Sex Crimes + Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

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Federal sex crimes include those forcible and other crimes with a sexual element that take place within a federal jurisdiction. They can also include sexual crimes leveled against individuals who cannot consent under the law, including minors and some individuals whose ability to consent is impaired by a medical or other condition.

In many cases, the sexual abuse of a minor can entail multiple federal charges. Child pornography is among the most serious of these. Colluding with even one other person for the purpose of producing, procuring, or disseminating sexually explicit material related to minors can likewise result in a federal conspiracy charge.

Sex Crimes Laws

Federal and state sex crime laws differ on various levels. For example, under United States law, each state is able to define the “age of consent” at which an individual is considered to have reached the age of majority and may legally consent to sexual activity. Each state may have its own laws related to these issues. However, regardless of state laws, certain sexual crimes against protected members of the population fall under federal jurisdiction.

Sex Crimes & Charges

The extent and severity of federal sex crime charges are determined by the facts of the case, including the age and state of mind of the victim, and the location or jurisdiction within which the crime took place.

  • Aggravated sexual abuse, in which one uses force or the threat of force to make a person engage in sexual activity against their will, is a federal crime when it takes places within U.S. territorial jurisdiction or on federal property.
  • Crossing state lines in order to engage in sexual activity with an individual who has not attained to the age of 12 is a federal offense, and certain other physical acts, acts of recording, or other acts may be separate offenses.
  • Sexual abuse of a minor or ward under an individual’s trusted custody, or sexual abuse of a non-consenting individual by threats other than the threat of bodily harm or death, can all be federal offenses under certain circumstances.

Sex Crimes Punishment

Punishment for sexual crimes generally entails a long prison sentence as well as a lifetime registration as a sex offender. Sex offender registration demands that the individual take part in state and federal database programs as required. He or she must also notify the local community and may face restrictions in terms of where he or she may live or work.

Sex Crimes Sentencing Guidelines

Specific sex crimes are punishable by different terms of imprisonment. Sexual conduct with non-minors by force or threat is punishable by a term of imprisonment of between three and ten years depending upon the details of the offense. Sexual abuse of a minor may result in a prison term of up to life, including any period of years. Notably, female genital mutilation of anyone who has not obtained the age of 18 years may cause one to be fined or imprisoned, with terms of imprisonment up to five years.

Sex Crimes Statute of Limitations

Under the modern federal rules, prosecution, trial or punitive sanctions regarding noncapital federal offenses cannot be instituted if no indictment or entry of information has occurred within five years of the offense. (See Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, §3282 et subs.) However, it is important to understand that the statute of limitations for some sex crimes is regularly extended between 7 and 10 years or more, especially for cases involving minors.

Sex Crimes Cases

Sex crimes cases can be some of the most traumatic and difficult to prosecute. Recently, several high profile cases have made it clear that sex crimes continue to be committed throughout the United States. Sex crimes can range from individual acts to large scale conspiracies involving the sexual abuse of hundreds or thousands of people. Some recent examples include:

  • In connection with the alleged kidnapping, serial rape and torture of several female victims, Cleveland-based Ariel Castro was sentenced to 1,000 years in prison. He was later found dead in his cell. (Huffington Post)
  • In mid-2013, more than 150 individuals were arrested in connection with the bust of a sexual slavery ring, which allowed more than 100 children to be rescued from a life of prostitution. (USA Today)

Sex Crimes Quick Links & References

Sex Crime Laws by State

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming