Congress to Reconsider Restitution for Victims of Child Pornography (CA Penal Code 311.11)

Rabin Nabizadeh
August 8, 2014

In April of this year, the United States Congress made a controversial decision to almost entirely do away with restitution for victims of child pornography.  As can be imagined, there are parties that are quite unhappy about this particular decision.  Two of these are Democratic Senator Chuck Shumer (N.Y.) and Republican Orrin Hatch (Utah).  They have proposed what is often referred to as a Congressional ‘fix’ for the April decision (see S. 2301) concerning United States v. Paroline called the “Amy and Vicky Act.”

The Paroline decision (involving one Doyle Paroline 18) was based on United States Code 2252 and 259 (which states that restitution should be granted to anyone, in this case a minor female, who has been sexually abused in order to create child pornography).  The problematic issue revealed itself when the court decided that the defendant in the case, although in possession of child pornography (CA Penal Code 311.11) of the young girl, was not entirely responsible for her losses.

What victims of child pornography argue is at least twofold when it comes to the issue of restitution.  First, because modern-day technology allows pornographic images of children to be widely distributed for an indefinite amount of time, restitution should be significant enough to pay for, not only for medical, therapy, and loss of income, but also for emotional and punitive damages.  Second, victims and their advocates argue that restitution cannot be meaningful nor timely if those who have participated in the production of their illegal images can share in the cost, each paying just a small amount.

While the “Amy and Vicky Act” will prove controversial in and of itself, the debate continues as to how to handle restitution for victims of child pornography.  On one side, there are those who claim that restitution is enough of a burden already.  On the other, victims say that no restitution seems enough for a lifetime of exposure on the Internet.