Molly Smolen


In recent years, members of the defense bar, federal judges, and the media have criticized the Federal Sentencing Guidelines as they apply to the crime of child pornography possession. Some of these critics perceive the crime itself as victimless. Others believe that the Guidelines fail to distinguish between levels of “dangerousness” among defendants. Still others condemn the Guidelines as the product of unwarranted congressional meddling—an unjustified creation of the political process.

This Note argues that these critics of the Guidelines misapprehend the nature of the harm inherent in possessing child pornography. An application of psychodynamic principles to victims of child pornography concludes that each individual that possesses images of child pornography perpetuates the harm suffered by the children depicted.

This Note analyzes the framework the Guidelines utilize for the crime of child pornography possession and argues that the sentences the Guidelines suggest accurately punish defendants for the harm suffered by the victims of child pornography. This Note concludes that, given the nature and extent of the harm suffered by the child victims, the sentences indicated by the Guidelines are sufficient, but not greater than necessary to redress the harm the victims experience.

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