Sex Crimes Text on a Computer Screen With a Gavel and Scales of JusticeEach state has its own set of sex crimes and punishments. Similarly, the federal government has its own set of sex crimes and punishments. Federal sex crimes are the same in all jurisdictions, including Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Depending on the where the alleged crime is committed, or the type of alleged crime that is committed, you will be charged by the state or federal government.  

Federal sex crimes may have significant penalties. Therefore, it is essential that you understand the potential charges you face and how an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer can help you.

Three Federal Sex Crimes

Federal sex crimes focus on children, producing pornography, and interstate travel for illegal sexual activity. Some of the specific crimes, possible penalties, and potential defenses include:

Child Pornography

18 U.S.C. §2252 and §2252A make it a federal crime to possess, possess with intent to sell, or sell child pornography. A person may be charged with this crime if the person knowingly transports, ships, or receives a visual depiction of a minor child engaged in sexually explicit conduct across state lines. The transportation or receipt may occur through regular mail, by computer, or through other means, but it must cross state or national lines to violate this federal law.

Violation of federal child pornography laws carries significant potential jail terms. Depending on the specific section of the statute you violate and any prior offenses you may have, your jail time could range from 5 to 40 years if you are convicted, and you may be fined.

The law does, however, provide some affirmative defenses to federal child pornography charges. You should not be convicted of a crime according to 18 U.S.C. § 2252 if you:

  • Had three or fewer images that violated the law and you quickly and in good faith took steps to destroy the images or notify law enforcement
  • Did not know that the images involved minors under the age of 18
  • Accidentally opened images that you did not know would contain pictures or videos of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct


Federal statute 18 U.S.C. §2421 makes it a crime to knowingly transport someone to another state or another country with the intent that the individual engage in prostitution or engage in any illegal sexual activity.

The potential penalty for violation of this law includes up to 10 years in prison and a fine.

Child prostitution is a separate crime with an even more significant potential sentence. 18 U.S.C. §2423 makes it a crime to transport someone under the age of 18 over state lines with the intent that the minor engage in prostitution or any illegal sexual activity. The potential penalty for child prostitution is 10 years to life in prison.

The same law makes it a crime to travel across state or country lines to engage in illicit sexual conduct. The penalty for violation of this part of this statute is up to 30 years in jail.

If you can establish with clear and convincing evidence that you reasonably believed that the person was 18 years or older, then you may not be sentenced for child prostitution.

Sharing Information About Minor Children

Federal law goes even further to protect children from the dangers of illegal sexual activity. 18 U.S.C. §2425 makes it a crime to use the mail (or any other form of interstate or foreign commerce) to send the name, address, phone number, Social Security number, or e-mail address of a person who is not yet 16 years old if the information is shared with the intent to entice, encourage, offer, or solicit any person to engage in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.

A conviction pursuant to this statute can result in a fine and a prison term of up to five years.

Take Federal Sex Crime Charges Seriously

Your life may change forever if you are convicted of a federal sex crime. Our experienced Fairfax sex crime defense lawyers will help you build the strongest possible defense and make sure that all of your rights are protected. To learn more, please contact us today for a free consultation.