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How Sentencing Enhancements Can Be Applied for Federal Sexual Offenses

Both United States Federal Courts and Florida state courts consider many factors when issuing a sentence after a criminal conviction. Generally, courts will apply factors that relate to the charged crime specifically, as well as factors relating to the defendant’s criminal history, character, and ongoing risk to the public. Sentencing guidelines use a sentencing matrix that considers all of the aggravating and mitigating factors and produces a suggested sentencing range, which judges should generally follow. A Florida man convicted of possessing child pornography recently appealed his sentence for improperly applying aggravating factors at his sentencing.

The defendant in the recently decided case was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography and animal abuse after authorities found child pornography in an online storage folder attributed to the defendant. After obtaining a warrant and searching the defendant’s home, authorities found more child pornography, as well as animal sexual abuse videos. The defendant admitted the videos belonged to him, and was charged in federal court with multiple sexual crimes. The defendant pleaded guilty to the charges. During sentencing, the court applied the guideline factors to the defendant’s specific situation, and he was sentenced to over 21 years in federal prison. The defendant appealed the sentencing to the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, arguing that an aggravating factor was improperly applied during his sentencing.

Specifically, the defendant challenged the court’s application of an enhancement based upon his “engaging in a pattern or activity involving the sexual abuse or exploitation of a minor.” Federal prosecutors had convinced the sentencing judge that the defendant had previously engaged in a sexual relationship with a boy who was under 16 and that he had had sex with the minor more than once. The defendant challenged the government’s evidence of the pattern of abuse, maintaining that the government could only prove that he had sex with the child one time. The appellate court rejected the defendant’s arguments, pointing to the victim’s testimony that he had sex with the defendant at least 2 times before he turned 16, and finding sufficient corroborating evidence between the defendant’s statements and those of the boy to determine that the sentencing judge properly applied the sentencing factors. As a result of the appellate decision, the defendant will be required to serve his sentence.

Are You Facing Potentially Life-Changing Criminal Charges?

Sex crime allegations in Florida are extremely serious and can result in both state and federal criminal charges. Because of how both Florida and U.S. courts apply sentencing enhancements, defendants’ sentences can vary greatly for similarly charged crimes. Importantly, a sentence can be enhanced for uncharged prior behaviors, which need not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at the sentencing stage. Because of this, people charged with sex crimes in Florida need qualified legal counsel at all stages of the proceeding. If you have been accused of a sexual crime, finding a qualified Florida criminal defense attorney can help you fight the charges. The dedicated Florida sex crime defense attorneys with the Mayberry Law firm want to help you fight the charges against you. Even in situations where a conviction cannot be avoided, our dedicated criminal lawyers have successfully challenged the government’s application of sentencing enhancements, resulting in our clients serving sentences that are significantly reduced from the government’s proposals. Contact our office at 813-444-7435 or email me directly at to talk about your case.

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