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.