Selling or Buying of Children – 18 U.S.C. § 2551A

18 U.S.C. § 2551A is a serious federal sex crime offense and imposes harsh criminal penalties for anyone convicted of the buying or selling of children.

It should be noted there are several federal statutes describing sexual related crimes involving children, but this statute criminalizes buying or selling children for the commission of sex crimes.

It should also be noted that you could face 18 U.S.C. § 2551A federal criminal charges if you are a parent or legal guardian and transfer control of your child when you know they will be engaging in sexual explicit conduct – or in a situation where they will get involved in making sexually explicit material.

In fact, it’s a crime for anyone to transfer custody or control of children when there is an intent to promote sexually explicit activity or intent to promote assistance. For instance, if you purchase a child – or even make an offer to purchase – for them to participate in sexual activity, you are facing severe penalties if convicted.

To give readers a better understanding of the federal crime of buying and selling children described under 18 U.S.C. § 2551A, our federal criminal defense attorneys are providing an overview below.

Definition of 18 U.S.C. § 2551A

18 U.S.C. § 2551A defines the federal sex crime offense of buying or selling children as follows:

Any parent, legal guardian, or someone with custody or control of a minor who sells or transfers custody or control, or offers, with knowledge as a result of the sale or transfer, a minor will be portrayed in a visual depiction engaging in, or assisting someone in sexually explicit conduct, or with intent to promote sexually explicit conduct by minor for to produce sexual visual depiction, or renders assistance by the minor for others to engage in such conduct, will be punished by imprisonment for not less than 30 years or  life in federal prison.

Each subsection describes specific conduct that relates to trafficking minors. Thus, we will review each section of this federal crime in order to gain a better understanding what type of conduct is illegal – along with the penalties.

It should be noted these federal statutes represent the most serious types of sex crimes involving children under federal criminal laws.  Therefore, if you are under investigation, or already charged, you need to consult with a federal criminal defense lawyer immediately.

If you don’t properly respond to an 18 U.S.C. § 2551A accusation with a seasoned federal lawyer, you could be facing a significant federal prison sentence.

Parent, Guardian, or Anyone with Custody or Control of Child

As defined above, subsection (a) of Section 2251A defines the federal crime of buying or selling of children as any parent or legal guardian having custody or control of a minor who sells or transfers custody or control, or offers, knowing they will engage in sexually explicit conduct.

There are some important factors of this definition that need to be discussed. This federal crime not only applies to a parent or guardian, but also to anyone with custody or control of the minor. In other words, any person who has physical custody of the minor can be found guilty of 18 U.S.C. § 2551A buying and selling children.

Next, this federal statue includes a specific mental state that has to be proven by the federal prosecutor – beyond reasonable doubt – at a trial.

It’s simply not sufficient for a conviction that someone makes an offer to sell or transfer custody of a minor. It must be shown the defendant either had knowledge the sale or transfer would result the minor being exploited sexually or there was an intent to promote producing child pornography or other types of sexual exploitation.

As stated above, a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 2551A carries potential incarceration in federal prison for between 30 years and life. There are mandatory minimum penalties for sex offenses in the federal criminal justice system.

Buyers Engaging in Sexual Exploitation of Children

Subsection (b) of 18 U.S.C. § 2551A also makes it a federal crime for anyone who purchases or obtains custody or control of a minor, or offers to purchase, knowing that as a consequence of the purchase, the minor will be portrayed in a visual depiction actually engaging in, or assist someone to engage sexually explicit conduct; or with an intent to promote the same.

Likewise, a conviction under Subsection (b) of 18 U.S.C. § 2551A also carries severe penalties for a conviction – 30 years or for life in federal prison – and by a fine.

As you can see, subsection (b) is the just about the same as subsection (a). However, subsection (a) deals with anyone who sells children for purposes of sexual exploitation and producing child pornography.

Subsection (b) makes it a federal crime for anyone who buys children to engage in the same type of conduct. Again, the prescribed federal penalties is incarceration in federal prison for 30 years to life. Some related federal offenses for 18 U.S.C. § 2551A, selling or buying children, include:

18 U.S.C. § 2241 – Aggravated sexual abuse
18 U.S.C. § 2242 – Sexual abuse
18 U.S.C. § 2243 – Sexual abuse of a minor or ward
18 U.S.C. § 2244 – Abusive sexual contact

Crossing State Lines to Buy or Sell Children

Subsection (c) of 18 U.S.C. § 2551A addresses the jurisdictional limitation that would apply to this statute, such as buying or selling children across state lines. It states the circumstances are that in the course of the conduct outlined in the subsections above, the minor traveled or transported that affected interstate or foreign commerce.

It also includes any offer that was communicated or transported using interstate or foreign by means including by computer or mail, or conduct that took place in the United States. This subsection is crucial in federal criminal statutes. Generally, individual prosecutors of the 50 states deal with their own criminal matters.

In order for federal law enforcement authorities to have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute these crimes, they must have an inter-state impact.

Thus, subsection (c) specifies various scenarios where buying and selling of children could cross state lines, like using a computer or by mail across state lines, or physical transportation of the minor across a state border.

Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

As you can see from the overview above, the federal sex crime of buying and selling children described under 18 U.S.C. § 2251A is a very serious offense which could lead to a life term of federal imprisonment if convicted.

Early intervention into the case before court by an experienced federal criminal defense attorney is crucial to have the best chance at a favorable outcome. We need to review the details in order to develop a strategy.

Eisner Gorin LLP is a criminal defense law firm located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Call our law firm for a consultation at (310) 328-3776.