UPDATED: February 11, 2020
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Sex crimes or sex offenses include extremely serious offenses such as statutory and attempted rape, as well as any other criminal sexual assault involving force or the threat of force. These are sexual crimes of violence. Others sex crimes violate social taboos, such as sexual harassment, incest, or indecent exposure. From unwelcome sexual speech to rape and sexual assault, sex crimes run the gamut in severity and sentencing.
Many sex crimes are classified as serious violent felonies. According to Title 18, section 3559, “Sentencing classification of offenses,” multiple crimes can result in a mandatory life imprisonment. Those multiple separate prior convictions can be for two or more serious, violent felonies, or one or more serious violent felonies plus one or more serious drug offenses.
Initial convictions for sex crimes can produce a range of possible prison sentences, as well as fines. In the case of sexual abuse (§ 2242), for example, imprisonment for up to 20 years is common. For the sex trafficking of children under 18 (§ 1591), sentencing is limited to 40 years. If the child is under 14, there is no sentencing ceiling; a punishment of life imprisonment is possible. The same is true for aggravated sexual abuse (§ 2241) – where force or threats of injury are used against the victim. There are special provisions for anyone who crosses state lines with the intent to engage in a sexual act with a child, including a possible death sentence for second offenders.
In addition to federal laws against sex crimes, themselves, the US Code contains rules related to sex crimes. For example, Title 28 appendix, Rule 412 (under the Federal Rules of Evidence), makes inadmissible most evidence offered to prove an alleged victim’s sexual predisposition, or that the victim had engaged in any other sexual behavior. Title 42, section 14071, mandates that state attorneys general establish guidelines for programs requiring sexually violent predators and other offenders to register his or her whereabouts with state law enforcement. Click here for the Department of Justice’s web site which allows a user to submit a single national query to obtain information about sex offenders. The FBI also places online links to each state’s registry.
State and local authorities investigate and prosecute sex crimes. Federal investigators also get involved whenever the crimes involve multiple states.
The consequences are serious. If convicted of a sex crime, you could be facing charges that go beyond the prison sentence; the label “sex offender” could follow you for life, requiring you, in certain sex crimes, to register with police departments wherever you live. If you have been charged, or under investigation, for a sex crime, it is imperative that you contact a seasoned criminal defense attorney to discuss your legal rights and begin the defensive investigation. If you are under investigation, or have been charged with federal sex crimes, the federal criminal justice system drastically differs from the state system. It is important that your lawyer have experience in federal court so that he or she can effectively represent you.