Federal Sex Crimes
Shane and Erica represent people charged with sex crimes in federal court, including possession of child pornography, receipt and distribution of child pornography, coercion or enticement of a minor, sexual exploitation of a child, and the transfer of obscene matter to a minor. If the FBI, Homeland Security, or the cyber crimes task force has served a search warrant for your computer or phone or if you have been charged in federal court with any of these crimes, you should call our firm right away.
What is child pornography?
18 U.S.C. § 2256 defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor.
Visual depiction: Any image such as a photo, a drawing, or a video. Most people are surprised to learn that pornography depicting drawings of cartoon or anime children engaged in sexually explicit conduct is considered child pornography and is punishable the same as if actual children were depicted.
Sexually explicit conduct: Sexually explicit conduct does not require that an image depict a child engaging in sexual activity. We have dealt with cases where photos and videos of partially naked minors constituted child pornography because the images were sexually suggestive.
A minor: Under federal law, a minor is a person under 18. The age of consent for sexual activity is irrelevant. So even though a 17 year old and a 20 year old in Missouri can legally engage in sexual intercourse, it is a federal crime for the 20 year old to possess a sexually explicit photo of that 17 year old.
When does the Federal Government have jurisdiction to bring child pornography charges?
- if the child pornography traveled across state or country lines (through the U.S. Mail);
- if the internet is used to receive or distribute the child pornography (such as using a peer-to-peer program);
- if the materials, such as the computer used to download the image or an external hard drive used to store the image, traveled in interstate or foreign commerce. People are surprised to learn that even if the child pornography image itself did not travel across state lines, the federal government has jurisdiction if any part of the computer (or phone) that was used to send or receive child pornography was made or traveled outside of the state of Missouri.
Possession of child pornography (18 U.S.C. § 2252 (a)(4)):
No prior sex offense: 0-10 years.
Prior sex offense: 10-20 years.
Although probation is permitted under the law for offenders with no prior sex offense, judges in the Western District of Missouri very rarely give probation for possession of child pornography. This is why it is so important that if you have a medical condition or other extenuating circumstance that warrants a request for probation, you need to hire an attorney who will gather evidence of your extenuating circumstance and present that evidence to the court at sentencing.
Receipt and/or distribution of child pornography (18 U.S.C. § 2252 (a)(2)):
Many people charged with receipt and distribution have not emailed, texted, or directly sent child pornography to another person but instead have used a peer-to-peer network that exchanges child pornography.
No prior sex offense: 5-20 years.
Prior sex offense: 15-40 years.
Because the statutory minimum term of imprisonment for first time offenders is 5 years, the law does not allow the judge to give probation.
Coercion and Enticement of a minor (18 U.S.C. § 2422(b)):
This crime is committed when a person persuades, induces, entices, or coerces a minor to engage in prostitution or to produce child pornography. For example, asking a minor to take a photo of the minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and to text it to you constitutes enticement.
10 years to Life Imprisonment.
Sexual exploitation (18 U.S.C. § 2251):
Sexual exploitation refers to the production of child pornography. This crime can be committed by actually filming a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct or by persuading, inducing, enticing or coercing a minor to film themselves engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
This second way of committing the crime (persuading a minor to make the child pornography) overlaps with coercion and enticement of a minor, but the penalties are different. Generally, the specific facts of the case determine if the prosecutor charges coercion/enticement or instead charges sexual exploitation.
No prior sex offense: 15-30 years.
Prior sex offense: 25-50 years.
2 prior sex offenses: 35-life imprisonment
Transfer of obscene matter to a minor (18 U.S.C. § 1470)
This offense occurs when a person knowingly transfers obscene matter to a minor less than 16 years old.
This offense has no mandatory minimum, so probation is permitted under the law. The statutory maximum is 10 years imprisonment.
All of these crimes are subject to a $5,000 Justice for Victims of Trafficking Assessment if the court determines the defendant is not indigent.