DC and Virginia Federal Sex Crimes

DC and Virginia Federal Sex Crimes 

Sex offenses charged in federal court are extremely serious and will warrant experienced federal criminal defense counsel. These offenses typically involve some combination of enticing or engaging in sexual acts with a minor or possession, production, or distribution of pornographic materials involving minors.

Some offenses carry mandatory minimum jail time while others carry stiff prison sentences. Virtually all federal sex offenses require registration as a sex offender for anyone convicted. Federal sex offenses typically involve some type of intrastate action. Common sex offenses like sexual assault and rape are prosecuted locally. For federal prosecutors to charge someone for a sex offense there must typically be some type of action that crosses state lines. That is why in most federal sex offense cases usually involve some type of conduct over the internet or through the United States Postal Service.

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Potential Penalties for Sex Crimes

Just as there are different sex crime charges, penalties for Virginia sex crimes can also vary. Violent sex crimes such as rape, inanimate object sexual penetration, aggravated sexual battery, and forcible sodomy typically carry the harshest penalties.

On the other hand, potential penalties for individuals convicted of a federal sexual offense are governed by the provisions of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Although the court will consider potential mitigating and aggravating factors that may exist when determining the sentence, those convicted will most likely be looking at long-term incarceration.

Federal sex crimes often carry mandatory minimum sentencing. In other words, a convicted individual will be required to serve at least a specified federal prison sentence. Most serious sex crimes, as well as defendants who were previously convicted of another federal sex crime, typically result in harsh punishment and may be sentenced to life in prison.

However, a prison sentence is not the only sentence for an individual convicted of a federal sex crime. Once they complete their term of incarceration, they will be faced with a lengthy placement on the sex offender registry. Even those convicted of state sex crimes will be faced with the same requirement, so in Virginia, for example, they will be put on the Virginia sex offender registry. The sex offender databases permit the general public to easily identify a person who has been convicted of a sex offense.

Enticement and Traveler Cases

 

One common set of federal sex crimes involve allegations of trying to convince or entice a minor to engage in sex acts across state lines. These cases are often referred to as “enticement cases.” They are alleged violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2422, which states:

(a) Whoever knowingly persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any individual to travel in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any Territory or Possession of the United States, to engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

(b) Whoever, using the mail or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce, or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States knowingly persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any individual who has not attained the age of 18 years, to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than 10 years or for life.

These cases typically involve law enforcement engaging in a “reverse sting” where a detective or agent poses as a child online or an adult with access to a minor to engage in sexual activity. Violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2422 (b) carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. That means a conviction for this subsection requires the judge to sentence the defendant to at least 10 years in jail. Subsection (a) typically involves prostitution type cases and does not require the “enticement” to target a minor or person underage.

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Another federal law commonly used to prosecute sex offenses is 18 U.S.C. 2423 §§ (a),(b), which provides:

Transportation With Intent To Engage in Criminal Sexual Activity

A person who knowingly transports an individual who has not attained the age of 18 years in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States, with the intent that the individual engages in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than 10 years or for life.

Travel With Intent To Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct

A person who travels in interstate commerce or travels into the United States, or a United States citizen or an alien admitted for permanent residence in the United States who travels in foreign commerce, for the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

Subsection (a) carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison while subsection (b) does not carry a mandatory minimum. The main difference between the two subsections is that subsection (a) requires the existence of an actual minor. Subsection (b) does not require and is typically used with an undercover officer posing online as an adult intermediary who has access to a fictitious child. The undercover typically pretends that he has access to a child and tries to convince the target to cross state lines to engage in some type of sex act with this fictitious child.

These cases do not require but often go hand in hand with prosecutions for child pornography. Once an individual is arrested for one of the above offenses, the FBI will usually get a warrant for all the person’s electronic devices (computers, cell phones, tablets, etc.) looking for child pornography. See this article for more information about these crimes or contact Gretchen T. Pousson for a consultation.

Possession, Production, and Dissemination of Child Pornography

There are several federal statutes that criminalize the possession, production, and dissemination of child pornography. Violation of any of these statutes constitutes a serious crime and the federal government prosecutes these cases very aggressively. The following statutes usually apply to child pornography cases:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 2251- Sexual Exploitation of Children (Production of child pornography)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2251A- Selling and Buying of Children
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252- Certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors (Possession, distribution, and receipt of child pornography)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252A- certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2260- Production of sexually explicit depictions of a minor for importation into the United States

Several federal child pornography statutes trigger mandatory minimum prison sentences. For example, 18 U.S.C. § 2251 provides a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years for a first offender convicted of producing child pornography. A violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252 carries a mandatory minimum of five years in prison for transporting child pornography in interstate or foreign commerce. A conviction for any offense related to child pornography also requires the offender to register as a sex offender upon release from prison.

Looking for a Federal Sex Crimes Defense Attorney? Contact Gretchen T. Pousson now!

Arrest, prosecution, and conviction of a federal sex offense can create life-changing consequences. The stigma associated with sex offender registration can follow an offender for the rest of their life.

Accordingly, if you are under investigation or charged with a federal sex offense, it is important you talk to an experienced sex crimes lawyer and qualified federal criminal defense lawyer. Contact Gretchen T. Pousson today or call at 703-783-5740 for a full case evaluation.

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