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What are the Penalties for a Federal Sex Crime?

Review of the Legal Penalties for a Federal Sex Crime Conviction

Federal sex crimes are often some of the most serious crimes in the United States.

They typically carry the most severe penalties with significant time in a federal prison, huge fines, and sex offender registration that impacts every part of a defendant's life after they are released from incarceration.

What are the Penalties for a Federal Sex Crime?

If the sex crime involved a minor, the penalties are often even more severe. If the sexual related crime involved violence, or even resulting 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. 

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

For more information, our sex crime defense lawyers are providing a detailed review below.

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 becharged 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 due 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 in order to promote sexually explicit activity.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1581 human trafficking normally involves buying, selling, as well as physically enslaving people for the purpose of 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 brining in minors from another country to have sex with them.

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

The investigation of 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 serious cases.

Federal sex investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other agencies involves a huge amount of resources compared to local state law enforcement.

Punishments for a Conviction in Federal Court

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

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

Punishments for a Sex Crime Conviction in Federal Court

What that means is, depending on what the specific sex crime is, 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 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 when it comes to 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, that a lot of times, judges believe the these sentencing guidelines/mandatory minimums go too far and a lot of times they will sentence people below the normal guideline range.

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

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

Some of those factors that you're going to want to discuss 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 actually a victim or is it just somebody chatting with an undercover federal agent for example.

Impact on Victim

Another big factor when it comes to penalties in federal sex crimes is what the impact was to any particular victim. 

If there's actually a victim in the case, that victim was impacted. That victim was a child, for example, then the person is going to be looking at some of the harsher federal penalties. 

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

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

Then, obviously, 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 good attorney can take when it comes to federal sex crimes. 

So, it's imperative that you give your criminal defense lawyer all of the information related to your history and to your case.

This is so that attorney 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 very small category, if the judge determines that you have done something that warrants a certain sentence, there's not much that is going 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 they can sentence you to whatever they deem appropriate -- and that could be for the good or for 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 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.