Child Pornography Sentences

We are often contacted by those who have loved ones serving lengthy sentences for child pornography crimes (e.g., receipt, possession, production, or distribution – many of which are prosecuted in federal courts).

Here is a chart of the federal mandatory minimum sentences for child pornography offenses:

 Offense  Mandatory Minimum Sentences 
 Possession of child pornography  None

 Receipt;
 Distribution;
 Possession with intent to distribute or sell; 
 Transportation; or
 Production of child pornography

 5 years

 

 

 

 

Sentences for these offenses have skyrocketed in recent years, with many carrying harsh punishments. As the U.S. Congress has created longer and longer sentences for child pornography crimes, it has also required the U.S. Sentencing Commission to increase the advisory federal sentencing guidelines for those offenses. The length of federal child pornography sentences has increased 500 percent in the last 15 years. The U.S. Sentencing Commission is currently reviewing the guidelines for child pornography offenses and determining how they can be improved. FAMM supports this review.

While serious crimes can devastate victims and communities, and many of these crimes warrant severe punishment, even mandatory minimum sentences for these offenses can sometimes produce unintended or strange consequences. Examples could include giving lengthy mandatory sentences to:

  • A high-school boy over age 18 who engages in “sexting” photos of his naked, underage girlfriend to others via his cell phone (child pornography production and distribution)
  • An 18 year-old high school senior who has consensual sex with his 14 year-old freshman girlfriend (this is sometimes defined as a rape, based on their age difference)
  • A 22 year-old man who makes a home video of consensual sex with his 17 year-old girlfriend and downloads it to his computer, with his girlfriend’s knowledge and with no intent to share the video with others (child pornography production)
  • Visiting a website and downloading images of child pornography (child pornography possession or receipt).

Child pornography offenders and their families often struggle with feelings of shame and frustration and feel that no one cares about their situation. Below are resources that describe how these laws work and provide links to other organizations that offer support.

Note: FAMM is not affiliated with the organizations listed below and cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information on their websites.

Resources:

FAMM’s introduction to child pornography sentencing laws

Read this helpful article about the problems with child pornography sentences (by Senator Arlen Specter and Linda Dale Hoffa, The Champion, Oct. 2011)

U.S. Sentencing Commission asks Congress to authorize sweeping overhaul of child federal child pornography guidelines (FAMM, Feb. 27, 2013)

News Release: Sentencing Commission Issues Report Assessing Penalties for Child Pornography Offenses (U.S. Sentencing Commission, Feb. 27, 2013)

CAUTIONClick

Sex Abuse Treatment Alliance/Sex Offenders Restored Through Treatment (SATA/SORT)

U.S. Federal Public Defenders’ resources on sex offender registration (SORNA)

U.S. Sentencing Commission Report on Child Pornography Sentencing