Posted on September 1, 2023
$5,000 or $15,000? The Application of JVTA Assessment Fines on a Per-Count Basis
United States v. Warrington, No. 22-7003, 2023 WL 5156645 (10th Cir. Aug. 11, 2023).
Rachel Vande Kieft, Staff Editor
Issue: Should courts impose special assessments under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (“JVTA”)—charges of $5,000 to any non-indigent person or entity convicted of a covered offense—on a per-count or per-offender basis?
Answer: Courts should impose JVTA assessments on a per-count basis.
Facts: Edmond Warrington was accused of engaging in unlawful sexual activity with his niece. A jury convicted Warrington of three counts of sexual abuse. The JVTA, as codified in 18 U.S.C. § 3014, provides: “The court shall impose an amount of $5,000 on any non-indigent person or entity convicted of an offense . . . relating to sexual abuse.” The district court imposed the JVTA assessment on a per-count basis, resulting in a total charge of $15,000. On appeal, Warrington argued the district court should have calculated the assessment on a per-offender basis, resulting in a total charge of $5,000.
Discussion: The Tenth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision, holding that JVTA assessments should be imposed on a per-count basis. The court reviewed this issue of first impression for plain error.
The court determined that the district court’s decision was not plain error because surrounding circuits are split on the statute’s interpretation. The court looked approvingly to the Third and Ninth Circuits’ textual interpretation of § 3014. Those courts have held the statute imposes assessments on a per-count basis because the word “offense” generally refers to a “discrete criminal act,” and the word “convicted” is normally an “offense-specific term.”
The court further relied on § 3014’s reference to § 3013, congressional intent, and common sense. Section 3013 imposes a special assessment on any “person convicted of an offense.” Courts largely interpret § 3013 to impose assessments on a per-count basis. Section 3014 references § 3013 and contains the same “person convicted of an offense” language. Therefore, Congress likely intended § 3014 to be applied similarly. Finally, the court explained that imposing the assessments on a per-offender basis would defy common sense and congressional intent by permitting defendants convicted of multiple sex crimes to be subject to only one penalty. For the above reasons, the court held that Warrington’s JVTA assessments should be imposed on a per-count basis.
Key Authorities: United States v. Johnman, 948 F.3d 612 (3d Cir. 2020); United States v. Randall, 34 F.4th 867 (9th Cir. 2022) (creating precedent in the Third and Ninth Circuits that the statute should be interpreted on a-per count basis); 18 U.S.C. § 3014 (permitting the court to provide assessments to “any non-indigent person . . . convicted of an offense” relating to sexual abuse); 18 U.S.C. § 3013 (permitting the Court to provide assessments on a broad variety of federal offenses).
 18 U.S.C. § 3014.
 United States v. Johnman, 948 F.3d 612, 617 (3rd Cir. 2020); United States v. Randall, 34 F. 4th 867 (9th Cir. 2022).
 18 U.S.C. § 3013.