August 26, 2015 Practice Points

Fourth Circuit: Government Can Prosecute Citizens for Illicit Sex Overseas

The court held that the Foreign Commerce Clause allows Congress to regulate such sexual activities that demonstrably affect foreign commerce, such as sex tourism.

By Alexander S. Vesselinovitch – August 26, 2015

United States v. Bollinger involved a U.S. citizen defendant who engaged in sexual activities with minor females while he ran a ministry for children in Haiti. Upon his return to the United States, Bollinger was indicted for two counts of engaging in illicit sexual acts with a minor after traveling in foreign commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2246 and 2423. Bollinger argued that section 2423(c) is unconstitutional because its application to non-commercial sexual activity exceeds the scope of the Foreign Commerce Clause. A unanimous panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and upheld the convictions. The court held that the Foreign Commerce Clause allows Congress to regulate such sexual activities that demonstrably affect foreign commerce, such as sex tourism. The case is United States v. Bollinger, No. 14-4086 (4th Cir. Aug. 19, 2015).

Alexander S. Vesselinovitch, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, Chicago, IL


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