The state of Texas takes crime very seriously. The consequences stemming from sex crimes in particular can be extremely harsh in the state. Jail time, heavy fines and serious damage to reputation are just some examples. However, one legal entity that can be even harder on sex crimes than the state of Texas is the federal government. To one Texas man's chagrin, he currently experiences federal penalties for sex crime allegations put forth by federal prosecutors.
The 22-year-old Texas man was recently sentenced to 24 years in federal prison after he pled guilty in June to traveling across state lines to Missouri in order to engage in sex with a minor. Prosecutors also allege the man admitted to sexually assaulting another victim.
While there are many complicated issues involved in criminal law generally, one of the more difficult concepts to understand has to do with jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is another name for the place where a court has power to hear a case. If a crime is committed in one state, the state, and often more specifically, the county or city in which the crime occurred, has the power to oversee the case. However, if an alleged criminal act crosses state lines, sometimes the federal government will get involved.
Another situation where the federal government gets involved is when a federal crime has allegedly been committed. In the situation involving the 24-year-old man, sex crimes in most instances are state laws and as such, any sex crime allegedly committed within the state of Texas is prosecuted in the state. However, because the man crossed state lines, federal prosecutors stepped in.
The federal court's presence may explain the harsh penalty. However, given that Texas applies serious consequences to sex crimes, it is difficult to say whether the man would have received a lesser sentence if prosecuted by the state.
Source: Houston Chronicle, "Texas man gets 24 years for illicit sex," Oct. 24, 2012