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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Full Restitution for Victims – A Chance to Finally Get it Right

June 02, 2014

In Paroline v. United States, Defendant was convicted of possessing two images of “Amy” being photographed as her uncle sexually abused her when she was a young girl (8 years old).  The district court awarded “Amy” zero restitution dollars, despite her documented losses of approximately $3.4 million for harms including future counseling and lost income.  On appeal, the Appellate Court reversed and ordered defendant to pay “Amy’s” full losses in restitution.   In April of this year the United States Supreme Court reversed the appellate court and remanded.  This reversal came despite the Court’s recognition that the victim’s costs “are direct and foreseeable results of child-pornography crimes, including possession”, that “every viewing of child pornography is a repetition of the victim’s abuse,” and that Congress’ clear intent was “that victims of child pornography be compensated by the perpetrators who contributed to their anguish”.  While the Court did caution that restitution awards should not “be a token or nominal amount”, in light of the varied amounts in restitution awards issued over the years this statement is paltry solace for these victims who have already endured too much.  Crime victims – and federal district courts – deserve clear guidance on the issue of restitution.  Senate Bill 2301 – the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Act of 2014 – would provide that guidance.  The bill makes clear that victims must be fully compensated for their losses, including psychological counseling and future lost income.  It makes clear exactly what restitution must be awarded when a victim is harmed by multiple criminals.  It sets out reasonable, minimum amounts of restitution that perpetrators must pay while ensuring that victims cannot double recover for their losses.  Read here for NCVLI’s full press release on this issue.