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Mandatory Minimums, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and Federal Sex Crimes

A gavel and justice scale on a lawyers deskSex crimes are primarily policed by state law, but federal statutes legislate in the area of sex crimes as well, especially where interstate commerce or travel is involved. Many federal statutes include mandatory minimum sentences for sex crimes. In addition, federal court judges generally look to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in sentencing defendants, which can often add years to a sentence and limit the scenarios in which a judge would provide a lesser sentence. Defendants who are convicted of federal sex crimes also face long term “downstream” consequences, included being required to register with sex offender registries in any jurisdiction they live in, regardless of where the crime took place. A conviction can also make finding housing and employment much more difficult.

Minimum Mandatory Punishments for Federal Sex Crimes

The following list is by no means exhaustive, and specific factors make each criminal matter unique, including your prior convictions for similar felonious offenses. Some penalties include:

  • A 10-year minimum sentence if you’re convicted of sexual assault where there was no substantial bodily harm.
  • A 15-year minimum sentence if you’re convicted of sexual assault where the victim sustained substantial bodily harm.
  • A 25-year minimum if you’re convicted of sexual assault without substantial bodily harm on a victim under the age of 16.
  • A 35-year minimum if you’re convicted of sexual assault without substantial bodily harm on a victim under the age of 14.

If you’re convicted of battery with intent to commit sexual assault with substantial physical harm or strangulation, you face up to life behind bars with a 10-year minimum.
For sex crimes involving children or minors, the minimum sentence depends on age. If a judge convicts someone who is at least 18 years old of a dangerous sexual assault against a minor who is 12 years old or younger, the mandatory punishment is life imprisonment without eligibility for a suspended sentence, probation, or pardon until the perpetrator serves at least 35 years.
For a conviction of child pornography when the child in question is 14 years or older, the sentence is life with a five year minimum before being eligible for parole. If the child is less than 14 years old, the sentence is life with a minimum of 10 years before parole.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines provide guidance to judges on what sentences convicted defendants should receive and when they can and cannot depart “upward” (sentencing for longer than the given sentence range) or “downward” (sentencing for shorter than the given sentence range) from the guidelines. While the guidelines are not binding on judges, many federal court judges nevertheless rely on the guidelines in sentencing individuals. A good criminal defense lawyer will make the best argument possible for why you should receive a light sentence and/or downward departure pursuant to the guidelines.

Help with Federal Sex Crime Defense

Considering the serious consequences at play, if you or a loved one stands accused of a federal sex crime charge, seek guidance from a qualified criminal defense attorney to ensure that the system respects your rights.

Your attorney should understand the nuances of these types of cases and have a track record of success. Bear in mind that potentially exonerating evidence, such as useful witness statements or computer data, could be lost, forgotten or destroyed. Time may be of the essence. Our team can help construct an aggressive, ethical legal defense.

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