Child pornography; discretionary sentencing guideline midpoints for possession. (SB1278)

Introduced By

Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-Mechanicsville)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Discretionary sentencing guideline midpoints; possession of child pornography. Raises the midpoint of the recommended sentencing range for possession of child pornography by (i) 100 percent in cases in which the defendant has no previous conviction of a violent felony offense; (ii) 200 percent in cases in which the defendant has previously been convicted of a violent felony offense punishable by a maximum punishment of less than 40 years; and (iii) 400 percent in cases in which the defendant has previously been convicted of a violent felony offense punishable by a maximum punishment of 40 years or more. The bill also requires a court that imposes a sentence that is less than the midpoint of the sentencing guidelines to review all child pornography possessed by the defendant. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


01/10/2017Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/11/17 17101927D
01/10/2017Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/13/2017Impact statement from VCSC (SB1278)
01/16/2017Reported from Courts of Justice with amendment (10-Y 1-N 1-A) (see vote tally)
01/16/2017Reported from Courts of Justice with substitute (10-Y 1-N 1-A) (see vote tally)
01/16/2017Committee substitute printed 17104308D-S1
01/16/2017Rereferred to Finance
01/20/2017Impact statement from VCSC (SB1278S1)
01/23/2017Impact statement from DPB (SB1278S1)
02/01/2017Passed by indefinitely in Finance (15-Y 1-N) (see vote tally)


Mary D. Devoy writes:

SB1278 only posted in LIS on Thursday the 12th for the pubic to track as of 9:30AM on Sunday January 15th it has made it’s way onto the Monday January 16,2017 at 8AM Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Committee docket, .

I originally found the Monday January 16th agenda on LIS Friday morning somewhere around 7AM and at that point SB1278 was NOT listed on the agenda.

Since then……. either late in the day or into the evening on the 13th or sometime on Saturday the 14th or maybe early on Sunday the 15th SB1278 was added.

There is no citizen email sign up to receive dockets or changes for VA Senate Committees. There is also no mandatory 24 hour time-frame for changes in VA House or Senate Committee dockets for citizens to know about a change. And there is no red flag or version notation when a change occurs to a VA Senate docket for citizens to know about the change, just a line below time and place with “update” that you may or may not notice.

I just happen to know after 8 years of experience to keep checking VA Committee dockets/agendas ahead of meetings including on weekends.

Now onto what SB1278 actually does.

IF the Patron of SB1278 (my Senator) had read the book Refining Child Pornography Law: Crime, Language, and Social Consequences (Law, Meaning, and Violence) by Carissa Byrne Hessick that I recommended in an email to every VA Legislator back on October 31, 2016 then perhaps the Patron would have explained to Camille Cooper of PROTECT and Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty McGuire why this Bill should not be filed in an attempt to overturn the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commissions change that was proposed 3 years ago but only just took affect in 2016 because Ms. Cooper was fighting it.

All the research and all the data on Child Pornography Possession sentencing and punishment has concluded that excessively high sentences for “Viewers” as much or longer than for those convicted as “Producers” and “Profiteers” are baseless and unjust. Even the U.S. Sentencing Commission has been looking at lowering the CP Possession guidelines for a few years now.

The U.S. War on Drugs which we should all be able to admit today was a baseless, failure turned its attention from the small number of “Producers” and “Profiteers” towards the large number of “Customers” by adding extremely long prison sentences did NOT reduce or stop drug production, sales or use.

The U.S. Child Pornography laws (both Federal and State) have gone down this very same counter-productive path but very few people are willing to stand up and point it out because of the fear of being labeled “Soft on Sexual Predators”. Well doing the right thing is usually much more difficult than doing what’s popular.

The U.S. targets “Viewers” or “Possessors” of CP at a much, much higher rate than then those who have the physical contact with the victims in the images and are carrying out the disgusting abuse. Why? Because there are many, many more CP “Viewers” and “Possessors” than there are CP “Producers” and “Profiteers”, which means more charges, more convictions and more “Sexual Predators” to tout in Media Releases and on the local news.

In the U.K. they are actually attempting to remove all the Child Pornography from the Internet for the last few years. But yet the U.S. has never even considered cutting off the supply because then that would mean, no more arrests, convictions, headlines, funding or grants.

Now some of you reading this right now are probably thinking……..but every time an image is viewed the victim who was abused by someone else, perhaps years ago is re-victimized. Well, if you had read the book Refining Child Pornography Law: Crime, Language, and Social Consequences (Law, Meaning, and Violence) by Carissa Byrne Hessick you’d know that argument which you’re reciting to yourself was made up by Victim’s Advocates decades ago, not by experts or researchers in the CP field is actually baseless.

“CP Possession is the smallest threat & causes the least harm; they are less culpable than those who physically and sexually assault the child in the image. The harm of circulation is distinct from the harm of creation. The harm of circulation is both lesser than and derivative of the harm of the sexual exploitation/abuse in the creation of the images”.

Before the recent VCSC changes and with the proposal of SB1278 Virginia Legislators are willfully ignoring the facts which I routinely point them towards and instead they continue to choose to continue to promote the myth that “Viewers” are as dangerous and as significant of a threat as “Producers”, when they are not.

Hopefully the Senate Courts of Justice Committee members vote “No” on SB1278 this Monday but history has shown that facts and research when it comes to “A Sexual Predator Bill” in Virginia usually get ignored and myth, fear, hype and re-election points rule the day.