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What's the Difference Between State and Federal Sex Crime Charges?

Posted by Dominick R. Dolci | Jul 18, 2019 | 0 Comments

You may have read the recent news: R. Kelly was arrested on federal sex crime charges in Chicago on the evening of July 11, 2019. This occurred after already being charged with multiple state sex crimes in Illinois and in New York. It makes some people wonder how can it be to be charged for state and federal sex crimes? What is the difference between state and federal sex crime charges?

The difference is not so much a difference but rather a trigger. There are certain facts or circumstances that trigger federal charges. Below is a brief overview of when sex crimes are filed by the state and when the federal government may also decide to file sex crimes against the same person. 

When are state sex crimes filed?

Sex crimes are almost always prosecuted at the state level. These crimes include but are not limited to the following:

R. Kelly had been indicted in February 2019 on a number of sex crimes. Then, later, R. Kelly was charged with new sex crime offenses in Cook County to which he pleaded not guilty on June 6, 2019. In addition to his arrest on July 11th for federal sex crime charges, he was indicted in the Eastern District of New York on July 12, 2019.

Herein is one reason why he was charged with federal crimes: the sex crimes went beyond state borders. 

When are federal sex crimes filed?

Many sex offenses committed within a state's jurisdiction also violate federal law. If the federal government charges a person – like it did R. Kelly – with federal sex crimes, then it will try the defendant in a United States District Court – in the R. Kelly case, it will be heard in the Northern District of Illinois.

Typically, federal charges will be brought against someone if he or she committed a sex offense that violates federal law, especially in the absence of a violation of state law (which is rare) or when the sex crime crosses state lines or occurs on tribal land or federal property.

Indictments of federal sex crimes – like human trafficking (e.g., 18 USC § 1589 – 1591) and child sexual exploitation (18 USC § 2251) – are often supported by a long and thorough investigation into the crimes using highly specialized government agencies:

  • the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI),
  • the National Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC), or
  • the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). 

These are all true in the R. Kelly case. Furthermore, the conviction of a federal sex crime usually carries harsher sentences, and a conviction on one count can lead to years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines and restitution. R. Kelly faces more than a dozen counts of federal sex crimes.

Contact a Sex Crimes Defense Attorney in Dupage County or Cook County, Illinois

If you have been charged with a sex crime in DuPage or Cook County, it is important to seek legal representation immediately. At Dolci & Weiland, we will outline all your options and advise you on what we believe to be your best option to defend yourself. Contact us today.

About the Author

Dominick R. Dolci

Managing Partner Dominick R. Dolci focuses his practice on criminal defense litigation and civil litigation. Dom graduated from John Marshall law school in 1990. He began his legal training in the Cook County States Attorneys Office where he worked at 26th and California. He then transferred ...


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