Sex Crimes Sexual Assault

Most sexual assault cases are prosecuted in Florida state courts. However, in certain circumstances a defendant may be charged for assault in federal court. The federal government may also take jurisdiction in cases that involve minors and people who are physically or mentally unable to consent. If you are facing charges, you need the services of a Naples of Fort Lauderdale sexual assault attorney who can help you fight these serious charges in Broward County.

Federal law specifically covers instances of assault that occur:

  • within special maritime and territorial jurisdictions
  • in a federal prison
  • in any prison, facility, or institution in which people are held in custody pursuant to a contract or agreement with a federal agency

Special maritime refers to the high seas and any water that is within the admiralty and maritime law jurisdiction of the United States. Territorial jurisdictions are land acquired and reserved for use by the U.S.

Just Arrested?
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.

Elements of federal sexual assault

A defendant may be convicted of assault in federal court if he or she:

  • causes a person to engage in sexual activity by making a threat or placing the person in fear of harm other than fear of death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping
  • engages in sexual conduct with a person who is a) incapable of determining the nature of the conduct or b) physically incapable of participating or of expressing unwillingness to engage in the act

Sexual activity is specifically defined as conduct that involves penetration of the vagina or anus or intentional touching of the genitals, that does not take place through the clothing. Federal law also prohibits making an attempt at sexually assaulting another person. Sexual assault and attempted assault may be punished by a maximum of lifetime imprisonment. Those who are convicted of federal sexual assault are generally required to be added to the national sex offender registry.

Aggravated abuse

A standard sexual assault charge may be elevated to aggravated sexual abuse under certain circumstances. There are multiple categories under which aggravated sexual assault is classified by federal law. A person may be charged and ultimately convicted of the enhanced charge if the prosecution is able to prove the defendant used threat or force characterized by:

  • knowingly causing a person to engage in a sexual act by force or
  • knowingly causing a person to engage in a sexual act by threatening or placing the person in fear that anyone will be subjected to death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping

Other means by which a person may commit aggravated sex abuse in Naples or Broward County include:

  • rendering a person unconscious and engaging in a sex act with the unconscious person
  • administering to another person, without his or her knowledge, a drug, intoxicant, or other substance to impair the person’s ability to appraise or control his or her own conduct and engaging in sexual conduct with the drugged or intoxicated person

Federal law also considers crimes that involve children to be aggravated sexual assault. A person who crosses a state line to engage in such activity with a minor under the age of 12, knowingly engages in a sexual act with a person under age 12, or uses threat, force, drugs, or another intoxicant to coerce a minor under age 12 may be convicted of aggravated sexual assault under federal law. If convicted, the he or she may be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in federal prison. In Florida, repeat offenders may be sentenced to life in prison. Contacting a Broward County sexual assault attorney immediately after you suspect you’re under investigation is critical.

Abusive contact

The term “sexual contact” is used to describe conduct that falls short of the federal statutory definition of a sexual act. Specifically, federal law prohibits individuals from engaging in contact that meets the criteria of federal assault, but instead involves touching, directly or through clothing, of the genitals, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of another person. Sentencing ranges from a maximum of two to twelve years, though those who commit abusive sexual contact against a minor under age 12 may be sentenced to double the maximum.

National sex offender registration

Like state governments, the federal government has also introduced a sex offender registry. The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act makes it a crime for people who have been ordered to submit their name and personal information to be added to the registry to knowingly fail to register or fail to maintain an updated record. A person commits a federal offense if he or she fails to remain in compliance with registry requirements and travels across state lines or internationally, enters, leaves, or resides on a Native American reservation. Failure to register in Naples, Fort Lauderdale and elsewhere in Broward County is punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison. If a person commits a violent crime after failing to register or maintain current information on the registry, he or she may be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

What should you do if you’re charged?

Being accused of committing a federal sex crime can be embarrassing, and discussing the case with federal officials may be intimidating. People who work for the federal government and are accused of a sex crime may fear for their future employment status. Instead of panicking, those are under investigation or who have been formally charged with federal sexual assault should contact an attorney who specializes in defending sex crimes cases to receive a free case evaluation prior to discussing the case with anyone else. A Naples, Broward County or Fort Lauderdale sexual assault lawyer can be present during all interactions with federal agents and ensure the rights of the accused remain protected.