Federal vs. State Sexual Assault Charges

Sex Crimes Archive

September 11, 2023

The U.S. Constitution and Title 18 of the United States Code govern federal courts. In contrast, state courts are subject to a dual jurisdiction governed by federal and state statutes. This dichotomy results in significant distinctions that directly influence the defense strategy for sex crimes and the legal proceedings defendants encounter.

Whether a defendant faces federal or state charges for sexual assault ultimately impacts their potential penalties, such as incarceration, fines, and other repercussions. As such, it’s imperative to hire a proficient Ohio sex crime attorney well-versed in the nuances differentiating federal sex crimes from their state-level counterparts. You’ll find that lawyer at our firm.

Determining Jurisdiction for Sex Crime Cases: Local vs. Federal Courts

Sex crime jurisdiction lies with law enforcement and courts in the location where the offense occurred. Some sex crimes fall under both federal and state statutes, leading to potential shifts in jurisdiction. A case may start in federal court and then transition to the state level, or vice versa.

The decision often hinges on the specifics of the case and the gravity of the offense. In fact, it’s not uncommon for sex crime cases to be simultaneously tried in both federal and local courts, a practice upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as not constituting double jeopardy or being tried twice for the same offense.

Under the U.S. Constitution, federal courts possess greater authority where laws intersect at federal and state levels. This means they have the discretion to select which cases they will handle. However, this doesn’t automatically translate to federal intervention in every case where they have jurisdiction.

Federal courts are more inclined to take on cases that involve elements such as interstate activity, Internet usage, or the victimization of a child or minor. Federal sex crime prosecutions may also be pursued in tandem with other federal charges, including but not limited to kidnapping, drug trafficking, offenses related to the U.S. Postal Service, and threats of a terroristic nature.

Examples of sex-related crimes typically falling within the federal courts include:

  • Trafficking or trading of children, as well as the exploitation of minors.
  • Offenses related to child pornography, including possession, distribution, or production.
  • Online solicitation of a minor, especially if the interaction spans state lines.
  • Aggravated sexual abuse or rape of an aggravated nature.
  • Transportation of individuals, including minors, across state lines or to foreign countries with the intention of engaging in criminal sexual activity.

State vs. Federal Conviction Consequences

The consequences of a federal sex crime conviction carry graver penalties, including lengthier prison sentences and more severe repercussions than local court convictions. This heightened severity is attributed to mandatory minimums dictated by compulsory federal sentencing guidelines.

In cases involving a child or minor, the penalties in federal court can be twice as severe, both in terms of prison terms and fines, compared to convictions at the state level. Furthermore, federal and state legislation mandates that individuals convicted of sex crimes register with the national sex crimes registry.

A federal sex crime conviction often leads to incarceration in a federal prison. Life within a federal facility differs significantly from that in a local jail, where proximity to family and friends provides a support system for the individual serving their sentence. The more isolated environment of a federal prison can present unique challenges for inmates.

Are You Facing Sex Assault Charges? Call an Akron Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

If you are facing sexual assault charges, the stakes are high. You need a knowledgeable and experienced Ohio sex crimes attorney on your side immediately. Schedule a free case evaluation with a criminal defense lawyer in Akron by calling 330-785-7962 or contacting us online today.