Law Offices of Christie A. Leary P.C.

Fairfax/Manassas Criminal & Personal Injury Blog

The criminal justice system serves two primary functions. First, the system seeks to hold offenders accountable for breaking the law in an effort to serve justice and provide a deterrent for further wrongdoing. Second, the system seeks to protect the rights of those who have been accused and those who have been convicted of such wrongdoing. When the system becomes unbalances and grossly favors one of these aims over the other, injustices tend to abound.

When an individual commits a sex-related crime, he or she should almost certainly be held accountable for that crime. This is especially true in cases that involve violence and exploitation of vulnerable populations such as children and mentally disabled persons. However, it is not always necessary to hand down severe punishments in order to hold someone adequately and properly accountable for their conduct. Depending on the circumstances, severe punishment could represent an unjust imbalance within the system.

For example, two judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently questioned a severe mandatory sentence handed down against an individual who was convicted of possessing child pornography. Even though it was the first time the defendant had been convicted of possession and even though there was no direct evidence weighed which suggested that he had actually downloaded or viewed the child pornography, he was sentenced to a severe prison sentence.

One of the judges understandably wrote that, "Whether psychiatric treatment rather than incarceration would be the proper response by state authorities is a matter that I would hope would be given more serious consideration than it has until now. Surely sentences of five to twenty years for a first offense of viewing child pornography are not the solution."

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Child-Porn Sentencing Questioned by Judges," Dave Tartre, Sep. 5, 2014

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