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What are the Penalties for a Federal Sex Crime?

Federal sex crimes are often some of the most severe crimes in the United States. They typically carry the most severe penalties with significant time in federal prison, huge fines, and sex offender registration that impact every part of a defendant's life after being released from incarceration.

What are the Penalties for a Federal Sex Crime?

If the sex crime involves a minor, the penalties are often even more severe. If the sexually related crime involved violence or even resulted in death, then a defendant will receive the harshest penalties under the federal sentencing guidelines.

It should be noted. However, the vast majority of sex crimes will fall under the jurisdiction of local state laws, but the feds are responsible for maintaining the Sex Offender Registry. 

Several types of federal sex crimes carry a mandatory minimum sentence if a defendant is convicted, which is discussed further below.

Our sex crime defense lawyers are providing a detailed review below for more information.

Common Federal Sex Offenses

Under Title 18 of the United States Code, federal law defines sex offenses. The most common criminal sexual related violations that can fall under the umbrella of federal jurisdiction are listed below;

  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252 child pornography includes possession, distribution, producing, and selling. If you are found with obscene material that depicts a minor under 18 participating in sexual conduct, you could be facing federal child porn charges under this statute.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2241 aggravated sexual abuse or aggravated rape can be charged if someone uses threat or force on another person, or minor under 16, to participate in sexual activity or by having sex with someone who can't give consent to high intoxication from drugs or alcohol.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2251 sexual exploitation of children is the statute used by prosecutors to charge someone, even a parent or legal guardian, if they deliberately transfer custody or control of children to promote sexually explicit activity.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1581 human trafficking involves typically buying, selling, as well as physically enslaving people for unwanted commercial sex. This statute is often used against people who transport people across international borders for sexual activity and frequently involves the sex trafficking of minors.

Other common federal sex crimes include soliciting minors for sexual activities across state lines or bringing in children from another country to have sex with them.

Further, sex crimes can involve kidnapping or trafficking a minor or child for sex or prostitution and selling or buying a child to participate in sexual activity.

Investigating a sex crime case at the federal level court is much more complex than a local state court because the government will usually only take the most severe cases.

Federal sex investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other agencies involve many resources compared to local state law enforcement.

Punishments for a Conviction in Federal Court

So, we are often asked about the penalties for a federal sex crime conviction?

This is a significant question on people's minds when they're being prosecuted for one of these federal sex-related offenses because mandatory minimums often apply.

Punishments for a Sex Crime Conviction in Federal Court

What that means is, depending on the specific sex crime, the government could have already come up with a mandatory minimum for what a person gets if they're convicted for that crime.

Child porn 

I'll give you some examples: Distribution of child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2252. If someone's convicted of that, there's a 5-year mandatory minimum

That means the minimum sentence they can get is five years, but they could get a higher sentence, depending on other factors, such as:

  • their criminal record,
  • what type of offense they committed,
  • how many images are involved, and
  • a whole host of other things.

Another example is the production of 18 U.S.C. § 2252 child pornography at the federal level. This has a 15-year mandatory minimum

Federal Sentencing Guideline Range

So, you start to get the idea that some of these penalties for federal sex crimes are outrageous. Not only that, the guideline range on a lot of these federal sex crimes is unbelievable.

Although I have seen statistics across the nation on these federal sex crimes, judges often believe these sentencing guidelines/mandatory minimums go too far. Often, they will sentence people below the normal guideline range.

Let's say that somebody falls in a guideline range of 30 to 40 months; many times, federal judges will sentence the person to 20 months, for example.

They will say this person doesn't fit into this category of the offender that gets such a severe punishment. There's a whole host of different factors that determine the penalty. 

You're going to want to discuss some of those factors with your federal criminal defense attorney.  I talk to people all the time when I defend these federal sex crimes:

  • what does a person's criminal record look like?
  • what in this specific offense did the person do?
  • was there a victim, or is it just somebody chatting with an undercover federal agent, for example.

Impact on Victim

Another significant factor when it comes to penalties in federal sex crimes is what the impact was to any particular victim.  If there's a victim in the case, that victim was impacted. That victim was a child, for example, then the person will be looking at some of the harsher federal penalties. 

But, if you get the federal sentencing guideline and look to see where you fall in your criminal history -- for example. Let's say you have no criminal record; then you'd be a criminal history 1.

Then you have to look at the base offense level for what you are being charged with. Then you have to look to see if any specific enhancements or aggravating factors apply to your case. Then, you have to look to see if any downward departures might apply to you.

Sex Offender Registration

Most federal sex crime convictions will result in mandatory registration as a sex offender with the National Sex Offender Registry. This publicly viewed online registration contains details of each offender, such as name, address, photo, and the specific sex crime.

Since this information is available to anyone, most convicted felons often have difficulty finding housing or employment. There are also other difficulties they will face in daily living, such as restrictions on how close they can live near a school or public park.

Defending Federal Sex Offense Cases

Again, there's a whole host of different avenues that a reasonable attorney can take regarding federal sex crimes. 

So, it would help if you give your criminal defense lawyer all of the information related to your history and your case.

This is so that attorneys will be prepared when it comes to defending your federal sex crime, and they can also give you a good idea of what you're facing penalty-wise.

Criminal Defense for Federal Sex Offense Charges

But, you have to realize this one final thing when you're talking about penalties in federal sex crime cases, and that is simply this, that ultimately, the sentence is up to the judge. 

So, even if you can get yourself whittled down into a tiny category, if the judge determines that you have done something that warrants a particular sentence, there's not much to stop that judge from giving you that sentence.

All the judge has to do is consult the federal sentencing guidelines, listen to everybody's argument, and then sentence you to whatever they deem appropriate -- and that could be for good or the bad.

So, if you're looking for someone to defend you or a loved one and they've got a federal sex crime, and you're worried about those penalties, you've come to the right place. 

Take the first step. Pick up with the phone. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to put my nearly three decades of experience to work for you.

Hedding law firm has two office locations in LA County, including 2049 Century Park E #2525 Los Angeles, CA 90067. Call us at (213) 542-0979 for a free consultation, or fill out our contact form.

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Hedding Law Firm is committed to answering your questions about state or federal sex crime issues in California and throughout the United States.

I'll privately discuss your case with you at your convenience. All consultations are free, discreet, and confidential. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.