Federal Sex Offenses
Most states, including Pennsylvania, currently have specific laws in place that prosecute sex crimes harshly, in some instances, these crimes are prosecuted on the federal level as well. Typically, sex offenses that are considered particularly aggravated or egregious are tried under federal law. Convictions for sex offenses under state law or federal law can result in severe punishments. When a defendant is convicted of a federal sex offense charge, federal sentencing guidelines may be implemented.
Seeking Top Criminal Trial Lawyers When It Matters
Lee Ciccarelli and his criminal team our experienced and devoted to fighting for our clients. Contact our federal criminal defense team today if you are seeking a federal criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania. We serve clients in Pennsylvania including the greater Philadelphia metropolitan area, including West Chester, Lancaster, Norristown, Media, King of Prussia, Doylestown, Harrisburg, Reading and Lebanon. Contact us today by email or call us at (610) 692-8700.
State courts have significant power, so many sex offenses will be heard in state courts, however, any sex crime that involves children (sexual assault of a child, rape of a child, possession of child pornography, distribution of child pornography, etc.) is considered a federal crime. Other sex crimes such as aggravated sexual abuse, repeat offender sexual assault or abuse, sexual exploitation of a child, human trafficking, sexual abuse of a minor, sexual abuse that results in death, and selling or buying children for sexual purposes are also considered federal crimes.
A conviction for a federal or state sex crime can not only cost you your freedom, but it can also ruin your reputation and your livelihood. You could face many years in prison, significant fines, and mandatory sex offender registration. Even after you have served your sentence, you could find it difficult to rent a home, almost impossible to secure employment, difficult to engage in higher education via a student loan, and you could be prohibited from owning a firearm or obtaining a professional license.
The requirement to register on the national sex offender registry includes a public posting of your name, address, photo, and description of your offense. Anyone with an interest has access to your private information for many years to come. Additionally, being placed on the sex offender registry limits where you are allowed to live, how close you can get to a school or public park, and where you can be. If you are convicted of a federal sex crime, you could also be sent to a Federal Medical Center—a place that treats the mentally ill and sex offenders.
You would also be enrolled in a residential Sex Offender Treatment Program or Sex Offender Management Program—whether you like it or not. Since federal sex crimes are considered some of the most serious offenses in the United States, the resulting punishments are severe—and usually spelled out by federal laws.
Sex Crimes Against Children
As noted, most sex crimes involving children are prosecuted at the federal level—and punished harshly. It is important to note that a “child” and a “minor” are not always the same under the law, and this can be confusing, Generally, the term “minor” refers to anyone who has not reached the full age to vote, buy alcohol, join the military, sign a legal contract, etc. An 18-year-old is considered an adult when it comes to joining the military, voting, and signing certain types of credit contracts, yet only those 21 years of age and older can legally buy and consume alcohol.
The term “child,” is usually reserved for those fourteen years and younger—unless you are referring to child custody or child support. Additionally, the term “juvenile,” refers to those between 14 and 17. A “child” is usually under the age of 14, while a minor could be under the age of 18 or under the age of 16, depending on the charge. For most sex crimes, “minor” and “child” are used interchangeably. Sex crimes related to minors could include:
- Sexual assault of a child or minor
- Rape of a child or minor
- Any type of sexual exploitation of a child or minor (via photographs, Internet, etc.)
- Any type of sexual abuse against a child or minor
- The purchase of a child for sexual purposes
- The purchase or sale of a child for sexual purposes
- Possessing or distributing child pornography (sharing photographs, digital materials, sexting, or transmitting information regarding a minor to other adults).
