State versus Federal Sex Crimes Explained
What defendants might not know is that they can be charged with a sex crime in federal, not state, courts and face equally harsh (and sometimes harsher) penalties. Aggravated crimes are the most common in federal courts, and a defendant could face charges in both courts.
If convicted in either court, defendants might face severe penalties that include prison sentences, fines, and a permanent criminal record. Sex offender registration is also mandatory in most states, which means defendants will have to report their residency status and the public will know about their conviction.
When a double conviction occurs – being convicted in state and federal court – lengthy prison sentences, penalties, and fines will consume a person’s entire life. Federal courts also follow mandatory sentencing guidelines, which means the chances of the judge giving a defendant a low sentence is almost impossible.
When Does a State Sex Crime Become a Federal Case in Albuquerque?
Sex crimes are processed first by local law enforcement and typically tried in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred. Some crimes are federal and state violations – meaning the offense violated state laws as well as the laws outlined in the U.S. Criminal Code.
In some instances, a sex crime might start in federal courts and then is released to the state court. Other times, a case might start at the state level and elevate into federal court. What is important to realize here is that both courts have the legal right to try the defendant. This means you could be tried in state and federal court at the same time and be convicted in both.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that double convictions on a state and federal level do not violate your right against double jeopardy.
In most sex crime cases, the states will handle the situation. Federal prosecutors are only likely to become interested if the crime crosses state lines or involves children and minors. Federal sex crimes are often charged along with other federal criminal offenses, such as kidnapping, human trafficking, or drug crimes.
Sex Crimes That Might Face Federal and State Charges
Certain crimes are more likely to be tried in both courts, including:
- Sex Crimes Involving Children and Minors: Federal prosecutors almost always get involved in cases of child sexual exploitation, child pornography, human trafficking with minors, sexual abuse of a minor, online solicitation of a minor, and kidnapping with the intent to commit a sexual offense against a child.
- Sex Trafficking and Human Trafficking: Regardless of the victim’s age, federal courts will prosecute anyone arrested for sex trafficking, because these crimes involve transport across state lines. Multiple states might also request jurisdiction if the offense occurs within their borders.
- Crimes Resulting in Death: Sex crimes resulting in a person’s death might face state and federal prosecution.
- Crime Pornography: Anyone engaging in the business of transport, sale, mail, or distribution of sexual activity across state lines (including the internet and sending to foreign countries) may face federal criminal pornography charges.
- Repeat Offenders: Offenders charged with any of the above crimes repeatedly may face federal charges.
Federal Sex Crime Convictions Carry Harsher Consequences
The state of New Mexico already has harsh penalties in place to punish those convicted of sex crimes. But if you are also convicted on the federal level, you will face equally severe punishments. The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2006 requires that all federally convicted sex offenders register in the system. And if you are convicted on the state level, you are still required to submit your information to the SORNA registry.
Under the federal laws, you may be required to remain in the database for 15 years up to a lifetime, depending on the severity of the crime you were convicted for. Federal convictions might also require that you enroll in the Sex Offender Treatment Program or Sex Offender Management Program through a registered Federal Medical Center – at your own cost.
Why Do You Need an Attorney?
Whether you face state-level or federal-level charges, hiring an attorney for your sex crime case is critical. A sex crime attorney possesses the knowledge necessary to defend you. But also, they can help protect you from what is at stake:
- The penalties for a federal criminal conviction are harsh. Sentences in federal courts are longer, and the compulsory federal sentencing guidelines make it impossible to seek a lower prison sentence even with mitigating factors.
- Prison terms and fines are twice as much in some cases. If convicted of a crime involving a minor or child, you will have enhanced penalties that might double the prison term and fines.
- Registration is required for both courts. Regardless of whether you are convicted in state or federal court, you will be required to register as a sex offender in the national database.
- You will serve your term in a federal facility. Life in a federal prison facility is different than a state facility. Also, it might be located in a different state than family, which means the chances of visitors and friends supporting you through your incarceration are gone.
Do Not Forget about the Consequences of a Federal Indictment
Even if you are not convicted in federal courts, the indictment itself could ruin your life. You might lose your job, be unable to renew your professional license, and your reputation in your community is ruined.
Speak with an Attorney Today
Do not risk going up against federal and state prosecutors alone. If you have been accused of a sex crime, innocent or not, you need representation.
More importantly, you need an attorney that has helped clients on the state and federal level.
The attorneys at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices can help. We understand what you are going through, and we want to help find the best possible outcome in your criminal case.
Speak with our attorneys now for a free case evaluation.
Call 505-375-4661 to get started or request more information about our firm online.