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U.S. District Court Rejects Government’s Attempted Application of Sentencing Enhancement in Child Pornography Case

The federal sentencing guidelines offer a framework for judges to utilize when determining the sentence of an individual convicted of a federal crime. Sentencing guidelines generally incorporate both aggravating and mitigating circumstances surrounding the defendant’s history or conduct in order to modify the sentencing judge’s discretion in accordance with congressional actions that have determined the guidelines.

In sexual offenses, especially those involving children, the range of sentences available can vary greatly based on the application of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances anticipated by the guidelines. A Florida man recently convicted of possession of child pornography successfully challenged the application of an aggravating factor that would have increased the minimum sentence for his crimes by 10 years.

The defendant in the recently decided case was charged and convicted in federal court with possession and distribution of child pornography based on files that were obtained from his computer. Before he was sentenced for the crimes, a presentence report was submitted, which proposed a sentencing enhancement based upon a prior Florida state conviction for traveling to engage in illegal sexual activity with a minor. The defendant objected to the application of the enhancement, arguing that the statute he was sentenced under for the proper offense was too broadly written to be included as an aggravating offense under the federal sentencing guidelines.

The defendant’s objection was heard by the district court, which entered a written ruling. According to the ruling, the defendant correctly challenged the application of the prior conviction within the federal guidelines. Specifically, the court found that the Florida statute under which the defendant had previously been convicted criminalized a variety of nonsexual conduct under which a defendant could be convicted. In addition to criminalizing travel to engage in sex with a minor, the same Florida statute criminalizes traveling to commit other illegal conduct, such as abuse, neglect, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Even though the facts of the prior conviction demonstrate that the defendant had traveled to have sex with a minor, the inclusion of other nonsexual offenses in the same statute forbade the federal government from applying the enhancement. As a result of the district court’s ruling, the defendant will be sentenced under the guidelines without the enhancement being applied.

Are You Facing Child Pornography Charges?

Sentencing for federal or state sexual offenses in the state of Florida can vary significantly depending on the various factors and enhancements that may apply to a case. A criminal trial attorney needs to understand how the enhancements are applied and have the knowledge to challenge a wrongfully proposed enhancement. If you have been accused of a sex crime in Florida, the experienced Florida criminal defense attorneys with the Mayberry Law Firm want to assist you in fighting the charges against you. If you ultimately plead guilty or are convicted after a trial, our knowledgeable lawyers can ensure that unfit enhancements aren’t used against you at sentencing. Our dedicated criminal lawyers defend Floridians from a variety of sex crime charges, including the possession of child pornography. Contact our office at 813-444-7435 or email me directly at to discuss your case.

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