There are few criminal accusations in today’s society that are more emotionally-charged than an alleged sex offense. Public misperceptions and stigmas around these cases have been current for many years. Besides facing criminal penalties, defendants are also facing the prospect of some form of offender registration upon conviction of the underlying crime.
An experienced law firm that has actually tried these cases and handled them at the state and federal level is a requirement in this area of the law. With our extensive trial experience with sex offenses, we understand the importance of investigations, expert testimony, deposition practice, computer forensics, medical evidence and expert testimony to secure successful outcomes for our clients.
Both Kansas and Missouri have a separate statutory scheme for dealing with sex offenses, and they can be very different. Sex crimes can be both misdemeanors or felonies. But in general, a sex crime may be defined as a sex act that is considered
- “sexually deviant” in nature
- the exchange of sexual activity for money (solicitation or prostitution)
- a forced/non-consensual sexual act, either forcible or by law (statutory rape)
- the possession, distribution, or promotion of child pornography or other sexually-related contraband.
More specifically, sex offenses fall into the following categories. Both Kansas and Missouri have very specific definitions and subcategories of these offenses. But for the purposes of simplicity in this article, we will speak in general terms.
- Rape. Though every state has its own definition of this act, rape is generally defined as forced or non-consensual sexual intercourse. There have evolved different categories of rape, such as statutory rape, spousal rape, and date rape.
- Sexual Abuse. Though the legal definition will vary depending on the jurisdiction, sexual abuse may be defined as any form of non-consensual contact of a sexual nature. Improper touching, molestation and forced sexual intercourse may fall under this category.
- Sexual Assault or Sexual Battery. These involve unlawful physical contact of a sexual nature, or the threat of physical contact. They can be relatively minor (misdemeanor) or high level felony level offenses.
- Indecent Exposure. Intentionally exposing oneself in a sexual manner in public.
- Child molestation is a sex offense that may involve a range of indecent sexual conduct involving a child. Different states specify the age requirements and subcategories of this offense.
- Child pornography. It is illegal to possess, produce or distribute any form of pornographic material depicting minors. These offenses are among the most common sex crimes and are prosecuted vigorously at the state and federal levels.
- Internet Sex Crimes or Cyber Sex Crimes. These generally involve the alleged receipt, promotion, or transmission of illicit sexual material. See our separate post on this subject. “Police decoy” cases are common here.
- Solicitation and Prostitution. Craigslist announcements, suburban massage parlors, ads in newspapers, or even meetings in person can be the triggers for these types of offenses. Pandering, solicitation, and engaging in prostitution are commonly misdemeanors, but can be felonies if certain conditions apply.
Obviously, the threat of imprisonment is present in these cases. Other possible harms may include a felony or misdemeanor record, sexual offender treatment programs, and registration on sex offender lists. Sex offender registration is one of the cutting-edge areas of litigation in this area of the law. Many states around the country are now finding that lifetime sex offender registration, when applied retroactively, violates a person’s constitutional rights.
Imprisonment. The severity of possible sentencing for sex crimes stands out as a key feature of these offenses. Even if incarceration is not at issue or relatively short, prosecutors will often try to impose burdensome restrictions and conditions of probation on defendants.
Felony or Misdemeanor. A common but improper practice is for prosecutors to “overcharge” an offense in the initial stages. Also common here is for offenses to be charged as “aggravated” when the factual basis for such an enhancement is almost nonexistent.
Sex Offender Registration and Treatment. This is perhaps the most troublesome aspect of the sex crimes process. What defense attorneys (and increasingly, state legislators) have found particularly infuriating is the lack of nuance in this area. Offender lists were originally intended only for violent predators. Over time, legislators added more and more crimes to what constitutes a registerable offense. This has led to situations where the 18 year old kid having sex with his underage girlfriend is treated the same (for registration purposes) as a serial rapist. Even some misdemeanor offenses are now subject to registration, so that even an “offensive sexual contact” (even with clothing on) can subject a person to registration. Fortunately, the trend in the law around the country seems to be ease back on some of this hysteria. But it will take years before some semblance of rationality returns to the process.
Legal and Evidentiary Issues. Legislators have shown a willingness to give prosecutors many tools to pursue these accusations. Allowing child testimony that may be otherwise unreliable, stretching statutes of limitations, allowing questionable “date rape” accusations, and enlisting the help of uninformed social workers are common prosecutor tactics. We know that fighting these cases involves a committed, sustained, and focused strategy that investigates every aspect of the case, enlists the support of medical, scientific, or computer experts, studies the scientific evidence as applicable, and uses pre-trial or trial practice in court to get cases dismissed or reduced.
Obviously, sex offense cases are very serious and should only be handled by an experienced trial attorney willing to put in the time, effort, and dedication to see the case through to the end.
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