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When Do State Offenses Become Federal Sex Crimes?

Published: Aug 09, 2019 in Criminal Defense, Federal Crimes, Sex Crimes

On July 6, 2019, international celebrity R. Kelly was arrested for federal sex crimes. Kelly has been at the center of controversy for almost two decades and has faced criminal charges in both state and federal courts. For example, in 2002 he was indicted in Chicago by the Cook County court on 21 counts of child pornography. After a lengthy and well-publicized trial, he was acquitted in 2008 after the main witness against him refused to take the stand. Now, years later, he will again face criminal charges, but this time in United States District Court of New York, and the Cook County court.

Facing charges for any criminal offense is serious business, but when it’s the federal government you’re facing, the stakes are raised. The cost of litigation is higher, and the penalties are generally greater. Federal charges apply for serious offenses, or for cases where illegal conduct occurred in multiple states. At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we have a record of success of defending our clients both in state and federal courts. If you’ve been charged with a sex crime, call (713) 222-6767 today, or reach out through the online form to schedule a free consultation of your case.

Understanding When Federal Charges Apply

The vast majority of criminal prosecutions are brought by the district attorney of the county where the crime occurred. If you commit a sex crime in Houston, for example, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office will likely bring the charges against you. These offices enforce state laws and follow state procedures. Any attorney who is licensed to practice in Texas could potentially defend you in court.

If you violate a federal law in the Houston area, the United States Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Texas may prosecute you. You would be tried in federal court, which applies different laws and follows different procedures than the state court. Your criminal defense attorney must be admitted to practice law in this specific federal district in order to defend you. Some common federal sex crimes include:

  • Computer sex offenses
  • Child sexual exploitation
  • Child pornography
  • Human trafficking
  • Sex trafficking of minors
  • Kidnapping to commit a sexual offense
  • Aggravated sexual abuse
  • Sexual abuse of a child
  • Sex crimes resulting in death

Most of these offenses are also included within the Texas Penal Code. So if you commit any of these crimes, you could face charges in either state or federal court. Generally, you will face charges in federal court if you are targeted by an investigation from a federal law enforcement agency such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). These agencies tend to investigate very serious offenses or criminal schemes that cross state lines.

Celebrities such as R. Kelly and Jeffrey Epstein have been charged at the federal level because they allegedly broke the law in multiple states and even abroad. The FBI and other federal and state agencies were working together to investigate their cases. In the Eastern District of New York, R. Kelly faces a five-count indictment for kidnapping, forced labor, sexual exploitation of a child, and racketeering. He is currently in a Manhattan jail awaiting trial.

In Cook County, Kelly was charged earlier this year with several offenses, including aggravated criminal sexual assault, child pornography, and aggravated criminal sexual abuse. That court released him on bail. But he was arrested again because of the charges in New York.

The Law Offices of Ned Barnett Can Defend Against Both State and Federal Charges

To fully defend the interests of his clients, Houston criminal defense attorney Ned Barnett is admitted to practice in both the state and federal courts of Texas. In either court, he fights to achieve good case results for his clients by vigorously defending their rights at each step of the criminal justice process. If you are being investigated or prosecuted for a sex crime, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767.