In the U.S., state and federal laws prohibit people from engaging in sexual conduct with minors. But what about when an offense occurs outside of this country? Are there statutes that prohibit that?
There are federal laws that explicitly state that it is illegal for a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident to travel to another country to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor – someone who is under 18 years of age.
The government considers traveling to have sex with a minor a form of human trafficking, which is referred to as sex tourism.
Just recently, a teacher in Dana Point, CA was convicted of this offense. He was said to have traveled to China, where he allegedly forced a young boy to participate in sex acts. During his encounter with the boy, the teacher took pictures of the sexual conduct. He returned to the U.S. with the explicit photos.
In 2018, the teacher pleaded guilty traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor and engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor in a foreign place.
Illicit Sexual Acts Prohibited by the Law
The laws concerning leaving the country to have sex with a minor are defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2423.
The statute makes the following acts illegal:
- Transporting a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity: This offense occurs when a person transports someone under 18 years of age across state lines or countries to participate in prostitution or criminal sexual conduct. The conviction penalties for this offense include between 10 years and life in federal prison and/or a fine.
- Traveling to engage in sexual conduct: If a person themselves leaves the state or country to have illicit sex with a person under 18 years of age, they are committing a sexual offense. A conviction carries with it a prison sentence of up to 30 years and/or a fine.
- Having illicit sex in a foreign country: If a U.S. citizen goes to another country to live temporarily or permanently and engages in criminal sexual conduct with a minor while there, they are committing an offense. If they are convicted, they could be fined and/or be imprisoned for up to 30 years.
How Is Illicit Sexual Conduct Defined?
According to 18 U.S.C. § 2423, illicit sexual conduct means:
- Engaging in a sex act with a person under 18 years of age,
- Engaging in a sex act in exchange for something of value with someone under 18 years of age, or
- Producing child pornography
A sex act can include masturbation, sexual intercourse, or physical contact with a person’s genitals.
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