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Sentencing Factors in a Federal Child Pornography Case

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Sep 29, 2022

What factors affect your sentence length in a federal child pornography case?

When the feds grab you and charge you with child pornography or come in and execute a search warrant, take all your devices to charge you with possession or distribution of child pornography, your whole world is upended.

Sentencing Factors in a Federal Child Pornography Case

You're facing a lifetime of sex registration, federal prison time, and many other factors that can destroy you. So, you want to get the best attorney and know what factors can help you. 

Child pornography is a serious federal crime that victimizes children and will generally result in harsh legal consequences if convicted. Child porn laws are some of the strictest in the federal court system and are defined under 18 U.S.C. § 2252.

Child pornography is any visual imagery depicting children under 18 years old in sexual situations for sexual stimulation, including pictures or videos of minors engaging in any explicit sexual activity or graphic nudity. It's only considered child porn if the person in the images or videos is indistinguishable from a minor.

18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(1) defines the federal crime as knowingly transporting or shipping child porn using any means of interstate or foreign commerce, or in affecting commerce, including a computer or mails, any visual depiction, if:

  • (A) the production of visual depictions involves using minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct; and
  • (B) the visual depiction of such conduct.

18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2) defines anyone who knowingly receives or distributes any visual depiction of minors using interstate or foreign commerce. 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(3) establishes the sale, or possession with intent to sell, of child pornography images. 

Subsection (a)(4) makes it a federal offense for the mere possession of child porn.  Let's review these laws further below.

How Many Child Porn Images Did You Have?

One significant factor in these cases is the number of images; those images can come in the form of photographs and videos.  If you have videos, they count those as more than one image. 

If you have a photograph, that would be counted as one image, but the amount of photos you have is one of the significant factors; number one, that decides whether it goes state or federal; and number two, that determines how much time you're facing.

What Type of Child Porn Images Did You Possess?

Another big thing that they look at – when I say they, I'm talking about judges, prosecutors, the probation department – when they make their recommendation to the federal judge is:

  • What type of images are they?
  • What is the age of the victims?
  • Is there bondage involved?
  • Is there other harmful factors involved?

So, they will reduce and split hairs into these child pornography cases in federal court.  They're going to look and see what you were looking at, and I think another big thing they will look at is what you were doing. Perhaps federal agents seized the child porn images during the execution of a search warrant.

Were You Distributing the Child Porn Images?

It's one thing getting child pornography and just possessing it for yourself, and it's yet another distributing it.

Distribution of Child Pornography Charges

Some people are on these kick apps and different applications, and they can take the child pornography they have, share it with others, and access other databases. 

This is the type of behavior that's going to make it much more likely that you're going to get prison time and possibly a lengthy sentence. 

Because not only are you looking at it for yourself, but you're also helping other people look at it. 

That's why, when you distribute it, you're looking at a 5-year mandatory minimum in federal prison. Often, prosecutors will negotiate and give you a straight possession of child pornography, not charging you or dismissing the distribution charge.

You avoid that 5-year mandatory minimum, but you can still get that much time or more depending on how many images you have.

What Does Your Criminal Record Look like?

Another factor they're going to look at is your criminal record.  If you have any prior sex offenses, you bet your bottom dollar that they will look very harshly at you, especially if you have any sex offenses involving meeting with a minor or trying to meet with a minor

That leads me to my next point. They're going to look at whether you did or said anything that made it clear that you were going to go above or beyond possessing or distributing child pornography – you were going to try to meet with a child to have sex. 

If they see that activity, the circumstances are much more severe, and they will likely want federal prison.

Review of Your Child Porn Case

I think the last thing is, they're going to look at your particular case – you as a person:

  • What did you do?
  • Who were you involved with?
  • What does your criminal record look like?
  • What do you do for a living?
  • Is there a chance you will attempt to do something illegal with a minor?

Much of the time, we can try to swing the scales in your favor if we can get some psychological evaluation.

Defenses for Federal Child Pornography Charges

This will assess whether or not you're going to go after any children, how dangerous you are, and what's the likelihood you're going to be a recidivist. 

In other words, what's the likelihood you'll do this again – be involved with child pornography? I would say I've given you a thumbnail sketch of some factors that are looked at. 

If you want to get the rest of them and are considering hiring an attorney, you've come to the right place.  I've been doing this for nearly 30 years. 

I've worked for the District Attorney's office in Los Angeles; I've worked for a superior court judge; and since the early 1990s, I've defended people just like you.

If you need the best, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, California.

We provide legal representation across the United States on federal criminal issues. We offer a free case evaluation by phone or by filling out the contact form.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

Contact Us Today

Hedding Law Firm is committed to answering your questions about state or federal sex crime issues in California and throughout the United States.

I'll privately discuss your case with you at your convenience. All consultations are free, discreet, and confidential. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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