Federal criminal charges for solicitation of a minor
It is a serious federal crime to for an adult to solicit a minor (under
age 18) across state lines for sexual purposes. Pursuant to 18 USC 24221 and 2423, it is illegal to:
- Knowingly persuade, induce, entice, or coerce any minor to travel between
states or internationally to engage in prostitution or in any unlawful
sexual activity, or to attempt to do so;
- Use the mail or any facility (including the internet) or means of interstate
or foreign commerce to knowingly persuade, induce, entice, or coerce any
minor to engage in any unlawful sexual activity, or to attempt to do so.
- Knowingly transport a minor between states or internationally with the
intent to engage in unlawful sexual activity; or
- Travel between states or internationally for the purpose of engaging in
any unlawful sexual conduct with a minor;
Defenses against federal criminal charges for solicitation of a minor
There are many defenses and arguments that may be available to your federal
defense attorney in these cases, including, among others: entrapment,
a false accusation by the minor, or a good faith belief that the minor
was an adult.
Regarding the defense of
entrapment, this defense is potentially available in those cases in which undercover
law enforcement officers are posing as minors – typically on the
internet – in order to catch supposed predators in sting operations.
(Matthew Galluzzo, now a federal criminal defense attorney, previously
worked on such cases as a sex crimes prosecutor in the famous Special
Victims Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.) The argument
underlying the entrapment defense is that the accused would not have solicited
the minor but for the actions of the undercover law enforcement officers.
For this argument to be successful, there typically needs to be some evidence
in the record of the internet communications between the parties (the
undercover and the accused) that the law enforcement officer initiated
the explicit conversation or that the accused attempted to end the conversation
but was persuaded to continue communicating by the undercover officer.
Entrapment is potentially a complete defense to these charges and can
result in dismissals or acquittals.
You may also be able to successfully argue that the accusations made against
you by a minor are wholly false. In some cases, there is no written evidence
of any communications between the minor and the accused (emails, text
messages, etc) or any recorded evidence (such as recorded phone calls).
In these cases, the credibility of the complaining witness (minor) is
critical to the defense. Exposing the complaining witness’ inconsistent
accounts or motives to fabricate tales of solicitation is absolutely of
paramount importance. Matthew Galluzzo, a federal criminal defense attorney,
has won jury trials involving charges of rape and sexual assault by attacking
the credibility of complaining witnesses this way.
Finally, a person accused of soliciting a minor can also potentially demonstrate
that he/she had a good faith basis to believe that the minor was an adult.
It is very common for sexually curious or adventurous minors to pretend
to be 18 in internet chat rooms or on dating sites like match.com. An
accused bears the burden of proof – by a preponderance of the evidence
– that he/she reasonably believed that the other person was at least
18 years old. To do this, there should be some evidence that the minor
affirmatively lied about his/her age to the accused. Pictures from the
minor that make him/her “look old enough” are probably not
sufficient to support this defense alone but may be helpful.
Punishment and sentencing for federal criminal charges of solicitation
of a minor for lewd purposes
Federal sentencing guidelines under 18 USC 2422 and 2423 are severe. If
you are convicted of using the mail, internet, or other form of interstate
or international communication to solicit or attempt solicitation of a
minor with the intent to engage in unlawful sexual activity, or you are
successful in transporting the child for this illegal purpose, you can
be sentenced to serve a minimum of 10 years to life in a federal prison.
If you travel to another state, come to the United States or travel internationally
and engage in “illicit sexual activity” with a minor, you
face up to 30 years in prison. Illicit sexual activity is specifically
defined under federal law as a sexual act with a person under the age
of 18 (18 USC 2423(f)2.).
The crime of “sex trafficking” of children is included in this
definition and carries a minimum of 10 years to life in prison if the
minor is under 18 years old and 15 years to life if the child is under
14 years old (18 USC 1591(b)3.). A child sex trafficking charge does not require that the government
prove you knew that the person being trafficked was under 18 years old.
Furthermore, convictions for these crimes will almost certainly result
in the person being required to register as a sex offender. Rules on sex
offender registration – e.g. the duration of registration and the
requirements for the registrant while registered – are governed
by state law.
If you or a loved one is being charged with a federal sex crime in New
York or New Jersey, such as the solicitation of a minor across state lines
for illicit sexual activity; it is critical that you contact an experienced
sex crimes defense attorney like Matthew Galluzzo. His expertise and opinions
on the investigation, prosecution, and defense of sex crimes has been
solicited by national, international and local news across the world and
United States, and he was even hired as a consultant on the subject by
the government of South Africa.