Review of Federal Sex Crime Investigations and Prosecutions
Sex crimes are not solely the concern of California state legislators and local law enforcement agencies. The United States Congress has also defined numerous federal sex crimes, which carry more severe life-altering penalties, such as a federal prison sentence and mandatory registration as a sex offender.
Put simply, federal sexual related crimes are the most serious offenses you can be charged with, and you will need an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer to have the best chance at a favorable outcome.
The same conduct that constitutes a state sex crime may in many cases also constitute a federal sex crime, such as sex trafficking of minors and child pornography.
State prosecutors may delay or defer prosecution on state sex crimes in favor of federal prosecution or charge state sex crimes for the same conduct in a state court proceeding.
A defendant may face both federal and state prosecutions. Defending federal sex crime charges raises special challenges requiring skilled attorney representation.
Sophisticated and well-resourced federal agencies within the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate and gather evidence to charge federal sex crimes, which U.S. attorneys prosecute in the federal courts.
Those agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Postal Inspection Service, and National Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
If you were accused of committing a sex crime in Southern California or anywhere in the Unites States, our legal team can protect your rights and seek to resolve the case in your best interest.
What is a Federal Sex Crime?
A “sex crime” is generally defines as any type of criminal offense that is sexual related, and often involves some type of sexual assault or it has the motive of an unnatural sexual gratification.
Readers should note that the vast majority of sex crimes are investigated and prosecuted at the state-level.
Federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors will only get involved when the crime crosses state or international lines, involves minors, or is in violation of a federal law.
Some of the most commonly charged federal sex crimes include the following:
- child pornography,
- sexual exploitation of children,
- sex trafficking,
- child sex trafficking,
- trafficking for the purpose of prostitution,
- transporting someone to engage in illegal sex activity,
- online solicitation of minors,
- solicitation of underage prostitution,
- internet sex crimes,
- transporting obscene material for sale or distribution,
- transferring obscene material to minors,
- importing sexually explicit depictions into the United States,
- kidnapping with intent to commit a sex crime,
- sex tourism
Out of all these federal crimes listed above, internet sex crimes such as producing or selling child pornography are one of the most common because internet is considered an interstate commerce facility .
This simply means it has the ability to be used in exchanging commodities between people in different states that crosses state lines.
What are Some Federal Statutory Offenses?
Federal sex crimes tend to focus on specific problems that Congress committed its legislation to address, like internet crimes against children, computer use for child pornography, or sex trafficking across state lines.
But federal sex crimes can reach much broader forms of sexual misconduct, overlapping state sex crime laws. Federal sex crimes include:
- sexual abuse under 18 U.S.C. § 2242,
- aggravated sexual abuse under 18 U.S.C. § 2241,
- sexual abuse of a minor or ward under 18 U.S.C. § 2243, or
- abusive sexual contact under 18 U.S.C. § 2244, while in maritime, territorial, or U.S. prison jurisdiction;
- sexual abuse resulting in death under 18 U.S.C. § 2245(a)(1);
- child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2256, involving the visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct;
- child sexual exploitation under 18 U.S.C. § 2251, involving enticing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for visual depiction;
- selling or buying a child for purposes of visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct, under 18 U.S.C. § 2251A;
- sex trafficking of children under 18 U.S.C. § 1591, involving knowing recruitment, enticement, harboring, or transporting of a minor, or in reckless disregard of the fact that the minor would be caused to engage in a commercial sex act;
- transport of a minor across state lines for unlawful sexual activity under 18 U.S.C. § 2423:
- transfer of obscene material to minors under 18 U.S.C. § 1470, and
- female genital mutilation under 18 U.S.C. § 116.
What are the Federal Sex Crime Punishments?
As noted, defendants charged with federal sex crimes face stiff punishments than those who are charged at the state level. Federal sexual abuse and child pornography crimes carry mandatory minimum penalties.
These penalties tend to increase the convicted defendant’s prison sentence substantially.
The average 252-month, roughly a twenty-year sentence for offenders convicted of federal sex crimes with mandatory minimum penalties is nearly three times longer than the average 86-month, roughly seven-year, sentence for offenses without mandatory minimum penalties.
The average sentence for child pornography offenders under the mandatory minimum penalty for a prior sex offense conviction is 136 months, which is roughly 11 years.
Child pornography offenders convicted of distribution received an average 140-month, roughly 12-year sentence, while pornography offenders convicted of receipt offenses averaged a 93-month, a roughly eight-year sentence.
The federal offense of producing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years.
As a federal offense, sex trafficking of minors has a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years or 15 years, but depends on the age of the victim, and whether it was accomplished by use of fraud, force or coercion.
The federal offense of traveling across state lines with intent to have sex with a minor carries a minimum 30-year federal prison sentence.
Do I Have to Register as a Federal Sex Offender?
The federal “Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act” created a national registration system linking state sex registration databases.
The National Sex Offender Registration and Notification System requires convicted sex offenders to register with the database, including residence address, school attendance, employment status, and other personal information.
Failure to register is a federal crime. Federal registration laws place sex offenders in three tiers depending on offense severity. With certain exceptions:
- Tier I offenders must register for fifteen years and appear annually to have their picture taken and verity their registration information;
- Tier II offenders for twenty-five years and must appear every six months to have their photo taken and verify registration information;
- Tier III offenders for life and has to appear every three months to get their picture taken and verification of registration information.
Tier III juvenile delinquents have a chance to be removed from the registry after 25 years if they keep a clean record.
Registration laws also regulate where offenders may reside and move, especially to prevent their presence near schools and parks.
What are the Defenses to Federal Sex Crimes?
Many defendants charged with federal sex crimes can, with the right attorney representation, raise effective defenses to the charges.
Federal sex criminal cases are typically more complex and difficult to defend compared to a state level case because prosecutors are very selective in the type of cases they pursue and believe they can win
Making convincing defense arguments for sex crime charges in federal court is often complicated as it requires extensive investigation and planning.
Federal prosecutors must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
A defendant who can produce evidence raising reasonable doubt may succeed in any of the following defenses, among several other potential defenses:
- the alleged victim’s consent to the charged misconduct;
- the victim’s misidentification of the defendant;
- the defendant’s innocence to the charges;
- entrapment of the defendant by federal investigators;
- the defendant’s mental incapacity to commit the alleged crime;
- the defendant’s insanity at the time of the alleged crime;
- violations of right to counsel;
- unreasonable search and seizure;
- lack on intent or knowingly committing the crime;
- prosecution has insufficient evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt;
- you voluntarily completely withdrew from crime before it was completed;
The consequences of a federal sex crimes conviction will can your life. Put simply, you will need a skilled federal criminal lawyer who knows how to fight and negotiate with the prosecutor.
If you are under investigation for a sex crime, then early intervention into you case by our law firm is crucial.
Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles County and serves clients in California and across the United States. Contact our office for an initial consultation at (877) 781-1570.