Transportation of Minors

18 U.S. Code § 2423 - Transportation of Minors

Several federal laws prohibit a broad range of activities related to transporting people or traveling across state lines or international borders for the purpose of engaging in illegal sexual activity, such as 18 U.S.C. 2423 transportation of minors.

This federal statute makes it a crime to knowingly transport someone under 18 in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent that they engage in prostitution, which is essentially sex trafficking. It is also illegal to travel to other countries to engage in illicit sex with minors, known as sex tourism.

18 U.S. Code § 2423 - Transportation of Minors
18 U.S.C. 2423 makes it a federal crime to transport minors to engage in prostitution or sexual activity.

18 U.S.C. 2423 says, “(a) Transportation intending to engage in criminal sexual activity. Anyone who knowingly transports an individual under the age of 18 years in interstate or foreign commerce, or… in any United States territory… with the intent that the individual engages in prostitution or in any sexual activity for which they can be charged with a criminal offense shall be….”

This law applies to the human trafficking of underage prostitutes and adults who drive or attempt to drive a minor across state lines to have sex with them.

It also applies to those who purchase bus or plane tickets for minors to travel across state lines or borders to engage in illegal sex. In other words, it's illegal to arrange for the interstate transportation of people to engage in unlawful sex.

It's also illegal for a United States citizen to travel to a foreign country to hire a prostitute or have sex with a minor. Notably, you could still be found guilty without actually engaging in sexual conduct if the prosecutor can prove the illegal intent for traveling.

This federal charge often occurs in undercover sting operations where FBI agents pose an underage prostitute. 

Sometimes, U.S. citizens are arrested when returning because customs officers discover incriminating photographs or videos while investigating their laptops, phones, or cameras. Electronic devices can be searched without a warrant.

Title 18 U.S. Code 2423 – Quick Facts 

18 U.S.C. 2423(b) makes it a crime to travel intending to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Section 2423(c) makes it illegal for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to engage in unlawful sexual behavior in another country.

Child Prostitution
It's a federal crime to travel to a foreign country to have sex with a minor, called "sex tourism."

Section 2423(d) makes it illegal to exchange money for commercial advantage, such as helping or inducing someone to travel out of the state or country if they know with the intent to engage in illicit sex acts.

Section 2423(e) says that anybody who attempts or conspires to violate this statute will be punished in the same manner as if they completed the crime.

Section 2423(f) says the illicit sexual conduct prohibited includes any illegal sexual activity with minors, commercial sex acts (section 1591), or producing child pornography (section 2256(8)).

The term “illicit sexual conduct” means a sexual act (section 2246) with someone under 18 that would violate Chapter 109A if the sexual act occurred in the jurisdiction of the United States.

What Does the Law Say?

In a review of Title 18 U.S. Code 2423, below are the types of illegal conduct that make it a federal offense;

  • Knowingly transporting minors under 18 in interstate or foreign commerce or United States territory with the intent to be used for prostitution or any sexual activity prohibited under federal laws;
  • Travelling into the United States or crossing state lines with the specific intent of engaging in illicit sexual conduct;
  • Any United States citizen or resident alien traveling in foreign commerce with the specific intent of engaging in illicit sexual conduct;
  • Traveling to a foreign country to engage in illicit sexual conduct; or
  • Facilitating others in sex tourism or inducing them to participate for "commercial advantage or private financial gain."
  • Conspiring to violate subsections (a), (b), (c), or (d) listed above.

Other things you should know about this law:

  • Illicit sexual conduct is defined as any illegal sexual act with a minor, commercial sex act (prostitution), or the production of child porn;
  • If you attempt or conspire to commit any of the acts listed within this federal statute, it's considered the same as if you completed the offense. For example, suppose you travel to a foreign country for sex tourism, but you fail. In that case, you could still be prosecuted and face the same penalties as if you had succeeded;
  • Related 18 U.S. Code 2421 says the attorney general shall grant a state attorney's request to prosecute a violation unless it's determined that granting the request would undermine the administration of justice.

What Are the Related Federal Statutes?

18 U.S. Code Chapter 117 Transportation for illegal sexual activity and related crimes lists some federal laws that are related to 18 U.S.C. 2423 transportation of minors, including the following:

  • 18 U.S.C. 2421 - Transportation generally;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2421A - Promotion or facilitation of prostitution and reckless disregard of sex trafficking;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2422 - Coercion and enticement;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2424 - Filing factual statement about the alien individual;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2425 - Use of interstate facilities to transmit info about a minor;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2426 - Repeat offenders;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2427 - Inclusion of offenses relating to child pornography in the definition of sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2428 – Forfeitures;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2429 – Mandatory restitution.

What Are the 18 U.S.C. 2423 Penalties?

Suppose you are convicted of violating Title 18 U.S. Code 2423, trafficking minors across state or international lines for the purpose of illicit sexual activity.  In that case, you are facing harsh penalties, such as the following:

  • If convicted for engaging in sex tourism, such as traveling to another location to have sex with a minor, you are facing up to 30 years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons and fines of up to $250,000;
  • If convicted of facilitating or assisting in sex tourism for commercial gain, you are also facing up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000;
  • If convicted of transporting a minor across state or international boundaries for illicit sexual conduct, you face a minimum sentence of 10 years, up to life imprisonment, and a fine of up to $250,000.

What Are the 18 U.S.C. 2423 Defenses?

Some strategies are used against alleged 18 U.S.C. 2423 violations by a federal criminal defense attorney, as discussed below.

Defenses for Transportation of Minors
Contact us for a free case evaluation.

Maybe we can argue that there was no intent to engage in sex with a minor. To convict you, it must be proven that you traveled across state lines intending to engage in illicit sexual activity.

Suppose the federal prosecutor cannot prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In that case, you have a better chance of avoiding a conviction.

Maybe we can argue that you were unaware the person was a minor. Section 2423(g) says it is a defense, which must be proven by clear and convincing evidence, that you believed that the person with whom you engaged in the commercial sex act was at the age of 18.

Contact us for a free case evaluation and to discuss the legal options. We serve people across the United States on federal criminal matters.  The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.

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