Abused WomanA sex crime is one that knowingly causes - by force or by threat - another person to engage in an unwanted sexual act. Both the federal government and the states prosecute crimes involving sexual behavior. Sex crimes that involve crossing a state line are more likely to be prosecuted at the federal level. Federal penalties tend to be more severe than sentences handed down under state law.

Sex Crimes Do Not Always Involve Force

Some sex crimes such as rape involve force or the threat of force. Other sexual offenses, such as child molestation and statutory rape, are illegal even if no force is involved because the victims are not legally able to consent. Disability can also prevent a victim from consenting to sexual activity.

Some sex crimes are illegal even when performed by consenting adults - prostitution and incest are two examples. Certain sex crimes, such as possession of child pornography, do not even involve direct sexual contact with the victim.

Sexting: Crime or Youthful Indiscretion?

"Sexting" is a relatively new type of sex crime that involves minors sending sexually explicit photos of themselves and others by cell phone. Because the law has been slow to catch up with this emerging technology, sexting crimes are often prosecuted as felonies under child pornography laws.

Critics of this practice say that child pornography laws are meant to control sexual predators, and charging minors with a felony for sending sexually explicit photos of themselves to one another is harsh. Many states are now considering new laws that would establish much lighter penalties for sexting.

Sex Crime Penalties Can Be Severe

Penalties for sex crimes include fines and imprisonment. Some sexual offenses are misdemeanors but most are felonies. If you commit a sex crime, you could be sentenced to prison for years, decades, or a lifetime. Federal statutes and some state laws impose mandatory minimum sentences that judges must follow except in limited circumstances.

Some states, such as California, impose a penalty of chemical castration on repeat offenders who commit certain types of sex crimes. Chemical castration drastically lowers the sex drive of male offenders and is thought to reduce the chances that the offender will commit another sex crime.

Certain Sex Offenders Must Register After Release

Offenders convicted of non-consensual sex crimes are required by federal law to register with the local police, and they must disclose where they live, work and go to school. Details about the sex offender's crime and current whereabouts are made available to the public. Concerned individuals can check this registry before making major decisions - like buying a house or accepting a job.

If you are a convicted sex offender, you must keep your registration up to date for at least 15 years after release from prison. In some cases, you must do so for the rest of your life. Failure to register or keep your registration information up to date can result in another 10 years in prison.

A Criminal Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding sex crimes is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a criminal lawyer.

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