Other Federal Sex Crimes
There are other sex crimes that may be elevated to the federal level when the crime is considered to be “aggravated.” These include:
- Any type of sexual abuse that includes force or fear to coerce the victim into an undesired sexual act
- Any type of sexual abuse that includes a threat of bodily injury to coerce the victim into an undesired sexual act
- Any type of sexual abuse that includes kidnapping to coerce the victim into an undesired sexual act
- Any type of sexual abuse that causes death while attempting to coerce the victim into an undesired sexual act
- Any type of sexual abuse that includes illicitly providing drugs to an unsuspecting victim as a means of rendering the victim unconscious for a sexual act
- Any type of human trafficking (using coercion, fraud, or force to recruit, transport, harbor, or otherwise obtain a person for forced labor or commercial sex acts
- Any type of sexual abuse that results in the death of the victim
- Any type of sex crime that crosses state lines (buying or selling child pornography across state lines, crossing a state line with the intent of engaging in a sexual crime, etc.)
- Any type of sex crime that occurs on a military base, a federal prison, American Indian land, or other federal facilities
- Any sex offender that is charged with more than one sex crime
Punishments for Federal Sex Offenses
According to the United States Sentencing Commission, the following facts apply to federal punishments for sex offenses:
- Mandatory minimum penalties for sex offenses are applied less frequently in the federal system compared to mandatory minimum sentences for other crimes.
- Federal sex offender convictions amount to about 4.2 percent of the total number of federal convictions for all criminal offenses.
- Federal sex offense prosecutions have increased in number since 2016.
- Federal sex offenders are more likely to be subject to the mandatory minimum federal penalties.
- While the number of child pornography offenders has increased since 2004, overall, the number has remained relatively stable.
- In 2016, Native American sex offenders comprised 11.7 percent of the overall number of sex offenders even though Native Americans only make up 2.4 percent of the population.
- White sex offenders comprised more than 80 percent of those convicted of a child pornography offense.
- The average age for all convicted child pornography offenders was 42.
- In 2016, the average sentence for convicted sex offenders when the offense carried a mandatory minimum penalty was three times longer than those convicted of a sexual offense that did not carry a mandatory minimum penalty.
- Child pornography offenders with a prior sex conviction face a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence.
In the end, a conviction for a federal sex crime is likely to bring a mandatory minimum sentence of prison along with other penalties, such as fines. If the crime is premeditated or sadistic, it is likely to be punished more severely. Most sex offenders who complete their prison sentence must enter a period of parole or probation in which they must meet regularly with a court official and abide by a list of specific rules.
Federal Sex Crime Defenses
While your specific defense for a federal sex crime will depend on the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime, the following are the most common defenses against federal sex crimes.
- Actual innocence—Your best defense if you are innocent is, that you are innocent. Even in cases where it seems virtually impossible to prove your innocence, a strong federal criminal defense attorney will work hard to sow sufficient doubt among jurors. Whether you are tried in state court or federal court, the prosecutor must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Consent—When you are charged with a sex offense against a child or minor, there is no consent, therefore, this defense would not be applicable. If you are charged with a sex offense against a person over the age of 18, you may be able to prove the sexual acts in question were consensual. Not only can a minor not consent to a sexual act, neither can a person who is incapacitated, has a mental illness, or was forced or deceived into giving consent.
- Insanity/Involuntary Intoxication—Your attorney may claim you did not have the state of mind to know your conduct was wrong. If you can prove you were somehow drugged intoxicated by a method other than your own doing, then the case against you could be dismissed. In both of these situations, your ability to distinguish right from wrong has been compromised.
- Mistaken Identity—Perhaps you are being accused of a federal sex crime, but in fact, you have been misidentified as the person that committed the crime when you were not. This is essentially the same as actual innocence.
- Violation of your Rights—If your rights were violated (you were not properly Mirandized, or an illegal search and seizure was involved), evidence was collected improperly, the police did not interview other potential suspects, or there were other violations, your attorney may be able to have your case dismissed.
Get the Help You Need
You want a team of experienced, passionate federal crimes lawyer that are ready to fight for you. Contact the Ciccarelli legal team today at (610) 692-8700. We serve federal criminal clients throughout Pennsylvania and are convenient to our clients with office locations in Philadelphia, West Chester, Lancaster, Springfield, Malvern, Plymouth Meeting, Lancaster, and Radnor and also available for phone and video meetings. You can have our lawyers provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call (610) 692-8700 or complete an online contact form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.