In general, sex crimes are prosecuted on the state level. In some circumstances, however, the federal government also has jurisdiction over sex crimes. Federal sex crimes are investigated by federal law enforcement agents and they are prosecuted by U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The following are some of the commonly prosecuted federal sex crimes:

  • Child Sexual Exploitation ,
  • Child Pornography,
  • Computer Sex Crimes,
  • Human Trafficking,
  • Sex Trafficking of Minors,
  • Kidnapping to Commit a Sex Offense, AND
  • Aggravated Sexual Abuse.

Child Sexual Exploitation

Many federal sex crimes fall into the category of Child Sexual Exploitation. Specifically, federal sex crimes charges relating to exploitation of minors include:

  • Sexual Exploitation of Children (18 U.S.C. § 2251),
  • Aggravated Sexual Abuse (18 U.S.C. § 2241),
  • Sexual Abuse (18 U.S.C. § 2242),
  • Sexual Abuse of a Minor or Ward (18 U.S.C. § 2243), AND
  • Abusive Sexual Contact (18 U.S.C. § 2244).

Sexual Exploitation of Children

The Sexual Exploitation of Children charge is codified in 18 U.S.C. § 2251. This federal sex crime criminalizes the following conduct:

  1. Employing, using, persuading, inducing, enticing or coercing a minor to engage in, or assist any other person in, or transporting a minor in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, with intent that such minor engage in any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct or transmitting a live visual depiction; OR
  2. Being a parent, legal guardian or anyone who has custody or control over a minor, who knowingly permits such minor to engage in, or assist any person to engage in, sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct or for the purpose of transmitting a live visual depiction of such conduct.

Sentencing for Sexual Exploitation of Children

This federal sex crime is punishable by a minimum of 15 years, and a maximum of 30 years. The exact sentence will depend on the United States Sentencing Guidelines, and your 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) characteristics. You can get below the mandatory minimum if you provide substantial assistance to the Government. This is commonly called getting a 5k1 letter.

Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Minor (18 U.S.C. § 2241)

Under federal law, it is a crime to cross a state line with intent to engage in a sexual act with a person who has not attained the age of 12 years old. Importantly, the prosecutor does not need to prove that the person knew that the minor was under 12 years old.

Sentencing for Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Minor

This federal sex crime is punishable by a minimum of 30 years in prison and a maximum of life. If the individual has previously been convicted of another sex offense involving children on either the federal or state level, the offense is punishable by life in prison, unless the death penalty is imposed.

Sexual Abuse of a Minor (18 U.S.C. § 2243)

It is a federal sex crime to engage in a sexual act with another person who has attained the age of 12, but has not attained the age of 16. There is an additional requirement for this charge that the minor is at least four years younger than the person so engaging, or attempting to engage. That is to say, although the minor is between 12 and 16 years old, you cannot be prosecuted for this charge unless you are more than 4 years older than the minor.

Example: if the minor is 15 years old, and you are 18 years old, you cannot be prosecuted for this charge because you are less than 4 years older than the minor. However, if the minor is 15 years old and you are 22 years old, then you can be prosecuted for this federal sex crime. That is because the age difference is more than four years.

Sentencing for Sexual Abuse of a Minor

Federal sexual abuse of a minor charges are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Importantly, there is no minimum on this federal sex crime. Therefore, in theory, although unlikely, you can get no jail time on this case.

Child Pornography

Possession or production of child pornography are some of the most frequently prosecuted federal sex crimes. These federal sex crimes criminalize the following conduct:

  • Transportation or shipment of child pornography,
  • Knowing receipt or distribution of child pornography,
  • Knowing sale or possession with intent to sell child pornography,
  • Knowing reproduction of child pornography,
  • Knowing advertisement, promotion, presentment, distribution, solicitation of child pornography, AND
  • Knowing possession or possession with intent to view child pornography.

These federal sex crimes are codified in two federal statutes, specifically 18 U.S. Code § 2252 (titled Material Involving the Sexual Exploitation of Minors) and 18 U.S. Code § 2252A (titled Material Constituting or Containing Child Pornography).

Sentencing for Possession or Production of Child Pornography

These federal sex crimes have different sentencing ranges depending on the conduct that is alleged.

