Second Circuit Holds That Traveling Interstate for the Purpose of Engaging in Illegal Sexual Conduct is Not a Strict Liability Crime
On November 4, 2019, the Second Circuit (Kearse, Wesley, Chin) issued a decision in United States v. Murphy, vacating a defendant’s guilty plea for traveling interstate for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 2243(b). The panel sided with several sister circuits in concluding that § 2243(b) is not a strict liability crime, and requires that the defendant travel interstate with the requisite intent, regardless of the actual age of the victim. The Court concluded that the district court had committed plain error in failing to ensure both that the defendant was adequately informed of this essential element of the crime to which he was pleading guilty, or that there was an adequate factual basis for the plea. Notwithstanding the awful nature of the crime committed here, it is important for courts to make sure that a defendant is advised of the elements of the offense, as required by Rule 11, and that he admits to those elements.