People may be aware of how seriously sex offenses are taken in this country. We know that people accused of sexual misconduct can face extreme public scrutiny, aggressive prosecution and harsh penalties if convicted. However, the laws in other countries may not be as clearly defined or aggressively enforced. This can give people the mistaken belief that they will not face criminal penalties for engaging in unlawful sexual relationships abroad.
Ever since the Internet has become part of our everyday lives, it is easier than ever for people to make contact with people in other countries, including minors. Those who choose to pursue a sexual relationship may think that they can travel to a different county that has different laws about the age of consent and not be in violation of the law. However, they could face some serious penalties when they return to the U.S.
Recently, for example, a Florida man tried to travel to Belize to meet up with teenage girls he had contacted online. According to the allegations, the man met the girls though Facebook and was traveling there to meet them. He has reportedly made similar trips 10 times over the past couple years.
However, his most recent trip proved to be a very different experience. Instead of entering Belize, the man was turned away and sent back to the U.S. where law enforcement agents arrested him. Even though the laws in Belize permit do not forbid sex between adults and children as young as 16, it is against the law in this country to travel to meet minors for the purpose of sex. In this case, the man could spend at least 10 years in prison if he is convicted on federal charges.
There may be other people in Florida who are considering traveling to another country for similar purposes and could end up facing similar consequences. However, the penalties for doing so could be very steep. If you are being investigated for these offenses or are facing charges, having legal representation can be important in helping you defend yourself and avoid overly harsh or unnecessary punishment.
Source: The Tampa Tribune, “Local law enforcement battles child sex trafficking abroad,” Elaine Silvestrini, March 23, 2014