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On July 11, 2012, in United States v. Chiaradio, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that a defendant possessing child pornography on two networked computers had committed two separate crimes of possession and distribution of child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B). The court, however, should have shown restraint in its analysis to avoid creating dangerous precedent. In her concurring opinion, Chief Judge Lynch argued for a narrow holding, emphasizing the statute’s ambiguity as applied to more complex, modern scenarios. The First Circuit’s decision highlights how courts struggle to apply older statutes to rapidly evolving technology. The legislature is in the best position to strike the ideal balance between the constitutional rights of the accused and protecting the public. A deferential judicial opinion by the First Circuit in Chiaradio would have been a powerful message to Congress of the ambiguity of section 2552(a)(4)(B).
Wilber A. Barillas,
"The Marvels of Modern Technology": Constitutional Rights, Technology, and Statutory Interpretation Collide in United States v. Chiaradio,
B.C.J.L. & Soc. Just.
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