Being wrongfully accused of a crime can cause anxiety throughout your entire life. It might cause issues with your family, your friends, or at work. When it’s a sex crime like molestation, the effects can be even worse.
It often doesn’t matter if you’ve actually been charged with a crime. An accusation can be extremely stressful when thinking about the consequences. There are many things to worry about, such as whether you will end up in prison, whether you will have major fines to pay, if you will have to be in the legal system for the rest of your life because of a DNA swab from an arrest, or having to register as a sex offender. It can feel like your life is spinning out of your control and there is little you can do to stop it. What you can do is control the necessary. This includes finding the right person to defend you and your reputation.
Luckily, no matter what type of crime you are charged with, you can always find a reputable, reliable, and experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you with your defense. They will do what they can to get you the best result, including a not guilty verdict or negotiation of lesser charges if appropriate.
Definition of Molestation
There are a lot of misconceptions and false beliefs about what certain laws say about sex crimes. According to the law, molestation is when someone engages in sexual acts with a minor under the age of 18. Sexual acts can fall under several categories. These acts could be the taking of pornographic videos or photos, touching their genitalia, making a child touch an adult’s genitalia, rape, or exposing genitalia. Under California law, the crime can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. The state will factor in the age of the child, age of the perpetrator, and severity of the acts to determine what charges to put on a criminal complaint against the accused. This means that sex crimes are considered “wobbler” crimes since the District Attorney has discretion as to whether to charge them as misdemeanors or felonies after considering the facts and circumstances of the case.
Possible Charges for Molestation in California
California Penal Codes 647.6, 288, 288.2, and 288.4 are the primary codes that cover sexual molestation crimes.
Penal Code 647.6 covers the crime of “annoying” a minor under the age of 18 and can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. This refers to the act of irritating or disturbing a child by expressing an interest in sexual activity with them. In most cases, this will be charged as a misdemeanor crime, since there is no physical contact involved. The maximum penalties for a misdemeanor are one year in county jail and fines up to $5,000. If the crime involved entering the victim’s home without permission, then it might be charged as a felony. If so, it would be a maximum of three years in prison assuming the accused does not have a past criminal record, is not currently on probation or parole, and there are no other charges on the complaint against him/her.
Penal Code 288 deals with the crime of committing a lewd or lascivious act toward a child under the age of 16. Crimes that would fall under Penal Code 288 include forcing a child to touch someone or themselves in a sexual way or touching the child in a sexual way. This would still apply if the child was wearing clothes at the time. This crime is charged as a felony, and depending on the severity and other factors could come with sentences of five, eight, or 19 years in prison. Punishment could also include a maximum fine of $10,000.
Under Penal Code 288.2, an adult cannot contact a child with the intent of arousing themselves or the child by sending explicit or obscene materials to them. This crime is an example of a wobbler offense, meaning it could be charged as both a misdemeanor and a felony. If it is charged and convicted as a misdemeanor, then the maximum punishment is one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. If charged and convicted as a felony, the potential sentence rises to three years or more depending on factors such as past criminal records, enhancements at sentencing, or other accused crimes that a person is convicted of, and the fine goes up to a maximum of $10,000. A conviction also means that the offender will be registered as a sex offender for the duration of their life.
Penal Code 288.4 deals with the crime of arranging a meeting with a minor to have sexual encounters with them. This is also a wobbler offense that comes with a maximum one-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine for misdemeanors. This conviction may also require registration as a sex offender for a minimum period of 10 years. This crime can be charged as a felony if the accused has already been convicted in the past of a crime that caused them to be registered as a sex offender. It is also a felony if the defendant follows through with the attempted arrangements and goes to meet with the minor. A felony conviction for this crime comes with a prison sentence of between 16 months and four years in prison, along with a possible fine of $10,000. This crime also requires registration as a sex offender for the duration of the offender’s life.
With the possible penalties for molestation being so severe, do not take chances with your freedom. Contact a sex crimes defense lawyer for help as soon as possible if you are accused.
A Lawyer Is Your Best Chance for a Favorable Result
Being accused of a crime can be lonely, especially if you don’t feel comfortable sharing the accusations against you with your friends and family. People might abandon you, and you could even lose your job. Law enforcement officers and the prosecutor will treat you harshly and could even bring official charges against you which could result in your arrest and having to bail out of jail. You will probably find yourself in front of a judge in a court of law. Is there anyone you can count on to help? Absolutely. That is a strong defense team including attorneys that care, investigators to gather evidence to protect you, and possibly expert witnesses hired to support your defense.
Even if it seems like there’s no one who cares, you can still have someone fighting on your team from the beginning. An experienced criminal law attorney will listen to your side of things and create and carry out a strategy to get you the best result possible.
