Child Protection Act of 2012: Aggressive new sentencing rules

Last week, President Obama signed the Child Protection Act of 2012 into law. The new statute, a bipartisan effort that involved Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, gives law enforcement officers aggressive new tools to investigate and punish child pornography.

While the bill received wide support as a means to prevent child sexual abuse by deterring child pornography, some critics disagree with whether the new steps are appropriate.

Among other provisions, the law increases the maximum prison term for possessing or viewing child pornography: defendants could now face sentences of as much as 20 years. Other components of the act provide more resources to investigate online crimes and more efficient processes to issue subpoenas. As one prosecutor said, authorities have "added more tools to the law enforcement toolbox."

Federal judges are not convinced that this approach is ideal. The U.S. Sentencing Commission surveyed the federal judiciary in 2010 and around 70 percent of respondents believed that sentences for some child pornography crimes were already too severe. Other experts suggest that it makes more sense to spend tax money on reform and rehabilitation methods instead of paying to lock people away for decades at a time - especially when the crime involved only possession or receipt of child pornography.

These experts apparently lost the debate for the time being - the Child Protection Act is now federal law. Anyone who faces potentially longer sentences under this statute should consult with an experienced Dallas sex crimes defense attorney.

Source: The Texas Tribune, "Abbott backs law increasing child porn penalties," Maurice Chammah, Dec. 8, 2012

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