "Study: Sentencing in child porn cases uneven," Pete Yost, Feb. 28, 2013

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