Crossing Borders Could Mean Federal Sex Crime Charges

Florida sex crimes are often prosecuted in state courts as violations of state law. It is important to understand, however, that federal criminal laws also prohibit a wide range of sex crimes. Those laws often come into play when one person crosses a state border as part of the crime, as a recent case out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit shows.

U.S. MapA defendant was charged with enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity, a federal crime, stemming from his involvement with a 17-year-old girl. The defendant, who was 36 years old at the time, drove from Georgia to Florida to meet the girl after communicating with her online. He took the girl to a hotel and allegedly engaged in sexual activity with her. He also took 17 photos of the girl engaging in sexual activity and posing nude, according to the court. He tried to delete those photos when he was arrested, but officers later recovered the pictures during a forensic examination of his cell phone. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

The defendant later appealed the conviction to the Eleventh Circuit. The federal law under which he was convicted makes it a crime to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity “for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.” He argued that meant it only covered situations in which a person entices the minor to commit a crime. Since the victim in this case did not commit a crime by having consensual sex with him, he argued that he did not violate the federal law.

The appeals court disagreed. It focused on the “any person” provision in the federal law. The court said the provision covered circumstances in which any person could be charged with a crime, rather than just those in which only the minor can be charged with a criminal offense. Since Florida law makes it a crime for a person who is older than 24 to have sex with someone who is 16 or 17 years old, the court said the defendant was covered by the federal law.

Although sex crime laws vary from state to state, the court also rejected the defendant’s argument that this made the federal law unconstitutionally vague. “The provision is no more vague than state boundary lines, which is to say not at all,” the court said. “And it does not encourage arbitrariness in enforcement by recognizing differences in state law; differences that are dependent upon, or defined by, state law are not arbitrary.”

If you or a loved one has been charged with traveling to meet a minor or another sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. Clearwater sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

More blog posts:

Double Jeopardy in Florida Sex Crime Cases

Proving Intent in Florida Sex Crime Cases

Constructive Possession in Florida Child Pornography Cases