Everyone agrees that children should not be subjected to sexual abuse. It does irreparable damage to them for life. Everyone agrees that filming sexual acts with children should be punished. Almost everyone agrees that distributing kiddie porn should be punished.
How about the guy who simply out of curiosity simply views it?
Should he go to jail for 20 years for simply watching a video?
As a sex crime lawyer, I have been handling child pornography cases now for over thirty years. Every client and every situation is different. Every single case involves a man who has a different background, a different history and an underlying reason he may have viewed the prohibited material. Viewing child pornography is hard for the average citizen to understand.
Why did my husband do that?
How could my son have gone so wrong?
What is wrong with him?
I hear that all the time.
Most of the people who view child pornography in my opinion have a treatable illness. Jailing them for twenty years solves nothing. The problem is that most prosecutors and most of the public are unsympathetic.
Here in Sarasota County and in Bradenton there is a zero tolerance for child porn. There is a policy now in effect in an attempt to manipulate the sentencing guidelines and get sentences imposing prison for decades. In almost every child pornography case I have handled, the State files dozens of charges to run up the sentencing guidelines. They do this in an attempt to compel the judges to impose the sentence the prosecutor wants and to limit the discretion of the judge.
The prosecutors here in Sarasota want to control sentencing, a function normally that of the Court.
I strongly believe that each individual person should be judged and sentenced on the merits of their case, not just a blind policy of persecution. It is an election year for both the prosecutor and judges. Being tough on crime gets votes. Having a heart, having compassion and being fair is viewed by some as weakness. There is a reason people look at this stuff. It is hard to understand. There is a misconception that people who look at pictures go on to become pedophiles. That simply is not born out by the statistics. Only a tiny fraction of child pornography offenders act out. I strongly believe that these people need counseling and help, not state prison. Destroying a life for simply looking at a video or picture makes no sense.