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Are sex offenses prosecuted in state or federal courts?

A Kansas City defendant may be tried on charges for certain crimes in both state and federal courts. That sounds like a violation of constitutional rights but, in some cases, so-called double jeopardy protection does not apply. Successive prosecutions by state and federal courts are possible for some alleged sex crimes.

A defendant accused of child pornography may be tried in both courts. The attorney who represents someone accused by both governments must be ready to defend a client under state laws and vastly different federal rules.

An example of a Kansas-only law is Jessica's Law, which adds severe penalties to criminal convictions for child-related sexual offenses. Even first-time offenders face harsh penalties like a 25 year-to-life prison term when a crime involves a child younger than 14. Aggravated habitual sexual offenders – repeat offenders for certain child sex crimes – are sentenced to life terms without parole.

Many of the sexual offenses prosecuted in federal courts concern crimes against children. A defendant's trial may be held in a federal court for charges of transporting a minor across state or international borders for sexual purposes. Federal agents also investigate allegations of producing, distributing, transporting or receiving child pornography, particularly when explicit materials cross real or virtual boundaries.

The federal government does not get involved in every sex crimes case even when a child is the alleged victim. If you are charged with an offense like sexual assault, rape or sexual exploitation of a minor, it is important to discuss which legal process or processes apply to your case and how to prepare to meet those challenges.

Attorneys who represent defendants charged with sex crimes examine the way an investigation and arrest are conducted in search of civil rights violations. Remember prosecutors in state and federal courts – not defendants -- carry the burden of providing proof to support allegations of sexual offenses.

Source: FindLaw, "Sex Offenders and Sex Offenses: Overview," accessed July 24, 2015

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