A Good Criminal Law Attorney Knows How to Collect Evidence to Help with Your Defense
Contacting an experienced sex crimes defense attorney means that you will have an expert at examining and collecting evidence. They will ask for your story, talk to witnesses, and find other witnesses that may have been overlooked or avoided by the police during their investigation. They will ask you if there is anything you might have that can be used as evidence that proves you weren’t present at the time of the alleged crime or exonerates you in some other way. It may also be that the victim does not qualify under the age requirements for you to be charged with a certain crime, that there was no actual contact, or even that the victim has fabricated their claims. No matter what, a lawyer will search high and low for evidence that you are not guilty of the crime for which you are accused and go over your case with a fine-tooth comb to explore every avenue of defense.
Remember, in a United States court of law, you are always considered innocent until proven guilty. The burden is on the prosecutor to show beyond a reasonable doubt to the jury that you are guilty of the crime. If they do not have enough of or the correct evidence, you cannot be found guilty. They may be willing to negotiate a plea deal if that’s the case. You need an expert on criminal law on your side in these situations.
An Experienced Defense Attorney Can Negotiate a Plea Deal for You
Most criminal cases end in a plea deal of some kind instead of going to court. An attorney has deep knowledge of the law and will be able to get the best deal for you.
Plea deals can take many forms and can involve many factors. Mostly, when the accused will plead guilty to a lesser penalty than they might if they are found guilty at trial. For example, if you are accused, under Penal Code 288.4, of arranging a meeting with a child under the age of 18 for sexual activities, it could be charged as a misdemeanor. If you plead guilty instead of going to trial, the prosecutor may offer a lower sentence to six months instead of the maximum of one year in jail or prison and remove the fine portion of your penalty. Going to trial can be a risk, even if you think you have a good defense. Making a plea deal will remove the uncertainty and allow you to start putting the matter behind you. Your criminal law attorney can negotiate the deal, but ultimately it will be up to you to decide whether you will accept or not. Your attorney will present your options to you in an unbiased way and give you advice based on their knowledge and experience. No matter what you choose, they will fight for your rights until the matter is resolved.
Hiring a Criminal Law Attorney Can Save You Money
The thought of hiring an attorney might scare you for financial reasons. It’s true that lawyers can be expensive, but the fact is that hiring one is a smart investment. You can’t put a price on getting your charge reduced, dropped, or being found not guilty at trial. Peace of mind is priceless. If you are convicted of molestation, there will be a criminal record following and haunting you for the rest of your life. The effects of this will be felt in every aspect of your life. You will have a tough time finding a job when they perform a background check. Renters will be hesitant to rent to you, and you may not qualify for certain government programs and loans. Essentially, it will be difficult to improve your employment situation, living situation, or education if you have a criminal record.
Having to go on the California sex offender registry will only amplify these problems. Anyone is able to visit a website that will display your name, photo, address, and a description of your crimes. Your neighbors might treat you in a hostile manner, and your family and friends might avoid you.
You need to do whatever you can to avoid having to suffer these consequences. By working with a defense lawyer, it will cost you money, but it will also save you financially and mentally in so many other ways that the return of investment may be well worth it.
Why Do You Need a Molestation Defense Attorney?
Working with a sex crimes defense lawyer means that you can gain the advantage of their years of experience, education of the law, and experience in criminal court and how to navigate the process of dealing with prosecutors, judges, and court support staff, including court reporters and criminal clerks. They will advocate on your behalf through every step of the process and do the necessary work to defend you as effectively as possible.
An attorney will be with you from the moment the police first contact you to the end of your trial or the signing of your plea agreement. They will provide you with all of the information you need regarding the process and the consequences of any decision you make. They will even gather evidence and prepare a strategy to defend you. These are not things that you can or should undertake on your own.
An attorney will help to earn you a positive outcome even when things seem bleak. For instance, they may be able to turn the prospect of years in prison into facing probation or even fines. Sometimes they can work hard to get you credit for time served, which involves no jail time. In the best-case scenario, they may be able to have your charges dropped or win you a not-guilty verdict at trial. These two outcomes will remove the chance of you having these charges on your criminal record, prevent deportation if you are not a US Citizen, or have you registered on the sex offender list. You most likely won’t have the experience to achieve these results and move on with your life.
Contact Our Law Firm to Defend Yourself Against Sex Crime Charges
If you’ve been accused or charged with molestation, you should not wait to contact an attorney for help. The sooner you contact one of our Oakland criminal law lawyers, the sooner you will have them fighting for you and protecting your rights. Call or email the Lamano Law Office today for a consultation and get the best result possible from your case.