FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2011-03-02
In many cases, a country’s ability to prosecute crimes is restricted by the principal of sovereignty. The United States has the right to prosecute alleged crimes within its borders, and other countries have the same rights. However, as one man recently learned, this is not always the case.
When people from the United States travel abroad for the purposes of participating in sex tourism, they risk serious penalties. Under the PROTECT Act, U.S. citizens who engage in illicit sexual conduct abroad with someone under the age of 18 may face fines and imprisonment back home, for up to 30 years. This includes any commercial sex act, wherein anything of value is given to a person under the age of 18.
For an example of how this may be prosecuted, consider the recent case of a man from California who pled guilty to one count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor. According to the Los Angeles Times, the man had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl while he was teaching at a school in Cambodia.
This man was sentenced to almost nine years in prison for traveling to Cambodia for the purposes of having sex with an underage girl. In addition to the criminal penalties, he agreed to pay $9,500 in restitution to the girl. These penalties were imposed after he had already been convicted in Cambodian court for sexually abusing the girl.
Although any criminal allegations or convictions may have long-term consequences, those convicted of sex crimes face unique penalties. The man in this particular case had previously been convicted of sexual abuse, which reportedly prevented him from teaching in many countries. He had also previously been convicted of sexual misconduct with minors in Saipan, and served a five year sentence.
Imprisonment and restitution are both significant penalties, but the long-term consequences of a conviction for sex crimes may outlast either of these penalties. The full penalties vary from one state to the next, but rarely end at the conclusion of a prison sentence. Those convicted of sex crimes are routinely required to be listed on the sex offender registry for years, or even for life. Furthermore, in some cases, sexually dangerous predators may face civil commitment at the conclusion of criminally-imposed incarceration.
Because of these potentially serious penalties, it is important that those accused of any sex crimes mount an aggressive defense from the outset. Anyone accused of a sex crime or under investigation for sex offenses should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A knowledgeable defense lawyer can help you understand your options and ensure that your rights are protected.