Difference Between State and Federal Sex Charges

Posted on in Sex Crimes

Illionois defense attorney, Illinois federal crimes lawyer, Illinois criminal defense lawyerRecently, singer R. Kelly appeared once again in federal court. This time it was to set a trial date for the 11 sexual abuse charges he is facing. R. Kelly continues to deny all charges against him. The fact that this high-profile case is in federal court has some confused. Are sex charges a state crime? When do they become a federal crime?

Federal Court vs. State Court

Like other crimes, when a person is charged with a sex crime, they are arrested and the case is tried in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.

Certain sex crimes are considered both state and federal crimes. The federal courts may hear the case at first, and then move it into the state courts. Likewise, a case may begin in state court and then advance to federal court if it is serious enough, or if new evidence is presented that makes the case appropriate for federal court.

Additionally, sex crimes can be tried in both federal and state courts at the same time. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, this does not constitute double jeopardy.

When Cases are Moved to Federal Court

Federal courts have dockets that are extremely full. As such, they do not hear every case they are presented. Federal courts will usually take on cases that cross state lines, such as sex trafficking, or that include the use of the Internet to commit the crime. Also, the federal courts will typically hear a sex crime case if it involves a child or minor.

Federal sex crimes are covered under Title 18 of the United States Code. Sex crimes typically heard in federal court include those that:

  • Exploit children
  • Involve child pornography, including possession and distribution
  • Involve online solicitation of a child, particularly if the solicitation involves crossing state lines
  • Involve aggravated sexual abuse or aggravated rape
  • Involve transporting children or other individuals across state lines or to other countries for the purpose of engaging them in criminal sexual activity

The fact that R. Kelly’s case involves minors is likely why it is being heard in federal court.

Differences in Procedure

A sex crime heard in federal court is much more complex than those heard in state courts. This is due to the fact that federal courts typically deal with much more serious crimes that are much broader in scope. Also, multiple federal law enforcement agencies are involved in a federal crime, including the FBI and the DEA. This means investigations are more complicated and take much more time than those investigated by state officials only.

Federal prosecutors also typically only take on cases they are fairly certain they will win. As such, cases heard in federal court require the strongest defense possible, and an attorney who is familiar with the federal court system.

Facing Sex Charges? Call an Illinois Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

Facing federal charges of a sex crime is frightening. However, you do not need to go through it alone. At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel, our dedicated Chicago federal criminal defense attorney is passionate about advocating for the rights of those accused. Attorney Garfinkel will build you a strong defense to give you the best chance of escaping federal charges and retaining your freedom. Call us today at 312-629-0669 or fill out our online form for your free consultation.


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