There are few crimes that create social stigma more than being accused of a sex crime. Regardless of guilt or innocence, an accusation alone can easily cause one to become an outcast from those who they know and love. It is therefore critical to have a criminal defense attorney involved as early as possible in the investigative process in hopes of avoiding any publication or future criminal charges. Investigations regarding sexual misconduct may occur for a number of reasons other than the actual guilt of the accused. Whether from a disgruntled ex-spouse, upset parent, upset ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend, many cases have resulted from accusations of criminal sexual conduct despite no such conduct taking place. Unfortunately, even in the case of a false accusation, the accused are forced to fight and claw their way through a criminal investigation in an attempt to save their good name from being exposed for what may have never occurred.
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Sex crimes are an exceedingly serious matter, which is why these accusations carry such a heavy burden. Sexual battery, commonly known as “rape,” of a person over 12 years old constitutes a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Sexual battery is defined as oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object, excluding an act done for medical purposes. Such conduct is classified as a first-degree felony, punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison, if (a) the victim is physically helpless to resist; (b) the offender threatens force or violence likely to cause serious personal injury on the victim who believes the offender has the ability to carry out that threat; (c) the offender coerces the victim to submit by threatening retaliation against the victim or any other person; (d) the offender administers or has knowledge that someone else has administered a narcotic, anesthetic, or other intoxicating substance which incapacitates the victim; (e) the victim is mentally defective and the offender has reason to believe this or knowledge of it; or (f) the victim is physically incapacitated. If the offender uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon during the commission of a sexual battery, it is punishable by life in prison.
The potential penalties for sexual battery also depend on the ages of the offender and/or victim. For instance, a person who is over the age of 18 and commits sexual battery upon a person less than 12 years old commits a capital felony. If the perpetrator is under 18 years old in this same scenario, it is punishable by life imprisonment.
It is important to know that sex crimes do not always require sexual activity be non-consensual. Unlawful sexual activity with certain minors, a second-degree felony, is committed when a person 24 years of age or older engages in consensual sexual activity with a person 16 or 17 years old. A person who engages in sexual activity with a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years old commits lewd or lascivious battery, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Prostitution is also usually consensual. A first-time conviction for prostitution between two consenting adults is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days in county jail. However, the penalties get harsher for further convictions. A second conviction for prostitution is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a year in county jail, while a third conviction is punishable by 5 years in prison as a third-degree felony.
These penalties make it obvious that sex crimes are taken very serious and punished very severely. More than being a physical crime, it is a violation of the most intimate and privately held emotions, thoughts, and feelings a person holds. As a result, these crimes are usually prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and can have devastating results for a person’s future. A conviction for any of these crimes may also result in the requirement that a person register as a sex offender or sexual predator for the remainder of their life. It is always important that you consult with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible in the investigative process, but it is perhaps nowhere more critical than it is when dealing with sex crimes. If you or a loved one has been accused of a sex crime, contact the Law Office of John M. Phillips for a free consultation.