Sex Crimes: What's the Difference between Texas and Federal Charges?

A sex crime is defined any form of sexual assault, sexual misconduct, illegal pornography, or unlawful sexual behavior. These offenses generally face serious prosecution at both the state and federal level. This is especially so in Texas and at the federal level if the crime involve interstate commerce, particularly those that use telecommunications, internet, or the U.S. Postal Service.


Because of the government’s unlimited access to prosecutorial resources, defendants facing sex crime prosecution at the federal level face an arduous task of defending against such charges. If you are charged with a federal sex crime, it is important that you understand what this prosecutorial process entails.


The first thing you need is a skilled Texas defense attorney who can point to a track record of success in handling federal charges – if possible, federal sex crime charges. Federal courts are run differently than state courts, and it is likely that your trial will be more rigorous.


Below, we’re going to cover which sex crimes fall under federal jurisdiction, as well as the differences between state and federal prosecution for sex crimes.


Sex Crimes Most Likely to Be Prosecuted at the Federal Level


If a sex crime involves violation of federal laws, it falls under the jurisdiction of the federal courts system. However, that does not necessarily mean that that the case will end up in federal court. When crimes violate both state and federal statutes, U.S. attorneys generally enjoy carte blanche authority to decide whether or not to prosecute the case. In most situations, however, U.S. attorneys will defer to prosecutors at the state level, depending on the nature of the offense.


That being said, there are certain sex offenses that the federal courts are more likely to prosecute. These federal sex offenses include:


  • Buying or selling children. Buying or selling children for sexual exploitation is illegal at the federal level, and will most likely be prosecuted federally.
  • Child pornography. Distribution of child pornography, including magazines, books, films, and videos is a federal crime. Moreover, because child pornography is typically distributed via the internet, it is likely to cross state lines. Importantly, if you have child pornography on your computer and participate in file sharing websites, this is considered distribution.
  • Producing child pornography for importation. Producing child pornography in another country or territory for importation into the US falls under the jurisdiction of the US government. Because child pornography is distributed online, it is likely to be transmitted across international borders.
  • Transporting a minor for sexual exploitation. Human trafficking for sexual exploitation is a growing problem worldwide, and any human trafficking involving minors is likely to garner the attention of federal courts. Moreover, trafficking crimes are likely to cross state and/or international borders, meaning that they will be tried federally.
  • Use of interstate facilities or transmitting information about minor children under 16 years of age with the intent of encouraging the minor individual to engage in illegal sexual activities is a federal crime. This includes internet relationships often used by sexual predators to lure in minors.
  • Computer sex crimes. Due to the connected nature of computers and the internet, sex crimes involving the use of a computer tend to cross state and national lines, so they are likely to be prosecuted federally, even if minor children are not involved.
  • Kidnapping an individual with the intent of committing sexual assault or another sex offense is a federal crime.
  • Sex crimes resulting in death. If a sex crime results in the death of the victim, it is considered a federal sex crime.

Texas State Versus Federal Prosecution


Texas State Versus Federal Prosecution

When a sex crime falls under state and federal jurisdictions, state prosecutors usually defer to the authority of U.S. attorneys to make the initial decision about who should assume the prosecution. Some sex crimes are so widespread that they will actually be prosecuted at the federal and state level.


Federal prosecution is generally more serious because the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutory minimum sentencing result in more severe sentences on sex offenders.


If your case is prosecuted federally, it will be investigated by federal agencies – for example, the FBI and Homeland Security. Generally speaking, federal agencies have more resources to investigate than do state agencies. This means that there will likely be more evidence against you, and that the evidence will be stronger. Therefore, the case becomes much more difficult to defend against.


Sex crimes are severely sentenced at both the state and federal levels. However, federal courts are notorious for strictly enforced mandatory minimums, and for seeking the maximum possible penalty. Therefore, the sentence you’ll receive from a federal court is almost always more severe in practice, even if state and federal sentencing guidelines are relatively similar.


Additionally, if convicted in federal court, you may be sent to a Federal Medical Center, which is maintained by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. These facilities treat terminally and mentally ill federal inmates, including sex offenders. There you will be required to enroll and participate in an intensive sex offender treatment programs.


Bottom line?


Texas sex crime laws are tough, but across the board, federal charges are harder to deal with and come with more severe consequences.