In the Justice System, sentencing, and mandatory minimums for federal offenders are hot topics again. In March, 2013 Democratic Senator Patrick J. Leahy and Republican Senator Rand Paul introduced the Safety Valve Act of 2013. If the bill becomes law, it will allow federal judges to sentence offenders facing mandatory minimum sentences to less time in prison, regardless of the crime charged, provided that doing so does not jeopardize public safety. This does not mean that federal judges will be required to sentence offenders below the mandatory minimum, it merely permits judges to do so when the mandatory minimum sentence is unreasonable and does not fulfill the legislature's goals of punishment.
Being convicted of sex crimes brings a heavy price, particularly in child pornography cases. Congress says that anyone convicted of child pornography must pay mandatory restitution for the total amount of the victim's losses. While federal courts cannot agree on how the law should enforce restitution payments in child pornography cases, the Sixth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, which covers all of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, recently remanded two $1 million-plus restitution orders to the district court to determine the extent to which individual defendants must pay restitution where they share responsibility for the victim's injuries. The cases involved men who were ordered to pay full restitution for possessing images of the same victim, although neither man created the images, nor did they have any contact with the person in the images.