When one refers to “Sex Crimes” they are referencing a very broad area of law. Generally speaking, a sex crime is one where a sexual act is performed without another person's consent. When an adult has sex with a minor, even if consent is given, it is considered statutory rape. Other, so called, sex crimes could be prostitution, indecent exposure, failure to register on a sex offenders list, creation or distribution of pornography and the list goes on and on.
Many people feel they can do or say anything on the internet because nobody is watching them. This is simply no longer the case. Each state has unlimited resources and access to your computer records and searches. Under cover police officers participate in internet chat rooms attempting to catch users soliciting a minor or a prostitute. If you are being charged with solicitation of a minor on the internet you cannot face the Judge alone.
In a world where children are growing up with smart phone cameras from an early age they are not as nearly cautious as adults are with their use. In many cases a minor child will take a picture and transmit it electronically. Now, the sender has created child pornography and distributed it. The over zealous State may prosecute her for creation and distribution of child pornography. If not careful the sender will be on a register sex offenders list for the rest of his/her life.
When the state charges you with a sex crime the stakes could not be any higher. You could be facing a felony conviction, mandatory prison time, and registration on a sex offenders list. If convicted of a sex crime you could lose your job your friends, and your family. If you have been charged with a sex crime you need an experienced attorney by your side in the court room.
Criminal charges are only unproven accusations unless prosecutors present their evidence at trial and convince a jury of a person's guilt. When the charges involve sex crimes, unproven accusations can be enough to affect someone's career, family life and standing in the community. A conviction can bring with it harsh penalties and the stigma of being forced to register as a sex offender. At the Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., our criminal defense attorneys offer the kind of aggressive and resourceful representation needed to meet the challenge of protecting the freedom and future of the accused.
Types of Sex Crimes in Virginia
There are many serious violations of the criminal code classified as sex crimes. Among them are the following:
- Rape: Code §18.2-61 defines rape as causing someone to engage in sexual intercourse against the person's will by force, threats or intimidation; by using the victim's diminished mental capacity or physical helplessness to compel them to engage in sexual intercourse; or by engaging in sexual intercourse with a child under 13 years of age. A person can be sentenced to life imprisonment for conviction of a rape charge.
- Child pornography: Possession, production, publication, financing and sale of sexually explicit visual material featuring a subject identifiable as a minor is a crime under Code §18.2-374.1
- Sexual battery: Sexually abusing a victim against his or her will or through force or intimidation is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and fines up to $2,500 under Code §18.2-67.4.
- Aggravated sexual battery: Is a felony under Code §18.2-67.3 when the victim of a sexual battery is not yet 13 years of age or the offender is a parent, step-parent or grandparent and the victim is at least 13 years of age but not yet 18. Penalties include up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $100,000.
- Carnal knowledge of minors: Carnal knowledge of a child between 13 and 15 years of age is a class 4 felony under Code §18.2-63. If a minor has consensual carnal knowledge of another minor who is three or more years younger than the offender the charge is a class 4 misdemeanor.
- Child sexual abuse: Code §18.2-370 enumerates many acts titled "Taking indecent liberties with children." If a person 18 years of age or older knowingly, intentionally and with lascivious intent exposes his or her sexual or genital parts to a child or asks a child to feel or fondle his or her own sexual or genital parts, or engages in other similar conduct as stated in the statute, the person is guilty of a class 5 felony.
Most sex crimes are felonies, so a prison sentence is a common part of the sentence handed down by judges in Hampton Roads or Newport News when someone is convicted. Conviction of certain sex offenses also entails registration with the sex offender registry making the information about your conviction available to any member of the public with access to the internet.
Sex Crimes Cases in Virginia: The Process
People frequently are unaware they are under investigation for a committing a sex offense until they are arrested and taken into custody by the police. A criminal defense attorney should be retained the minute a person suspects they are under investigation. Legal representation at the earliest stages of the process ensures the broadest protection of an individual's rights, including:
Sex Crimes Cases in Virginia: The Process (cont.)
- Bond hearings: It is likely that a person arrested on sex charges will face at least one, if not more, felonies. Defense counsel can request a bond hearing to argue in favor of the release of the accused on bond. Due to the nature of the charges it is likely prosecutors will oppose the request, but defense counsel can present evidence demonstrating the client's ties to the community and likelihood of appearing at all schedule proceedings before the court.
- Preliminary hearing: If the charge is a felony and the case has not been presented to a grand jury by prosecutors, the accused is entitled to a preliminary hearing to determine if there is sufficient cause to hold the person while awaiting presentation of the case to the grand jury. A tough and tenacious defense attorney can use a preliminary hearing to gain insight into the evidence prosecutors must support the charges and to identify weaknesses in the commonwealth case. The outcome of a preliminary hearing could enhance the chances of release on bond.
- Motions and discovery: Pretrial motions and discovery demands allow defense counsel to obtain some additional information about the evidence. Motions by the defense challenging searches and seizures of evidence by law enforcement are made asking that evidence obtained in violation of the constitutional rights of the accused be excluded from use to prove guilt at trial. Defense motions attacking the constitutionality of an interrogation of the accused by law enforcement could result in the suppression of incriminating statements.
- Engaging services of experts: Expert witnesses can play a key role in cases in which a person is charged with sex crimes. Private investigators working on behalf of the accused can uncover evidence supporting the defense strategy.
- Trial: The criminal defense attorney works diligently throughout the pretrial stages of the process to prepare for trial. The defense has the option of having the trial heard by a judge who will hear the evidence and render a verdict, or they can opt for a trial by jury. When a jury trial is chosen, the judge rules on questions of law and the admissibility of evidence while the jurors listen to the witnesses, review the evidence and vote on the guilt or innocence of the accused.
- Sentencing: If the accused is convicted of the charges or pleads guilty in exchange for reduced charges and a lighter sentence, the sentencing stage follows the trial. The judge orders a presentence report, which is prepared by a probation officer and contains background information about the defendant. If the person was convicted of a felony, the presentence report will include sentencing guidelines worksheets to assist the judge when imposing sentence. It is the role of defense counsel to present evidence in mitigation of the crime or anything else favorable to the defendant.
A Chesapeake Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Can Help
Anyone under investigation or charged with committing sex crimes in Newport News, Hampton or elsewhere within the commonwealth needs a defense attorney with a proven record of success and a reputation as a seasoned and aggressive advocate. The Hampton Roads attorneys at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C. understand the anxiety, fear and humiliation associated with accusations of sexual wrongdoing, but they are on your side with compassionate and hard-hitting criminal defense. Schedule a free and confidential initial consultation by calling them today at (757) 896-0868.