Federal sex crimes are some of the most serious criminal offenses in the United States and the potential consequences of a federal sex crimes conviction include not only incarceration in federal prison and substantial fines, but possible sex offender registration as well. If you have been arrested for a sex crime like child pornography possession or aggravated sexual assault, the best way to protect your rights and defend yourself against federal charges is to hire an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer.
Your defense attorney will be your most valuable legal advocate and the one person who can help you avoid a potential sex crimes conviction, so you will want an attorney who is familiar not only with the California statutes, but with the United States Code. At Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers, our legal team specializes in criminal defense and our lawyers have extensive experience defending clients against sex crimes and other charges at the federal level. Our firm is based in California, but we represent clients in federal sex crimes cases nationwide. Call our firm today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
What is a Sex Crime?
Sex crimes are specifically defined crimes involving unlawful sexual acts or sexual behaviors. The phrase “sex crimes” encompasses a wide range of criminal conduct, including everything from aggravated sexual assault against another person to downloading or uploading images depicting child pornography onto a computer.
Both state and federal courts can prosecute sex crimes that occur in the state of California, and while certain sex crimes, like rape and sexual assault, typically involve violations of state law and are tried in state court, there are certain specific circumstances that can trigger federal charges in a sex crimes case.
Types of Federal Sex Crimes
Federal charges are typically reserved for more serious sex crimes that violate a specific federal statute, such as 18 U.S. Code § 2251, the law prohibiting sexual exploitation of children, or 18 U.S. Code § 1584, the law prohibiting the sale of another person into involuntary servitude (sex trafficking). However, a sex crime can also fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government if the alleged criminal activity takes place on federal land or territory (i.e. a military base, federal prison or American Indian land), or if the activity crosses state lines or international borders.
This applies in cases where a defendant is accused of traveling from one state to another for the purpose of engaging in a sex crime or is accused of buying or selling child pornography across state lines. What would otherwise qualify as a state sex crime can also be tried as a federal crime if the offense is particularly severe or aggravated (i.e. it results in death), if it involves harm to a child, if the defendant has a significant criminal history, or if the specific characteristics of the crime warrants a federal charge. The following are some examples of sex crimes that can be tried as federal offenses:
• Child pornography possession or distribution
• Child sexual exploitation
• Child sexual assault
• Sex trafficking
• Aggravated sexual assault
• Aggravated sexual abuse
• Kidnapping for the purpose of committing a sex crime
• Human trafficking
• Sexual abuse of a minor or ward
Federal Sex Crime Penalties
Federal sex offenses are generally more serious than sex crimes that violate state laws and the penalties associated with a federal sex crime conviction tend to be more severe than the penalties levied by the state. In fact, many federal crimes involve mandatory minimum sentencing, which are predetermined terms of imprisonment that apply to certain serious and/or violent crimes, like sex crimes.
The minimum sentencing requirements set forth under the U.S. Code mean that defendants convicted of sex crimes in federal court will almost definitely serve time in prison, even for a first offense. And the more egregious the sex crime, the more harshly the crime will be punished. Generally speaking, sex crimes that involve minors carry lengthy prison sentences under federal law.
As an example, if you have been arrested for child pornography possession or distribution (18 U.S. Code § 2252A), you could be imprisoned in federal prison for between five and 20 years. If you have been arrested for sexual exploitation of children (18 U.S. Code § 2251), you could face a potential penalty of between 15 and 30 years in federal prison.
If you have been arrested for aggravated sexual abuse (18 U.S. Code § 2241) committed by force or threat or by other means, you could face a potential penalty of any term of years or life in federal prison. If the aggravated sexual abuse offense involves a child, you could face a minimum term of imprisonment of 30 years to life.
In some cases, it may even be possible to face charges in federal court and state court for the same alleged criminal conduct. If the sex crime you are accused of committing violates state and federal law, you could end up facing charges for both.
National Sex Offender Registration
If you are convicted of a federal sex crime, part of your punishment may include registering as a sex offender with federal authorities and with the state where you live, work or attend school, possibly for the rest of your life. In 2006, a comprehensive, national sex offender registration database called the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) was established under Title 1 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.
The national sex offender registry monitors convicted sex offenders following their release into the community and provides information about them to local and federal authorities and the public, including their name, past offenses, employment status, location of residence and other personal details. There are a number of restrictions placed on registered sex offenders as well, including restrictions on where they can live and work and how far away they must stay from public parks, schools, playgrounds and other areas where children are present. These restrictions apply even to registered sex offenders whose crimes did not involve a child.
Sex offender registries in the United States exist at both the state and federal levels. The national sex offender registry is a tiered system that categorizes convicted sex offenders into one of three tiers based on the severity of the crime and how long they are required to maintain registration as a sex offender:
• Tier I sex offenders are required to maintain registration for 15 years
• Tier II sex offenders are required to maintain registration for 25 years
• Tier III sex offenders are required to maintain registration for life
Why You Need a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
The federal government has made it a priority to investigate and punish sex crimes, especially those that involve children, and being convicted of a federal sex crime like sex trafficking, child sexual assault or child pornography can have a negative impact on the rest of your life, even after you have served your prison sentence.
One of the biggest mistakes criminal suspects make in sex crimes cases is waiting until they have been formally charged to consult an attorney. Often, federal sex crime charges are the result of a lengthy investigation by the FBI or another federal agency. If this is the case with you, you may find upon being arrested or indicted by a grand jury that the government has already compiled a great deal of evidence against you, which can make your defense seem like an uphill battle.
Hiring legal counsel immediately after being arrested or learning that you are the target of a federal investigation gives your attorney the opportunity to get a jump start on your defense, which can only help your case. There are many different categories of sex crimes that can lead to federal charges and each demands a unique defense approach. Consult our legal team at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers today to find out how we can help you defend yourself against sex crime charges.
Consult Our Federal Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys Today
Being arrested for any crime can be stressful and traumatic, but the stigma associated with sex crimes makes these cases considerably more complicated and challenging for criminal defendants and their loved ones. If you are facing federal charges for a sex crime in California, whether you were arrested as part of a nationwide sweep or an individual investigation, it is imperative that you retain the services of a knowledgeable federal criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and get you the best possible outcome in your case.
At Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers, we know that the legal, personal and professional repercussions of a sex crimes conviction can affect virtually every aspect of your life, which is why you need a defense lawyer on your side who has relevant experience in federal sex crimes defense and understands the myriad issues that can arise in these types of cases. The lawyer you choose to represent your defense can mean the difference between clearing your name and being forced to serve time in prison and register as a convicted sex offender, so be sure to make the choice with care.