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What Is Considered a Sex Crime?

The category of sex crime is extremely broad, encompassing everything from prostitution (in jurisdictions where the act is illegal) to rape. However, the working definition of a sex crime hinges around crimes where the offender is either directly or indirectly involved with unlawful sexual contact, display, behavior or business.

From sex traffickers to those who participate in public displays of indecency or lewd and lascivious behavior, sex criminals present themselves in a variety of ways and employ a variety of methods in pursuit of their respective offenses.

Types of Sex Crimes

At the federal level, sex crimes involving children or involving the crossing of interstate borders (or the usage of interstate borders to facilitate said crimes) are the types most commonly prosecuted. Sex trafficking, sexual abuse of a minor or ward, rape involving a minor and possession or distribution of child pornography are all common types of sex crimes.

States also carry an extensive list of statutes on the books relating to sex crimes, including those listed above. Statutory rape, rape generally, sexual assault, sexual battery, indecent exposure, lewd and lascivious behavior and other offenses are usually charged at the state level.

Punishment for Sex Crimes

The punishment for sex crime charges is generally linked to the severity of the crime, the jurisdiction of the case and whether the guilty party is considered to be a repeat offender.

At the federal level, for example, the crime of rape whether in prison, on federal territory or property or in the maritime territory of the U.S. is punishable by a life sentence.

Rape is more commonly charged at the state level, however, and may be termed sexual assault, sexual battery, unlawful sexual conduct or similar. The punishment for the most severe instances of rape (forcible, nonconsensual sex) can result in sentences of 20 years to life in most jurisdictions, with sentences increasing when they involve the abuse of a minor. Rape is differentiated by degrees in most states, however, and lesser charges of sexual abuse can result in sentences ranging from one to five years in jail.

On the other hand, sex crimes such as indecent exposure are almost always charged as misdemeanor offenses rather than as felonies. The major exception to this is when the victim of the offense is a minor, in which case charges are generally escalated to a felony level. The punishment for first-time misdemeanor indecent exposure (or lewd and lascivious behavior) is typically a fine, probation or a short time in county jail. However, felony variants of this charge can result in state prison terms of a few years or more, depending on the circumstances and the case.

Statute of Limitations on Sex Crimes

Unlike many crimes at the federal level, many sex crimes do not have a statute of limitations whatsoever. Sex crimes involving children (child pornography) as well as sex trafficking and sexual abuse more generally do not have a federal statute of limitations.

State laws vary in terms of the statute of limitations of alleged sex crimes. The statute of limitations for what may be termed minor sex crimes (misdemeanors) range from one year to three years in most jurisdictions, while major sex crimes that are felonies, can range from five years to no statute of limitations at all.

Do I Need a Sex Crimes Attorney?

If you’re facing charges related to sex crimes, it is important to seek the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Legal counsel can provide plea bargains or trial strategies to ensure that you can craft the best defense possible. An attorney also gives you the best chances of securing an acquittal rather than earning a conviction.

A conviction related to charges of a sex crime not only results in severe legal penalties, but a guilty verdict also means you will likely have to register as a sex offender. Such an outcome can be extremely damaging to your future prospects in many areas of your professional and personal life. It is crucial to secure legal representation at your earliest opportunity.

What a Sex Crime Attorney Can Do

If you have been arrested and charged with a sex crime, a sex crime attorney can help you defend against the charges. Sex crimes cover a broad range of conduct that is subject to interpretation. Often, the conduct in question has been witnessed by only the alleged victim and perpetrator. The gray areas of subjectivity are where an attorney may be able to build your defense case.

Several factors if present can influence which crime you are charged with and the severity of the punishment imposed if you are convicted. These factors include:

  • Weapon: A weapon used in the commission of the crime can be evidence of force, contradicting claims that the sexual conduct was consensual
  • Age: The age of the alleged victim and the perpetrator are critical to establishing statutory rape and can influence judgment on whether the sexual contact was consensual
  • Injury: If the alleged victim was beaten or physically harmed in any way and the severity of the injuries can be evidence of force and non-consent and impact the harshness of the punishment imposed
  • Relationship: The relationship between the alleged victim and perpetrator or the absence of a relationship can influence cases of rape, sexual assault, domestic assault, and others.

Why It Is Important to Contact a Sex Crime Attorney

A sex crime attorney will know the law behind the offenses you are charged with and how best to present your defense. Also, an attorney can:

  • Arrange for your release from jail pending trial
  • Help you arrange bail
  • Investigate the circumstances of your case
  • Negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss the charges
  • Negotiate a plea bargain for a reduced sentence or probation
  • Represent you at hearings and trial
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