18 U.S. Code § 2422 - Coercion and Enticement
Every state has laws criminalizing the coercing or enticing of people to commit acts of prostitution. But when the activity crosses state lines or employs the U.S. Mail, it falls under federal jurisdiction and becomes a federal crime—and thus, subject to harsher sentencing.
The law is particularly severe when it comes to coercing or enticing minors. The federal law criminalizing coercion and enticement is codified in Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 2422.
A wide range of activities falls under the umbrella of federal sex crimes, including being charged with a crime not only for engaging in illegal sexual activity but also for coercing or enticing someone to participate in unlawful acts. It's also a federal crime to attempt to convince someone to commit an illegal sex act or make child pornography images or videos.
18 U.S.C. 2422 says, (a) Whoever knowingly persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any individual to travel in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any United States territory, to engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, or attempts to do so, shall be….”
(b) Whoever, using the mail or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce, or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, knowingly persuades, induces, entices, or coerces 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, or attempts to do so, shall be….”
If you're convicted of a crime under this law, you could be sentenced to life in prison, depending on the circumstances and severity. Let's review this federal law further below.
What Does the Law Say?
As noted, Title 18 U.S.C. 2422 penalizes knowingly persuading, inducing, enticing, or coercing an individual to engage in prostitution or any illegal sexual activity.
This federal statute covers a broad range of actions, from enticing a minor into sexual activity to making obscene proposals, using the internet for grooming potential victims, child pornography, etc. This law specifically identifies two types of crimes discussed below.
18 U.S.C. 2422(a)
Section 2422(a) targets any person who knowingly persuades, induces, entices, or coerces another individual to travel across state lines or international borders with the intent of engaging in prostitution or other criminal sexual conduct.
18 U.S.C. 2422(b)
Section 2422(b) explicitly addresses actions involving the persuasion or enticement of a minor under 18 into illegal sexual activities.
This section not only addresses the crossing of state lines but also the use of the mail to conduct this activity, also extending the jurisdiction to the "special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States," such as U.S. States vessels on international waters, aircraft, and other U.S. territories.
The Supreme Court has interpreted this statute as criminalizing attempts to achieve a particular mental state, namely the consent of a minor to engage in sexual activity.
According to jury instructions for this section, there needs to be more than merely preparation to constitute a substantial step toward committing the crime. Instead, the defendant's actions must unequivocally demonstrate that the offense will occur unless interrupted by independent circumstances.
What Are the Elements of the Crime?
To convict you of a crime under 18 U.S.C. 2422, prosecutors must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Interstate or Foreign Commerce: The act of coercion or enticement must involve using any means of interstate or foreign commerce. This includes mail, wire, radio, or any other interstate or foreign commerce facility.
- Knowingly Persuading or Enticing: The offender must have knowingly persuaded, induced, enticed, or coerced an individual.
- Criminal Sexual Activity: The induced act must be an illicit sexual activity for which a person can be charged with a criminal offense under state law.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: Jon places an ad on an internet bulletin board in multiple states offering "quick money for easy work." For those who reply, Jon takes them through a subtle grooming process to become part of a prostitution ring. John can be charged under 18 U.S.C. 2422 because he uses the internet across state lines to commit this activity.
EXAMPLE 2: Susan entices a 15-year-old girl to travel from Maryland to Virginia, then forces her to participate in a pornographic video. In addition to other charges, Susan can be charged under 18 U.S.C. 2422.
EXAMPLE 3: A U.S. cargo ship traveling from India to the U.S. agrees to take on a few passengers trying to emigrate to the States. The captain entices a 17-year-old passenger by offering money if she will "service" the crew members sexually. The captain can be charged under 18 U.S.C. 2422.
What Are the Related Federal Laws?
Several federal laws are related to this crime. Many are listed under 18 U.S. Code Chapter 117 Transportation for illegal sexual activity has several federal statutes that are related to 18 U.S.C. 2422 coercion and enticement, including the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 2421 - Transportation generally;
- 18 U.S.C. 2421A - Promotion prostitution and sex trafficking;
- 18 U.S.C. 2423 - Transportation of minors;
- 18 U.S.C. 2424 - Filing factual statements about aliens;
- 18 U.S.C. 2425 - Using facilities to transmit information about a minor;
- 18 U.S.C. 2426 - Repeat offenders;
- 18 U.S.C. 2427 - Inclusion of offenses relating to child pornography;
- 18 U.S.C. 2428 - Forfeitures;
- 18 U.S.C. 2429 - Mandatory restitution;
- 18 U.S.C. 1581 - Human trafficking;
- 18 U.S.C. 2251A - Buying or selling children;
- 18 U.S.C. 2245 - Sexual Abuse resulting in death;
- 18 U.S.C. 2251 - Sexual exploitation of children.
What Are the Penalties for 18 U.S.C. 2422?
The penalties for violating Title 18 U.S.C. 2422 are severe, and the consequences will vary depending on the case's specific circumstances. Penalties are different for each section of the law. If you're convicted of this crime, you could face the following:
- For violations of 2422(a) (i.e., enticing/coercing any individual into illegal sexual activity): you may face fines up to $250,000 and prison time up to 20 years.
- For violations of 2422(b) (i.e., enticing/coercing minors): you'll face a minimum of 10 years up to life imprisonment.
What Are the Defenses for 18 U.S.C. 2422?
Legal defenses against charges of coercion and enticement often hinge on disproving one or more elements of the alleged crime. Our federal criminal defense lawyers may be able to use one of the strategies discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that you did not knowingly entice the victim into illegal sexual activity. For example, maybe you were recruiting someone for a "friend" without knowing the end goal.
Perhaps we can argue that there was no enticement or coercion. Your attorney may argue that the alleged victim willingly participated in illicit sexual activity without your persuasion. This may still result in other charges but could get the enticement charge dismissed.
Perhaps we can argue that the alleged victim was not a minor or that you were unaware they were a minor. This defense may still result in a conviction, but you would avoid the more severe penalty of 10 years to life.
You can contact our law firm for a case review by phone or through the contact form. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, California.