Tuesday, December 05, 2006

18 USC 3553(b)(2) Violates Booker

US v. Hecht: Hecht pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography. At sentencing, the district court rejected Hecht's argument that 18 USC 3553(b)(2), which requires a Guideline sentence in certain sex offense cases, violated Booker. As a result, the district court applied a two-level enhancement under USSG 2G2.2(b)(2)(E) (2003) for distribution of child pornography. He was sentenced to 33 months in prison, the bottom of the Guideline range.

On appeal, the Fourth easily concludes that 3553(b)(2)'s mandatory Guideline sentence provision violates the Sixth Amendment as explained in Booker (thanks to the Government's concession, in part). The court recognized that all other Circuits to deal with the issue have reached the same conclusion. Furthermore, the court concluded that vacation of Hecht's sentence was required because be properly objected to being sentenced under a mandatory Guideline scheme and the record was not sufficiently clear to show lack of prejudice. Hecht also challenged the two-level distribution enhancement, arguing that his act of using a web camera to transmit images of child pornography displayed on his computer did not meet the definition of "distribution." The Fourth Circuit disagreed and concluded that the enhancement applied in this case.

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