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When Does a Sex Crime Become a Federal Offense?

Wolfe Law Group, LLC July 19, 2022

According to statistics from the United States Sentencing Commission, there were 57,377 federal criminal cases where offenders were sentenced in the Fiscal Year 2021. Both federal and state laws prohibit sex-related crimes, including rape, sexual assault, human sex trafficking, and child pornography. Though, most sex offenses are prosecuted at the state level. However, a sex crime may be prosecuted by the federal court depending on the surrounding circumstances.

The trusted attorneys at Wolfe Law Group, LLC, are committed to providing comprehensive legal guidance and reliable representation to clients in their federal crimes cases. As skilled Ohio criminal defense attorneys, they can enlighten you about federal crimes, as well as when a sex crime becomes a federal offense. Even if you’re facing sex crime charges, Wolfe Law Group, LLC will fight vigorously to uphold your legal rights and craft a strong defense strategy for the most favorable outcome.

Wolfe Law Group, LLC is proud to serve clients across Columbus, Westerville, Dublin, Gahanna, Hilliard, Ohio, and surrounding areas of Granville County, Pickerington County, and Delaware County, Ohio.

What Are Federal Crimes?

A federal crime can be described as an act that violates U.S. federal legislation. Federal offenses are investigated by federal law enforcement and prosecuted by the federal court. Though, most prosecutions are done at the state level. However, the federal government may exercise its jurisdiction over criminal matters when:

  • The state lacks jurisdiction.

  • The offense occurred on federal property.

  • The surrounding circumstances make the offense severe and must be punished harshly.

  • The crime involved other offenses, such as money laundering, gang activity, or tax fraud.

  • The crime crossed state lines.

In these situations, federal and state prosecutors may file different charges or pursue different actions against the offender. However, the “double jeopardy” clause in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects a defendant from being prosecuted for the same offense twice.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction

The federal government has exclusive authority – known as subject matter jurisdiction – over issues of bankruptcy, immigration, coining, patents, and regulating money. Hence, the federal government can prosecute criminal cases that involve any of these matters.

Crimes Across State Lines

Additionally, if an offense crossed between state lines – for instance, human sex trafficking or mail and wire fraud – the federal government may consider prosecuting such crimes. The federal government derives jurisdiction over such matters by the fact that:

  • The Constitution allows the federal government to regulate interstate commerce.

  • The crime was committed across state lines.

Crimes on Federal Property

However, there are federal laws addressing offenses committed on property administered or owned by the federal government. Such areas include:

  • U.S. National Parks

  • The District of Columbia

  • Indian reservations

  • Federal courthouses

  • Federal prisons

  • Ocean-going vessels or ships at sea

  • Airplanes in flight

  • Other federal buildings

A skilled attorney can enlighten you about some offenses that qualify as federal crimes and determine the best way to fight your charges.

Examples of Federal Crimes

Here are some examples of federal offenses:

  • Credit card fraud

  • Kidnapping

  • Violent crimes involving weapons and firearms

  • Bank, securities, and other forms of fraud

  • RICO violations

  • Tax evasion

  • Drug crimes

  • Public corruption

  • Conspiracies

  • Internet crimes, such as child pornography, identity theft, online predators, piracy, hacking, and election fraud

If you or someone you know has recently been arrested and charged with a sex crime, it is definitely important that you retain a skilled criminal defense lawyer immediately. Your legal counsel can evaluate all of the facts of your case and determine whether the charges are for a federal offense or not.

Federal Sex Crimes

Generally, sex offenses are prosecuted at the state level in the county or municipal courts. However, a sex crime will become a federal sex offense if the sex crime occurred on federal property, involved interstate activity, or is aggravated (or extremely severe), thereby triggering federal criminal laws. Here are some examples of federal sex crimes:

  • Sexual assault

  • Rape

  • Aggravated sexual abuse

  • Human sex trafficking

  • Child sex trafficking

  • Child pornography – viewing, downloading, sharing, purchasing, producing, or participating in child pornography

  • Illegal sex tourism

  • Soliciting underage prostitution online

  • Defendants with multiple offenses

  • Abusing a minor sexually

  • Sexual abuse resulting in death

If you or someone you know is facing federal sex crime charges, you need to reach out to a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately. Your lawyer can enlighten you about the possible penalties and help strategy your best defenses.

Possible Penalties

The American criminal justice system takes federal sex crimes very seriously, and the ramifications of a criminal conviction can be devastating. The possible penalties and consequences include:

  • Extensive prison sentences – ranging from months, years, or decades.

  • Huge fines

  • A criminal record

  • Restitution to the victim

  • National sex offender registration

  • Loss of voting rights

  • Difficulties in obtaining certain financial loans

  • Loss of your rights to own, carry, or possess a gun or firearm

  • Increased difficulty in securing housing, scholarship, education, and employment opportunities

  • Increased difficulty in getting government assistance or public benefits

  • Possible deportation (non-U.S citizens) or inadmissibility into the United States

  • Increased difficulty in traveling overseas

A knowledgeable federal sex crime defense attorney can enlighten you about the federal criminal process and help build a strong defense to help you avoid the far-reaching consequences of a criminal conviction.

Federal vs. State Processes for Sex Crimes

However, there are numerous differences between how federal and state sex crimes are investigated and prosecuted. Here are some of them:

  • Federal sex crimes often involve federal authorities, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

  • Federal sex crimes cases are assigned to an Assistant United States Attorney.

  • In cases involving federal sex crimes, the investigators will build their case over time and have substantial evidence before making an arrest.

  • In the discovery system, the federal prosecutor can withhold witness statements, testimonies, and other information about the case.

  • The President of the United States appoints the federal judges. They are confirmed by the United States Senate and serve for life.

  • Federal judges usually impose additional conditions of release before granting bail. 

A reliable attorney can represent you vigorously in every phase of the legal process and ensure that you’re given fair treatment.

Skilled & Compassionate Advocacy

Allegations of federal sex crimes are often devastating and can put your freedom, personal reputation, quality of life, career, and future opportunities at risk. If convicted, you could be facing massive fines, extensive prison years, a criminal record, sex offender registration, and other life-altering ramifications. Therefore, when facing federal sex crime charges, retaining an aggressive and highly-skilled criminal defense attorney immediately is paramount for detailed guidance and to craft your defense strategy.

The trusted attorneys at Wolfe Law Group, LLC, have devoted their careers to protecting individuals facing federal sex crimes charges from the worst possible punishments. As your legal counsel, they will review and investigate all of the facts of your case thoroughly and strategize a strong defense to establish a solid case. Using their extensive knowledge, they can help you navigate the federal criminal justice system and improve your chances of a brighter tomorrow.

Facing federal sex crime charges can be terrifying. This is why you shouldn’t face them alone. Contact Wolfe Law Group, LLC today to schedule a simple case assessment with skilled sex crimes defense lawyers. The experienced attorneys can offer you the personalized legal counsel and aggressive representation you need. The firm is proud to serve clients across Columbus, Westerville, Dublin, Gahanna, Hilliard, and surrounding areas of Granville County, Pickerington County, and Delaware County, Ohio.