Illinois Judge Ordered to Explain Child Pornography Sentence

 Posted on December 00, 0000 in Criminal Defense

The possession and distribution of child pornography is a serious federal criminal offense. The emotionally charged nature of these cases often prompts harsh sentencing from federal courts. All defendants, even those charged with possession of child pornography, are entitled to due process under law. Recently the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ordered a trial judge to re-sentence a defendant in a child pornography case. The appeals court found that the judge failed to follow the law in imposing his initial sentence.

United States v. Poulin

Matthew Poulin moved to Illinois in 2011 with his minor son. Poulin resided in the basement of his mother's house in Moline. About a month after moving in with his mother, law enforcement used file-sharing software to access Poulin's computer. Poulin used the software to distribute child pornography. Police then executed a search warrant and discovered child pornography on Poulin's computer and attached hard drives.

The federal government charged Poulin with illegal receipt and possession of child pornography. He pleaded guilty to both charges. Poulin had no prior criminal record.

The United States Probation Office advised the trial judge to sentence Poulin to a prison sentence of between approximately 12½ and 15½ years. The Probation Office based its calculations on the federal sentencing guidelines. The government supported this recommendation given that Poulin, despite his lack of prior criminal activity, resided in a house with small children. Poulin asked the judge to impose the minimum legal sentence of five years.

The judge ultimately decided on a 9½-year sentence. Following his prison term, Poulin would then be subject to lifetime probation with restrictions on his use of computers to access any pornography, including those materials only containing adult sexual activity.

The 7th Circuit said that although the trial judge imposed a lower sentence than advised by the government, he still failed to properly address Poulin's arguments in favor of an even lower sentence. Poulin said he was entitled to leniency owing to his lack of record and the fact he was only charged with possession, rather than production, of child pornography. The trial judge, according to the 7th Circuit, simply failed to address this argument. The sentencing guidelines require a judge to consider any non-frivolous defense argument made in favor of mitigating a sentence.

Similarly, the 7th Circuit chided the trial judge for imposing lifetime probation without providing any written explanation for why such a sentence was justified. Even the government agreed the judge made a mistake here. Accordingly, the 7th Circuit returned Poulin's case to the trial judge for new sentencing.

Upholding the Law

Due process is important even for convicted defendants. At every stage of a case, it is important to have the assistance of an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney. If you or someone you know is facing serious criminal charges, contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney for a consultation.
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