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More Discussion of John Grisham's Criticism of Child Pornography Laws

Whether you’ve been arrested for soliciting a minor for sex in Florida or charged with a federal pornography crime, you probably feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of potential legal trouble you face.

Particularly if you are innocent – or if you did commit a crime, albeit a much less serious one – you might believe that you are powerless to fight back and that no one in the public cares much about your rights. But some respected people have begun to criticize the current punitive paradigm.

Legal fiction writer John Grisham recently lashed out at what he considers to be an overly draconian system of punishment for pornography crimes. An editorial in the journal Reason agreed with Grisham on many substantive issues.

The Reason article notes that “Nine out of 10 federal child-porn prosecutions involve 'non-production offenses': downloading or passing along images of sexual abuse, as opposed to perpetrating or recording it.”

Meanwhile, punishments for these crimes have spiked. In 2004, the average offender would get around 54 months in jail. By 2010, that leapt to 95 months – nearly doubling, per a 2010 U.S. Sentencing Commission report.

It’s not just criminal defense attorneys and John Grisham who have been alarmed by the harshness of these penalties. Judges themselves have been fighting back. Per the Reason article: “The penalties have become so severe, the Commission noted, that judges frequently find ways to dodge them, resulting in wildly inconsistent sentences for people guilty of essentially the same conduct. In a 2010 survey, 71% of federal judges said mandatory minimums for receiving child pornography are too long.”

If you think that’s draconian, consider that state punishments can actually be harsher.

A 2006 case involving a high school teacher in Arizona led to a 200-year jail sentence – which the state's Supreme Court upheld. Justice Rebecca Berch dissented, citing the fact that “the penalties for such offences are more severe than the penalties for rape, secondary murder, and sexual assault on a child younger than 12.”

It would be one thing if these jail sentences were given to people who would inevitably become child molesters anyway. But that’s clearly not the case.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission itself said that two-thirds of defendants had no known history of “criminally sexually dangerous behavior.” In other words, they never actually abused children in any way.

Obviously, an argument can be made that simply looking at and sharing pornography indirectly leads to and abets the abuse of children. But, per Public Safety Canada’s Karl Hanson, “there does exist a distinct group of offenders who are Internet-only and do not present a significant risk for hands-on sex offending.”

Contact the team here at Seltzer Mayberg, LLC immediately for help with your Florida sex crime defense. Call us at 1-888-THE DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).

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