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Federal Sentencing in Maryland Child Pornography Cases

Although it may seem fairly simple, sentencing in serious federal cases such as child pornography can include a multitude of different factors. Below, a Maryland federal child pornography lawyer discusses these factors and what typically goes into sentencing for these types of charges. To learn more about federal sentencing to to seek legal counsel, call and schedule a consultation today.

How Does Sentencing Work For Federal Child Pornography Charges?

The way sentencing works for child pornography cases is pretty similar to the way sentencing works for other federal charges What will happen if a person is either found guilty to trial or pleaded guilty, they will be interviewed by a probation officer who is going to work on creating a pre-sentence report that goes to the judge, the prosecutor, the defense lawyer, and the client. That report contains the results of an interview with a background investigation on the client.  It contains financial investigation of the client to see if they have the ability to pay a fine and it also analyzes the potential sentencing guidelines in play when dealing with child pornography cases.

The sentencing guidelines are a range for the judge to consider.  Now, the judge doesn’t have to impose a sentence within that range, but judges take the advisory guidelines ranges very seriously. The law requires them to establish an advisory guideline range, from which they can either go up or down. So it’s a key starting point for discussion on sentencing. It’s important when doing a sentencing in a child pornography case. I can’t think of the time that I haven’t hired an expert to evaluate the client to be able to hopefully tell the judge our client is not someone who has a preferential attraction to children; that they’re not a pedophile and that can provide comfort to a judge in giving a lower sentence.

Developing a Risk Assessment

Also, one of my standard practices is to have an expert who is familiar with these issues to perform what’s called a risk assessment, a diagnostic tool that experts use. They can say, based on a variety of factors that this person has either a very low, low medium, or high risk of re-offending. I’ve been fortunately able to convince judges that my client has a very low risk of re-offending and been able to the lower sentences because of these assessments.

Role of an Attorney at Sentencing

Prosecutors handle sentencing in a variety of ways.  Some advocate for a specific number, some defer to the judge, some advocate for a harsher sentence harsher than what the guideline range is. A defense attorney will deal with these issues usually through negotiation. Which means negotiating for a plea offer or the the sentence the prosecutor will impose.

A judge is required to consider certain factors when fashioning a sentence in any criminal case in federal court.  Among the factors are:

  • The nature and circumstance of the offense
  • Characteristics of the defendant
  • What the deterrent effect would result from a particular sentence
  • Promoting respect for the law
  • And does a defendant need a special services or education or treatment

Those are the major factors that the judge is supposed to consider. By doing a background investigation on a client, getting an expert involved, and putting together a comprehensive sentencing package that includes an expert report, letters from family and friends, the people who know the client, and a letter from the client, a really big impact can be made on what judges are going to do in sentencing a particular case.

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