Sex Crime Charges: An Overview of What They are and When They Can be Fought

by Lisa Coleman on July 18, 2013

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Sex crimes present several unique challenges to defendants. In many cases, victims are reluctant to speak out, victims may not recall the incident with clarity, physical evidence is lacking, and prosecutors and society view sex offenders with a scorn not usually seen even among other types of criminals. This can easily lead to a rush to condemn an innocent party.

What is a Sex Crime?

Broadly, sex crimes are crimes involving some sort of unlawful sexual act. The definition is much broader than many members of the public believe that it is. Sex crimes are not limited to rape and child molestation, but include indecent exposure, patronizing a prostitute, and certain sexual activities such as sodomy, regardless of whether both parties consent to the act.

Rape is distinguished from other sex offenses by a specific statutory requirement. Generally, some degree of penetration must take place before a defendant may be convicted of a rape, while most other acts involve some sort of nonconsensual sexual contact with or without penetration. A lack of consent may be evident by the victim’s incapacity to consent or the perpetrator’s use of force. Victims may be unable to consent due to mental infirmity, age, or consciousness.

Sex offenses are regulated at the state level, meaning that the type of offense and the elements required to prove the offense will be different from state to state. Grabbing another person’s private areas without consent or a legitimate purpose is considered to be “forcible touching” in New York while it is “sexual battery” in California. Mississippi criminalizes rape as “sexual battery,” which is different from California’s use of the term. In general, nonconsensual sexual contact is unlawful regardless of which terms individual states use.

Penalties and Long-Term Issues for Sex Offenders

The penalties for sex crimes come in various phases. The direct penalties usually include incarceration. The duration of any jail or prison sentence will vary widely depending upon the sex crime in question. A forcible rape can result in a life sentence while patronizing a prostitute often results in probation and little if any jail time. Even if two defendants are ordered to serve similar sentences, they may spend significantly different amounts of time depending upon a particular jail’s policies and opportunities for early release and parole.

If the crime constituted a felony in that particular jurisdiction, the consequences will follow the convicted person for the rest of his or her life. This has several consequences. Felons cannot legally vote or own firearms unless their rights are restored. Felons are also not a protected class under any federal law. Employers routinely and legally discriminate against persons convicted of felonies, relegating many felons to entry-level positions, which often do not provide opportunities for career advancement.

Perpetrators of certain sex crimes may also be required to register in state sex-offender databases. This may be as a condition of probation or parole or as an automatic statutory requirement. What constitutes an offense that requires registration will vary from state to state. For example, New York requires registration for persons convicted of patronizing a prostitute if the offense is charged as a felony or if the offense is charged as a misdemeanor and if the prostitute was a minor. Texas does not require registration for patrons of prostitution, but does require reporting for persons convicted a second time of indecent exposure, which New York does not require.

In general, jurisdictions require reporting for any sexual offense involving a minor, any nonconsensual sexual act like rape or kidnapping to commit a rape, unlawful imprisonment, incest, and other unlawful sexual acts. Being labeled a sex offender has significant consequences. In addition to registering, sex offenders are not allowed to live close to schools and often must notify the community before moving. This can make it difficult to relocate. Additionally, sex offender information is available to the public, resulting in potential backlash from the surrounding community.

Defending Against a Charge

There are ways for a defense to be built against sex crime charges, but hiring a solid and knowledgeable lawyer who has experience in handling the legality of such charges is a must. Ask for references when looking for this specific kind of lawyer. Another way to locate a sex crime lawyer is by doing an online search pertinent to your local area. For example, do a search for an Orlando sex crime lawyer if that is the geographic area you need representation in. This is a good way to find out online information about lawyers that you may be considering to consult. Also you can read online reviews for each individual. Considerations should be made to employing one for their services that you feel comfortable and confident in about fighting for you.

There are numerous ways to defend against a charge of committing a sex crime. Sex crimes require an intent to commit the act or achieve the result; if the alleged misconduct occurred inadvertently, the actor may not be guilty of the offense under the law. If the actor did not commit any sexual conduct at all, the actor is not guilty. Alternatively, the defendant may show that the alleged victim consented to the act at the time that it occurred and only later claimed that he or she did not consent. If the victim had the capacity to consent at the time and if the defendant can show that the victim consented, the defendant will not have committed a crime in most jurisdictions.

With severe and long-lasting criminal, economic and social consequences coupled with the difficulty of defending against such a charge, persons accused of sexual misconduct should seek experienced legal representation. Cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct can be difficult, as many of them boil down to the word of the victim against the word of the defendant. Physical evidence that is present may also be consistent with the defendant’s claim that any acts performed were consensual. A criminal defense attorney with experience in handling sex crime cases will help distill the emotion from the equation and assist the prosecutor, the judge and the jury to focus on the evidence.

Legal writer Lisa Coleman shares an overview of what some sex crimes are and what kind of penalties can be imposed upon a person charged with such a crime, and encourages the employment of an experienced legal representative to help protect them. Katz & Phillips, P.A., an Orlando sex crime lawyer firm, is experienced and knowledgeable about sex crime laws and can represent and fight for a client facing such charges.

Lisa Coleman
Lisa Coleman enjoys writing about her passions, which include law, animals, family, hobbies and travel.

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