Sexual Abuse of Minors in New York

While traditionally, sex crimes have been the subject of state prosecutions and not charged by the United States Attorney’s Office, the number of federal prosecutions in this area has increased dramatically in recent years. Indeed, in 1972 there were just 172 federal sex offense cases initiated; by 2011 this number had increased to 3,327 cases – primarily due to the rise in prosecutions for the sexual abuse of minors and child pornography. See Susan Klein and Ingrid Grobey, Debunking Claims of Over Federalization, Emory Law Journal, available here (last viewed August 27, 2017). Unlike a typical state charge alleging the sexual abuse of a minor – where the abusive conduct might have occurred in a variety of locations, e.g., a private residence or public space, to be convicted of the corresponding federal statute, the act must have taken place within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States, as defined below.

Specifically, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2243, whoever within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States, including any federal prison, or any other facility where persons are held at the direction of the federal government, knowingly engages, or attempts to engage in a sexual act with another person who is both: i) between the ages of 12 and 16 years old; and ii) is at least four years younger than the defendant, shall be sentenced to a maximum term of 15 years imprisonment. See 18 U.S.C. § 2243(a). To secure a conviction for this crime, the government need not prove that the defendant used any force, threats or any physical act to coerce the victim into engaging in sexual activity. United States v. Dickerson, 567 F. App’x 754, 757 (11th Cir. 2014) (“Under § 2243(a), no … force or threat of force is required”). Instead, the statute is generally aimed at consensual activity wherein an older individual takes advantage of an inappropriately younger sexual partner.

Further, while it is an affirmative defense that: i) the defendant “reasonably believed that the other person had attained 16 years [of age],” or ii) that both persons engaging in the sexual act were married to each other, to secure a conviction for this charge, the government need not prove that the defendant knew the age of the person with whom he engaged in the sexual conduct, or that the statutorily required age difference between the two parties existed. 18 U.S.C. § 2243(c)-(d); see United States v. Jennings, 496 F.3d 344, 351-52 (4th Cir. 2007).

Notably, if the charged sexual conduct did not occur within a federal prison or other facility where persons are held by federal designation, then for a prosecution pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2243 to proceed, the conduct must have occurred within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States. 18 U.S.C. § 2243(a). This is a term of art, and includes any lands reserved or acquired for the use of the United States, as well as any place purchased or otherwise acquired by the United States for the erection of a fort, magazine, arsenal, dockyard, or other needful building, i.e., federal property or building. 18 U.S.C. § 7(3); United States v. Gatlin, 216 F.3d 207, 210 (2d Cir.2000). Indeed, this definition even reaches overseas installations of the United States – including military bases. See United States v. Yousef, 750 F.3d 254, 262 (2d Cir. 2014).

Hiring a dedicated New York federal sexual abuse of minors defense attorney to defend you in any prosecution involving the sexual abuse of minors is crucial and will ensure that every viable defense is explored and utilized on your behalf. Lawyers at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman have successfully handled countless federal cases, exploiting holes in the prosecution’s evidence to achieve the best possible result for our clients. Contact us today at (212) 581-1001 for a free consultation.

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