Sexual battery refers to forcing someone to engage in sexual acts against their will using threats or violence. Although normally prosecuted at the state level, the crime falls under federal jurisdiction in some cases, and you can receive harsh penalties if convicted.
You should contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney immediately if you were arrested or are under investigation for sexual battery. A lawyer can help you understand the charges against you and advise you of your rights and options and work with you to develop a solid defense.
What Is Federal Sexual Battery?
Federal law refers to sexual battery as aggravated sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is inappropriate, non-consensual, or unwanted sexual conduct or contact, and the crime becomes aggravated because of factors that include:
- Forcing someone to commit the sex act against their will
- Physically assaulting someone or causing them serious bodily harm or death
- Threatening someone so that they legitimately feared you would hurt, kill, or kidnap them
Other factors that elevate sexual abuse to aggravated sexual abuse include:
- Rendering someone unconscious so you can sexually assault them
- Giving them drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicants to make them incapable of understanding their situation or defending themselves against the assault
Additionally, the government defines rape and sexual assault as they apply to uniformed members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the definition of “rape” follows the same elements of civilian aggravated sexual abuse. Also, any servicemember accused of rape can face prosecution in both civilian and military courts.
With respect to inappropriate sexual contact, the law makes it a crime to force any penetration, no matter how slight, of the penis, vulva, anus, or mouth that does not have a legitimate medical, hygienic, or law enforcement purpose.
When is Sexual Battery a Federal Offense?
Aggravated sexual abuse, or sexual battery, falls under federal jurisdiction if the crime involved any of the following:
- It occurred across state lines or international boundaries.
- It occurred on federal property or within the special maritime jurisdiction of the United States.
- It occurred in a federal prison or official U.S. detention center against a person in federal custody.
Sexual battery also becomes a federal offense if the crime affected interstate or foreign commerce or was against an officer or employee of the U.S. government.
You can also face federal charges for aggravated sexual abuse if any of the following apply:
- You cross state lines to engage in sex with anyone under 12 years old.
- You engaged in sex with a child between 12 and 16, and you are four or more years older than the child.
The government does not have to prove you did not know the child was under 12.
Also, you can face charges for merely attempting any of these acts, and you do not have to have followed through on the offense to face prosecution.
Other Related Offenses
Along with charges of aggravated sexual abuse, you can face other related charges as well, depending on the nature of the crime. They include:
- Sexual abuse or a minor, ward, or inmate
- Sexual exploitation of a minor
- Child sexual assault and rape
- Offenses resulting in death
- Abusive sexual contact
You can also face charges for forceful oral copulation and female genital mutilation, as well as additional charges if you are a repeat offender. Other related crimes can include the purchase or sale of a child for sexual purposes and human trafficking.
Penalties for Federal Sexual Battery (Aggravated Sexual Abuse)
Almost all federal sex crimes carry mandatory minimum prison sentences, but how much time you will get will depend on the severity of the crime and other factors. The government allows courts discretion in determining sentences, but the statute defining aggravated sexual abuse states that anyone convicted of the crime can face fines and imprisonment of “any term of years or life.”
The harshest statutory sentences for aggravated sexual abuse are for crimes against minor children. You could receive up to 30 years in prison or life, and you could receive life or the death penalty if you seriously harm or kill someone during the offense.
Furthermore, you may have to pay restitution to the victim if convicted of aggravated sexual abuse to provide compensation for their expenses involved in traveling, medical and psychiatric care, and other damages. Along with being prosecuted by the federal government, you can also face state prosecution for the crime, and you will most certainly have to register as a sex offender.
Registering as a Sex Offender
If convicted of a federal sex crime, you will have to register with the National Sex Offender Registration, the sex offender registry of the state you live in, and any other state where the crime occurred. The government categorizes sex crimes into three tiers, depending on the seriousness of the crime, and the tier will determine how long you will have to maintain your registration.
For Tier I offenses, you will have to register as a sex offender for 15 years. For Tier II, you will have to register for 25 years, and for Tier III, you will have to register for the remainder of your life.
Being a registered sex offender will severely affect your life, and it will certainly limit where you can live, work, and go to school, and even whether you can go to a public park.
Defenses Federal Sexual Battery
Considering the potential impact on your life and future, you want to build the strongest case against the charges, and you will need to evaluate all your defense options. You also need to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney right away for help.
One major defense against many sex crimes is consent. If the person gave you permission or willfully allowed you to engage in the sex act, you should not face charges for aggravated sexual battery.
Other possible effective defense strategies can include:
- Duress – Someone forced you to commit the crime.
- False accusations – Someone falsely accused you of committing the crime.
- Entrapment – The victim or law enforcement “tricked” you into committing the crime.
Your attorney will scrutinize the evidence and try to find any avenue possible to create doubt in the jurors' minds. Upon further scrutiny, the evidence may not support you were involved in the crime at all. Your lawyer may also be able to show law enforcement or prosecutors infringed upon your constitutional rights or made mistakes throughout the judicial process.
Get Help from an Experienced Federal Defense Attorney
To increase your chances of getting the best outcome possible, you want an attorney who has extensive knowledge of federal laws and experience defending clients in federal court.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and Criminal Defense Team have many years of experience defending clients successfully in Pennsylvania Eastern and Middle District Courts against aggravated sexual abuse and other federal charges. He will review your case, advise you of your options, and fight hard for your rights and future.