Federal Judges Ask for Attorneys’ Help in Sentencing Child Sex Offenders

A recent article by federal criminal sentencing expert Alan Ellis shows that persons accused of child sex offenses need first-rate legal representation—even if they are guilty and plan to plead guilty.

Ellis’s article, Sentencing the White-Collar Client: What Judges Want to Know, presents the results of his interviews of 18 federal judges on their philosophies and their advice for attorneys representing persons being sentenced.

Ellis reports agreement among the judges that two kind of cases are the most challenging to the sentencing judge. Both involved vulnerable victims:

  • predatory child sex abuse in which a child has been harmed
  • white-collar crimes harming vulnerable people

Ellis found that the judges were often not getting the information they said they needed to give offenders fair sentences. He said criminal defense lawyers in general “are falling down on the job when it comes to sentencing.”

Among the things judges said they needed were psychological evaluations, offender statements of genuine remorse, and evidence that offenders have attempted to make amends for their crimes—perhaps through community service or early restitution payments.

Many of the criminal defendants the Marshall Defense Firm represents, in the Seattle area and around Washington State, choose to plead guilty. In their cases, getting them the best possible sentence is virtually our entire job. We work hard at it. I was glad to see this confirmation that judges find the work we do useful in understanding our clients and giving them fair sentences.