Wisconsin’s new Underage Pornography law faces criticism

In 2012, a new law was enacted in Wisconsin that imposes a mandatory prison sentence for individuals convicted of the charge of possessing Underage Pornography. In an attempt to ensure consistency in sentencing, the law requires individuals to be sentenced to three years in prison in almost all circumstances. As the new law is being applied to new cases, however, some judges and other members of the court system say this one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate.

Under the old law, judges had the discretion to deviate from the recommended three-year prison sentence if it was "in the best interests of the community" and would not harm the public. The new law says a three-year sentence is mandatory in all felony possession of Underage Pornography cases, and the only exception may apply when the convicted individual is no more than four years older than the person depicted. A series of cases involving teenagers who willingly exchanged pictures through their cellphones prompted this exception, and it does not apply to a majority of Underage Pornography cases.

The new law was sponsored by state Representative Mark Honadel, who believes the discretionary three-year sentence that used to exist was not imposed frequently enough. Another supporter of the new law, Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, said it is intended to ensure "consistent sentences for everyone who commits the same crime," reports the Associated Press.

However, critics point out that not all Underage Pornography cases are the same, and eliminating judges' discretion to impose a different sentence when the circumstances warrant it doesn't reflect this reality. The Associated Press reports that a county circuit court judge, Peter Grimm, who was a prosecutor and a defense lawyer before becoming a judge 22 years ago, said a mandatory minimum sentence is counter to the current system "in which judges are trained to use evidence-based sentences designed to let judges make the best decision based on the facts of the case." Others agree that flexibility is a key point in crafting a sentence that serves the dual functions of rehabilitating the individual and protecting society.

Facing charges of possessing Underage Pornography can significantly impact one's life, and the effects of a conviction can be even more severe. If you are under investigation for possessing Underage Pornography or have been arrested for a Underage Pornography offense, contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to begin your defense.