Sex Crimes: Some Decisions Will Haunt You Forever
No other category of criminal offense intimidates the public more than sex crimes do. When people think of sex crimes, they tend to think of lewd acts committed against children; however, they can include a number of other offenses as well. A few of the acts that could be considered sex crimes include:
- Public lewdness
- Indecent exposure
- Sexual assault
- Human trafficking
- Statutory rape
- Distribution of child pornography
- Promoting prostitution
- Administering “date rape” drugs
Sexual assault is one of the most common sex crimes, with the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) reporting that an individual is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes. This group also estimates that around 60% of all rapes are not reported to police.
Texas has an estimated 81,235 registered sex offenders, which is a sharp increase over 2005 when there were 46,484. This number is high despite the fact that around 97% of all rapists serve no jail time whatsoever for their crime.
Sex Crime Victims
Anyone can be a victim of a sex crime, regardless of social status, age, or ethnicity. Some estimates show that around 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually abused before reaching adulthood. Although nearly 80% of all victims are age 30 or under, middle-aged and elderly citizens can also become victims. Around 20% of female high school students have been sexually abused by a “dating partner”. Sex crime victims do not “ask for it” by dressing provocatively or behaving in a suggestive manner, as there is little evidence to support the fact that offenders seek out victims based upon these characteristics.
Get the Facts about Sex Crimes
In the majority of cases, sex crimes are committed by someone who is known to the victim. That number is around 93% when the victim is a child, and around 66% when the victim is an adult. Nearly half (47%) of all offenders victimize a family member. As with the victims, sex offenders come from all walks of life, and include all races, ages, and economic classes of people. Children as young as 10 years old can be included on the Texas Sex Offender Registry, and there are currently over 1,000 offenders under the age of 14 listed.
Let the Punishment Fit the Crime
Not all sex crimes pose a serious hazard to the public, which is why there are varying degrees of punishment. For example, someone convicted of public indecency will likely receive a much lighter sentence than one who is charged with child prostitution. Factors that affect a sentence are:
- Nature of the crime
- Age of the victim at the time the offense occurred
- Whether or not physical violence or force was used
- Number of previous offenses, if any
- Number of victims
- Nature of the victim’s injuries
- Age of the perpetrator
Those found guilty of a sex offense can be subject to significant jail time, fines, restitution, counseling and an extended probation sentence. The most serious offenders will be required to register as such, a fact that could seriously affect their ability to hold down employment and significantly limit their movements. That’s because sex offenders are prohibited from living near areas such as schools and parks that are regularly frequented by children. Many will wind up at “transitional centers” because they have nowhere to go. Approximately 200 of El Paso’s 700 sex offenders live in such centers. Around 126 are living at a similar center in Harris County.
Building a Solid Sex Crimes Defense
As with all crimes, sex offenses must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Some of the available defenses for these acts might be:
- Mistaken identity
- Act was consensual
- An ulterior motive such as a child custody dispute is involved
- The actor was the victim of extortion, as is sometimes the case with marital affairs
- Child witness was coached into making a false statement
- Lack of intent
Defense attorneys will scrutinize witness testimony carefully for signs of an ulterior motive. As many as 25% of all sex crime defendants are charged based upon false information. Defending a sex crime could also require the use of expert witnesses, especially if DNA evidence is also involved. DNA evidence is not foolproof, as faulty forensics contributes to 52% of all wrongful convictions. The complexity of sex crimes makes hiring the right attorney important, especially since prosecutors tend to go after sex offenders more aggressively than they do other defendants.
It can take as long as two years for a sex crime case to go to trial. While there is a high conviction rate, it’s also important to note that many are wrongfully convicted. NBC news reports that Texas has one of the highest rates of wrongful convictions in the country. The margin of error is higher in some counties than it is others-for example, Dallas County, where more than 20 sex offenders have been exonerated since 2001. As such, the legal battle is far from over when a conviction is obtained.