1 result for month: 04/2016

Full Restitution for Child Pornography Victims: The Supreme Court’s Paroline Decision and the Need for a Congressional Response

How to provide restitution to victims of child pornography crimes has recently proven to be a challenge for courts across the country. The difficulty stems from the fact that child pornography is often widely disseminated to countless thousands of criminals who have a prurient interest in such materials.

While the victims of child pornography crimes often have significant financial losses from the crimes (such as the need for long term psychological counseling), it is very difficult to assign a particular fraction of a victim’s losses to any particular criminal defendant.

Last spring, the United States Supreme Court gave its answer to how to resolve this issue with its ruling in Paroline v. United States. Interpreting a restitution statute enacted by Congress, the Court concluded that in a child pornography prosecution, a restitution award from a particular defendant is only appropriate to the extent that it reflects “the defendant’s relative role in the causal process that underlies the victim’s general losses.” Exactly what this holding means is not immediately clear, and lower courts are currently struggling to interpret it.

This article, which was recently published in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, questions the Court’s Paroline holding, particularly its failure to offer any real guidance on exactly what amount of restitution district court judges should award in child pornography cases. Members of Congress, too, have doubted the wisdom of the decision, introducing a bill (the Amy and Vicky Act) with strong bi-partisan sponsorship that would essentially overrule Paroline.