18 U.S. Code § 2251 - Sexual Exploitation of Children
Federal law enforcement agencies have vast resources to investigate sexual-related crimes against children. They work closely with federal prosecutors to indict suspected perpetrators of severe offenses, such as 18 U.S.C. 2251 sexual exploitation of children, often related to 18 U.S.C. 2252 child pornography.
Suppose you attempt to entice or persuade a minor to engage in sexual conduct to make videos, pictures, etc. In that case, you could be charged with the federal crime of sexual exploitation. A minor is anyone under 18.
18 U.S.C. 2251 says, “(a) Any person who employs, uses, persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any minor to engage in… or who transports any minor in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce… with the intent that such minor engages in any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct or for the purpose of transmitting a live visual depiction of such conduct, shall be punished…. if such person knows that such visual depiction will be transported or transmitted using the mail or computer….”
(b) Any parent, legal guardian, or person having custody or control of a minor who knowingly permits such minor to engage in, or to assist any other person in engaging in, sexually explicit conduct to produce any visual depiction of such conduct or to transmit a live visual depiction of such conduct shall be….”
You could still be prosecuted for sexual exploitation if the offense occurred outside of the United States. Still, prosecutors must first be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you intended to send, or make available, child pornography material to anyone in the United States.
Federal law strictly prohibits employing or using children to produce sexually explicit materials or distribute materials showing minors engaging in sexually explicit acts and producing such obscene material.
What is the Sexual Exploitation of a Minor?
Child sexual exploitation is generally described as involving a minor (under 18) in a sexual act for commercial gain, such as child pornography, child sex trafficking, human trafficking, sextortion, live streaming of child sexual abuse, and child sex tourism. Some examples include the following:
- Use, employ, induce, force, or encourage a minor to engage in sexual acts to create a visual representation of the sexual activity or transmit a live performance;
- Distribute, transport, display, receive, sell, buy, exchange, or solicit material containing visual depictions of a child performing sexual acts;
- Allow a child in your custody to engage in sexual activity for the purposes of producing child pornography;
- Transport a minor or pay for a minor to travel across state lines to engage in sexual activity as part of producing child porn;
- Record, photograph, film, develop, or copy material depicting sexual activity involving a minor for financial gain;
- Knowingly makes, prints, or publishes, or causes it, or any notice or advertisement seeking or offering child porn (18 U.S.C. 2251(d));
- Possession of a visual representation of a minor child participating in sex acts and being aware of the content and character of the material.
The primary purpose of this statute is to prohibit the production of child pornography. Still, it must fall under federal jurisdiction, such as crossing state lines or international borders using the Internet or the mail system.
An example of violating 18 U.S.C. 2251(a) includes a situation where you transport a minor across state lines in a vehicle intending to film child pornography. If the illegal conduct occurred only within one state, it would usually be handled under state laws.
18 U.S.C. 2251(b) imposes penalties for the same type of conduct but specifically targets an exploited minor's parents or legal guardians if they allow their child to knowingly engage in sexually explicit conduct to produce any visual depiction of the behavior to transmit live visual depiction.
What About Sexual Exploitation Outside the United States?
18 U.S.C. 2251(c) imposes penalties for anyone who “employs, uses, persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any minor to engage in, or who has a minor assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct outside of the United States to produce any visual depiction of such conduct.”
However, the conduct must involve all the elements of the crime, including that you intended or transported such visual depiction to the United States by using any means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce or mail.
For example, suppose a foreign national produces child porn and then distributes the images or videos via the internet to other people who live in the United States. In that case, they could face charges under this federal statute.
What Are the Related Federal Laws?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 110, Sexual Exploitation and Other Abuse of Children, has several federal statutes that are related to 18 U.S.C. 2252 sexual exploitation of children, including the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 2251A - Selling or buying of children;
- 18 U.S.C. 2252 - Certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors;
- 18 U.S.C. 2252A - Certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography;
- 18 U.S.C. 2252B - Misleading domain names on the Internet;
- 18 U.S.C. 2252C - Misleading words or digital images on the Internet;
- 18 U.S.C. 2253 - Criminal forfeiture;
- 18 U.S.C. 2254 - Civil forfeiture;
- 18 U.S.C. 2255 - Civil remedy for personal injuries;
- 18 U.S.C. 2256 - Definitions for chapter;
- 18 U.S.C. 2257 - Record keeping requirements;
- 18 U.S.C. 2257A – Record-keeping for simulated sexual conduct;
- 18 U.S.C. 2258 - Failure to report child abuse;
- 18 U.S.C. 2258A - Reporting requirements of providers;
- 18 U.S.C. 2258B - Limited liability for providers or domain name registrars;
- 18 U.S.C. 2258C - Use to combat child pornography of technical elements relating to reports made to the Cyber Tip line;
- 18 U.S.C. 2258D - Limited liability for NCMEC;
- 18 U.S.C. 2258E - Definitions;
- 18 U.S.C. 2259 - Mandatory restitution;
- 18 U.S.C. 2259A - Assessments in child pornography cases;
- 18 U.S.C. 2259B - Child pornography victims reserve;
- 18 U.S.C. 2260 - Production of sexually explicit depictions of a minor for importation into the United States;
- 18 U.S.C. 2260A - Penalties for registered sex offenders;
What Are the Penalties for 18 U.S.C. 2251?
Suppose you are convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. 2251 sexual exploitation of children law. In that case, the penalties include the following:
- A mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years, and
- A maximum sentence of 30 years.
However, the exact sentence for a child porn or sexual exploitation conviction will depend on different factors and the calculation range of the federal sentencing guidelines.
For example, the federal sentence for sexual exploitation cases will be based on the following:
- How many images or videos you possessed or distributed;
- Age of the minors; and
- Type of sexual conduct in the images.
Further, there is a sentence enhancement if you engaged in a pattern of similar conduct, even if you were never charged, indicted, or convicted of a sex crime.
18 U.S.C. § 2251(e) says, “(e) Any individual who violates, or attempts or conspires to violate, this section shall be fined and imprisoned not less than 15 years nor more than 30 years, but if such person has one prior conviction under this chapter, section 1591, chapter 71, chapter 109A, or chapter 117, or under section 920 of title 10 (article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), or the laws of any State relating to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, abusive sexual contact involving a minor.”
All the federal sexual-related offenses discussed above are considered serious violations of federal law. Suppose you or a family member was accused of violating any section under 18 U.S.C. § 2251. In that case, you must retain a federal criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and have the best chance of a favorable outcome.
Call our law firm to review your case and legal options. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.
- Citizen's Guide to Federal Law on Child Pornography
- Seizure of Home Computers in a Child Pornography Investigation
- What Factors Determine How Child Pornography is Prosecuted?
- Federal Prosecution of Child Pornography Charges
- Transportation of Minors
- How Can You Avoid Jail Time in a Federal Child Porn Case?
- 18 U.S. Code 1589 Forced Labor