  • Transportation or shipment of child pornography, knowing receipt or distribution of child pornography, and sale or possession with intent to sell is punishable by 5 to 20 years in prison. However, if the individual has a prior conviction for a similar crime under federal or state law, then the sentencing range changes to 15 to 40 years in prison.
  • Knowing possession, possession with intent to view, advertisement, promotion, presentment, distribution, solicitation of child pornography is punishable by 5 to 20 years in prison. However, if the individual has a prior conviction for a similar crime under federal or state law, then the sentencing range changes to 15 to 40 years in prison.
  • Knowing production or knowing distribution of child pornography involving an identifiable minor is punishable by a minimum of 15 years.

Potential Defenses to Possession or Production of Child Pornography

Some potential defenses to these federal sex crimes are:

  • All individuals depicted were adults, and not minors at the time of the creation of the video depiction of sexual conduct,
  • Possession of no more than three images constituting child pornography and immediate steps taken to delete such material or promptly notify law enforcement,
  • Lack of knowledge regarding the contents of the materials.

Computer Sex Crimes

Computer Crimes are federal sex crimes which apply to the solicitation or coercion and enticement of minors through the internet. These charges are codified in 18 U.S.C. §1470 and 18 U.S.C. §2422.

Transfer of Obscene Material to Minors (18 U.S.C. §1470)

Under federal law 18 U.S.C. §1470 is it a crime to knowingly send obscene materials to individuals who have not yet obtained the age of 16. The elements of this federal sex crime are:

  • Using the mail or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce,
  • Knowingly transfers or attempts to transfer obscene matter,
  • To another individual who has not attained the age of 16 years,
  • Knowing that such other individual has not attained the age of 16 years.

Sentencing for Transfer of Obscene Material to Minors

This federal sex crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. There is no mandatory minimum for this charge.

Coercion and Enticement (18 U.S.C. § 2422)

Coercion and Enticement are federal sex crimes that are codified in 18 U.S.C. §2422. Under 18 U.S.C. § 2422(a), it is a crime to knowingly persuade, induce, entice, or coerce any individual to travel in interstate or foreign commerce to engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b), it is a crime to use mail, or any other means of interstate or foreign commerce to knowingly persuade, induce, entice, or coerce any individual who has not attained the age of 18 years, to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.

Sentencing for Coercion and Enticement

Violations of 18 U.S.C. §2422(a) are punishable by up to 20 years in prison. There is no mandatory minimum for this charge. Violations of 18 U.S.C. §2422(b) are punishable by a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life. Additionally, fines can be imposed for violations of these federal sex crimes statutes.

Human Trafficking

Under federal law, it is a crime to engage in sex trafficking of children or by force. It is also a crime to seize documents in order to force someone to work. Sex Trafficking of Children or by Force is codified in 18 U.S.C. § 1591 and Unlawful Conduct with Respect to Documents in Furtherance of Trafficking, Peonage, Slavery, Involuntary Servitude, or Forced Labor is codified in 18 U.S.C. § 1592. These federal sex crimes can result in significant jail time as well as substantial fines.

Sex Trafficking of Minors

There are several federal sex crimes that apply to the sex trafficking of minors. Specifically, these charges are:

18 U.S.C § 1591- Sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud, or coercion
18 U.S.C. § 2421- Transportation generally
18 U.S.C. § 2423- Transportation of minors
18 U.S.C. § 2425- Use of interstate facilities to transmit information about a minor

These federal sex crimes charges can result in significant jail time as well as substantial fines. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you take the attorney selection process very seriously to ensure you find the right attorney for your case.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Federal Sex Crimes

1. When are Sex Crimes Prosecuted by Federal Prosecutors and not State Prosecutors?

Generally, sex crimes are prosecuted on the state level. That is because sex crimes usually take place within a single state. However, if a sex crime occurred on federal land, or involved crossing state lines, then it can be prosecuted under federal law. These federal sex crimes are handled by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country and are handled in federal district courts.

2. What Should I Do If I Find Out I Am Under Investigation for Committing Federal Sex Crimes?

If you find out that you are being investigated for committing federal sex crimes, you need to start the interview process for finding an attorney as soon as possible. The worst thing you can do for your case is to agree to meet with the investigators without an attorney present. Under no circumstances should you be meeting with the investigators on your own, without counsel. Interview a few federal sex crimes attorneys, find the one you like best and start working on your defense strategy.

Contact Top Rated Federal Sex Crimes Attorneys

If you or your loved one has been arrested or are under investigation for committing federal sex crimes, you need top rated federal sex crimes attorney by your side. Read our client testimonials to see what our clients say about our services and contact us to schedule your consultation today.