Title 18 U.S. Code § 2423 - Transportation of Minors
Every state has laws criminalizing the practice of "sex trafficking"—specifically, the transportation of minors for prostitution or other illicit practices. But when this crime crosses state or international boundaries, i.e., "interstate or foreign commerce," it becomes a federal crime.
Title 18 U.S. Code 2423 imposes harsh penalties on anyone convicted of trafficking minors across state or international lines for the purpose of illicit sexual activity.
The law even further criminalizes other forms of "sex tourism"—the practice of traveling to other countries to engage in illicit sex with minors.
18 U.S.C. 2423 says, “(a) Transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Anyone who knowingly transports an individual who has not attained the age of 18 years in interstate or foreign commerce, or… in any United States territory… with the intent that the individual engages in prostitution or in any sexual activity for which they can be charged with a criminal offense… shall be fined and imprisoned….”
Subsection (b) criminalizes traveling intending to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Subsection (c) criminalizes engaging in illicit sexual behavior in foreign places.
Subsection (d) Ancillary offenses, says, “Whoever, for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain, arranges, induces, procures, or facilitates the travel of a person knowing that such a person is traveling… with a motivating purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct…shall be fined and imprisoned.….”
Subsection (e) says that anyone who attempts or conspires to violate this statute will be punished in the same manner as if they completed the crime. Let's review this federal law further below.
What Does the Law Say?
Title 18 U.S. Code 2423 makes it a federal crime to engage in any of the following behaviors:
- To knowingly transport children under the age of 18 in interstate or foreign commerce or into any U.S.-owned territory with the intent that they are used for prostitution or any sexual activity forbidden by U.S. law;
- To travel into the U.S. or across state lines with the intent of engaging in illicit sexual conduct;
- For any U.S. citizen or resident alien to travel in foreign commerce with the intent of engaging in illicit sexual conduct;
- To travel to a foreign land and engage in illicit sexual conduct; or
- To facilitate others in sex tourism or to induce them to participate for "commercial advantage or private financial gain."
Other things to know about this law:
- 18 U.S.C. 2423 defines "illicit sexual conduct" as any illegal sexual act (section 2246) with a minor, commercial sexual act (section 1591) with a minor such as prostitution or production of child pornography (section 2256(8)).
- For purposes of this law, attempting or conspiring to commit any of the acts named above is treated the same as if you committed them. This means, for example, if you traveled to a foreign country for the purpose of sex tourism but you didn't succeed, you can face the same penalties as if you succeeded.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: Frederick places an ad on an Internet site for "teenagers looking for adventure."
The teens who answer the ad are enticed to travel to another state to engage in prostitution. Frederick could face federal charges under 18 U.S.C. 2423 because he engaged in child trafficking across state lines.
EXAMPLE 2: George books and goes on a trip to a tourist site in Thailand, promising sexual encounters with teen prostitutes in multiple cities. George can be charged under 18 U.S.C. 2423 because he engaged in overseas sexual tourism involving minors.
EXAMPLE 3: Sam gets involved in an online chat with a teenager living in another state. The conversation turns flirtatious, and Sam agrees to travel to the teenager's home to have a sexual encounter with her.
Instead, Sam is met at the airport by the authorities. Although Sam didn't go through with the sexual encounter, he can face federal charges under U.S.C. 2423 because he traveled across state lines to have sex with a minor.
What Are the Related Statutes?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 117 transportation for illegal sexual activity and related crimes has several federal statutes that are related to 18 U.S.C. 2423 transportation of minors, such as the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 2421 - transportation generally;
- 18 U.S.C. 2421A - promotion or facilitation of prostitution;
- 18 U.S.C. 2422 - coercion and enticement;
- 18 U.S.C. 2424 - filing factual statement about the alien individual;
- 18 U.S.C. 2425 - use of interstate facilities;
- 18 U.S.C. 2426 - repeat offenders;
- 18 U.S.C. 2427 - inclusion of offenses relating to child porn;
- 18 U.S.C. 2428 – forfeitures;
- 18 U.S.C. 2429 – mandatory restitution;
- 18 U.S.C. 2252 - child pornography;
- 18 U.S.C. 2252A - buying or selling children;
- 18 U.S.C. 2251 - sexual exploitation of children;
- 18 U.S.C. 1581 - human trafficking.
What Are the Penalties for 18 U.S.C. 2423?
Violations of 18 U.S.C. 2423 can be met with severe penalties if convicted. The possible penalties are as follows:
- For engaging in sex tourism (i.e., traveling to foreign lands or across state lines for sex with a minor): fines of up to $250,000 and up to 30 years in federal prison;
- For facilitating or assisting in sex tourism for commercial/private gain: fines up to $250,000 and up to 30 years in federal prison;
- For transporting a minor across state or international boundaries for purposes of illicit sexual conduct: a fine of up to $250,000 and a minimum prison sentence of 10 years (up to life imprisonment).
What Are the Defenses for 18 U.S.C. 2423?
As with any criminal charge, you must understand the legal defenses available if you stand accused of violating Title 18 U.S. Code 2423.
Some common strategies used against these charges by a federal criminal defense attorney are discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that there was no intent to engage in sex with a minor. You must have traveled across state lines with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor to be found guilty of 18 U.S.C. 2423 violations.
If the prosecution can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had such intentions, they won't be able to secure a conviction.
Perhaps we can argue that you were unaware the person was a minor. For example, if you traveled overseas and were solicited by a prostitute but did not know they were underage, you did not willfully engage in illicit sex tourism.
For example, subsection (g) Defense says it is a defense, which must be proven by clear and convincing evidence, that the “defendant reasonably believed that the person with whom the defendant engaged in the commercial sex act had attained the age of 18 years.”
You can contact our law firm for an initial case consultation via phone or the contact form. We provide legal representation on federal criminal matters across the United States. Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles, California.