Use of the Internet has led to a host of new criminal offenses. Many erroneously believe that computers provide a cloak of anonymity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Computer hash tags and other marking techniques allow authorities to monitor what and when you are viewing illegal websites and images. Use of file sharing networks like "Pirate Bay" and "limewire" are red flags for investigators.
Between 1987 and 1990, Congress directly and unilaterally enhanced the federal child-pornography guidelines. This enhancement increased the punishment based upon the number of illegal images. This increase was done without any data to support a position that the number of images increased the severity of the offense.
The "amount of images" enhancement appeared in April, 2003, as a direct result of the Congressional passage of the "Feeney Amendment" This act amended the Guidelines and is widely recognized for its restriction on the authority of district court judges to depart from the Guidelines in sexual offense and child pornography cases for reasons other than those authorized in of the Guidelines.
Research and rationale do not support the number of images enhancement. As one district court stated, "given the unfortunate ease of access to this type of material in the computer age, compiling a collection with hundreds of images is all too easy, yet carries a 5 level enhancement." United States v. Hanson, 561 F.Supp.2d 1004, 1011 (E.D.Wis.2008.) The absence of sufficient in justification for the current number of images enhancement leads to tragically unforeseeable consequences for viewers of child pornography.
The result of this enhancement is that for sentencing in child pornography cases, courts punish more harshly based upon the mere number of images viewed. Short videos depicting these images are calculated as being comprised of multiple images and utilizes a 75:1 ratio.
The inexplicable result of these enhancements is that the some child pornography defendants receive more severe guideline ranges than a person that actually engages in sexual contact with a minor. Such a result demonstrates that that the stacked enhancements resulting from the Protect Act result in sentences that are greater than necessary to satisfy sentencing purposes. The sentencing goal that requires that the guidelines avoid unwarranted sentencing disparity requires attorneys to address these inequities.
In years past, only federal investigators had the time and resources to pursue Internet crimes. Technological advances and training have made it feasible for local authorities to enforce these crimes. As a result, more prosecutions for these offenses are finding their way to state courts.
Defense of these charges is time consuming and complex. Most often use of a forensic defense expert is required. I have experience with Internet crime representation. Please contact me if you need assistance in this field.