Few criminal offenses have the potential to interfere more with your life than sex crimes. After all, if a judge or jury finds you guilty of a sex-related offense, you may face some stiff penalties immediately, including possible incarceration and fines. Depending on the nature of the offense, you may also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life.
Most sex offenses violate state law. Therefore, you can expect state prosecutors to file charges and try to secure a conviction or negotiate a plea deal. Sometimes, though, the federal government also prosecutes sex crimes.
When does the federal government prosecute sex crimes?
That prosecution of sex crimes should occur in the jurisdiction where the crime takes place is a basic tenet of criminal law. Federal prosecutors typically have wide discretion in determining which offenses they want to prosecute, however. Generally, though, prosecutors pursue convictions when criminal activity crosses state lines or involves the use of an electronic communications device.
Can you face both federal and state prosecution?
The U.S. Constitution’s double jeopardy clause protects individuals from facing prosecution more than once for the same crime. In Gamble v. U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court held that federal and state governments are dual sovereigns. Consequently, each level of government may bring its own prosecution without violating the U.S. Constitution’s double jeopardy clause.
Defending yourself in a prosecution for a sex crime can be tricky, as you may face both federal and state consequences. Consequently, when planning your defense, you must be sure to address all possible federal and state issues that may arise.