Q: Do I really need a Lawyer?
A: If you are charged with a sex crime it is extremely important that you speak to a lawyer. People often think their criminal problems will go away by themselves. Without proper counsel people often make incriminating statements to the police. To protect your rights and your freedom you should call an experienced defense attorney.
Understanding your rights is the first step in protecting them. People often cooperate with police for fear of appearing guilty, but they may also make incriminating statements to people working with the police. These deceptive tactics used by police may be used against you.
Q. Should I provide the police with a statement if I have been contacted by a police agency about a possible sex crime investigation?
A. Not without first speaking to an attorney. If you are considered to be a possible criminal suspect, you should never provide a statement to the police without having a lawyer present. Even if the police detective tells you they just want to chat, and are not requesting a formal statement. They may try to convince you that talking to them will help you and remaining silent will hurt you but this is not true. The police can say anything, even lie to you in order to get a statement.
Q: What will happen if a crime of sex is filed against me?
Once the District Attorney’s Office has filed charges, the first step is the arraignment. At the arraignment we will receive a copy of the complaint and the discovery packet with the police report and relevant evidence such as witness statements, photos, and physical evidence. We will then review the reports and continue our own investigation. If there are any motions to file we will draft and file those with the court. At the next hearing, we will discuss the merits of your case with a deputy district attorney and present additional or new evidence.
A misdemeanor charge is often dismissed or negotiated for a favorable plea by our attorneys before going to court.
A felony charge can be dismissed, reduced to a misdemeanor, or negotiated for a favorable plea prior to trial. If the case continues a preliminary hearing will be set. In the preliminary hearing the prosecution presents a summarized version of their case to a judge in an attempt to have the accused held over to answer at trial for the alleged crimes. The rules of evidence are more relaxed at a preliminary hearing than at trial as well as the standard used to determine whether someone should be held to answer.
The result of the preliminary hearing can be one of three things: (1) Not held to answer where there isn’t enough evidence and the case is dismissed (2) Reduction of charges against you down to a misdemeanor (3) Held to answer where we move to superior court and to trial.
Q: What are possible punishments for violating a sex crime law?
Punishments for sex crimes vary by type of crime and whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor sex crime conviction can be punished by up to 1 year in county jail, fines, mandatory counseling, AIDS testing, community service, and probation. A felony sex crime conviction can result in a sentence of probation with up to 1 year of county jail, or various state prison sentences. Some sex crimes are considered strike offenses and a third strike can result in a state prison sentence of 25 years to life. A conviction for some sex crimes may also result in lifetime registration as a sex offender or sexual predator. The punishment can also be affected by other factors such as prior criminal history or whether you are in violation of a previous probation or parole.
Q: What is sex offender registration?
The state of Texas requires violent and dangerous sex offenders to register with their local law enforcement agencies where they are placed on a list. In 1996 with the passing of “Megan’s Law” law enforcement agencies are now required to notify and provide warning to local communities about dangerous sex offenders in the area. A person required to register must do so yearly for the rest of their lives. Their name will be available to the public and they must report their location to law enforcement every time they move. Not all sex crimes require registration, but many do.
Q: Can a sex crime conviction be removed from my record?
Yes. Depending on the type of sex crime, it may be possible to get it expunged which results in your conviction being dismissed and/or having your guilty plea set aside. If you are a registered sex offender, you may be able to get out of the requirement with the help of our attorneys. If you have successfully completed the terms of your probation or parole and wish to know if you are eligible to get off the sex offender lists, contact us.
Q: How are sex offenses punished?
Punishment for a sex offense can vary dramatically depending on the category of crime. A misdemeanor sex crime conviction (such as indecent exposure) might receive less than a year of jail time, a fine, community service, counseling, or even probation. A felony, on the other hand, might be punished by a long prison term (up to a life sentence). Released sex felons must register as sex offenders. Multiple convictions typically lead to increasingly greater punishments.
Q: Is consent a defense?
Consent, if it can be proved, is a defense to many sex crimes. However, some people are not considered able to consent to sex under the law. For those individuals, even if they explicitly agree, their agreement is not legally valid. For example, minors, the mentally disabled, and unconscious or intoxicated people (even if they willingly became intoxicated) typically cannot provide valid consent. Statutory rape or date rape charges may result.
Q: What is entrapment?
Police operations often try to capture sex offenders by posing as prostitutes, underage individuals, or other parties in an attempt to catch them while committing (or preparing to commit) a sex crime. Some sex offense defendants argue that police actions, such as the offer of sexual services, are entrapment. Entrapment means that the police induced the defendant to commit a crime he or she did not intend to commit before it was suggested by the police. However, entrapment is not a valid defense if the defendant intended to commit the crime and the police simply provided a means to do so. In prostitution cases, for instance, the offer of sexual services by a police officer is almost never held to be entrapment because the defendant is generally found to have been intending to purchase sexual services prior to interacting with the decoy officer. The elements of an entrapment defense are complicated and very sensitive to the facts of your situation. Contact an attorney immediately if you believe you were entrapped.
Q: Is it statutory rape if someone lies about his or her age?
A mistake about age is not a defense to statutory rape charges, even if the underage person lied and gave consent. It is a “strict liability” offense, which makes the perpetrator responsible regardless of the surrounding circumstances.
Q: What is the difference between rape and sexual assault?
Many state laws no longer use the term “rape,” replacing it with sexual abuse or sexual assault to describe prohibited acts. Traditional rape is covered by these statutes and may be designated sexual abuse in the first degree. However, most sexual assault statutes cover more types of sexual acts and apply to victims of either sex. Also, husbands can generally be charged with sexual assault of their wives, and lesser offenses, such as unwanted touching, may be included.
Q: What is probable cause?
“Probable cause” is a term that refers to the belief that a person has committed a crime by legal standards. A finding of probably cause can lead to an arrest or conviction. There is not a bright-line rule establishing precisely what is probable cause. However, a finding of probable cause requires objective facts indicating a likelihood of criminal activity. A hunch or an unfounded complaint alone do not satisfy the requirement.
Q: Who must register as a sex offender?
Generally, any adult or juvenile who has been convicted of certain sex offenses, which vary from state to state, who is on active supervision for a sex offense, or who has been committed as a sexually violent predator must register with the state law enforcement agency as a sex offender. The duration of the offender’s duty to register varies, based on the original offense and the risk of re-offense. In some states, sexual predators or sexually violent offenders must register for life.
Q: Will the community always be notified of the presence of a sex offender?
States have different laws on community notification of a sex offender’s presence. Typically, the public may browse the state registry on the Internet or at law enforcement offices. In some jurisdictions, notification may be more active, and police may contact individuals and businesses in a neighborhood to alert them.
Q: What are the defenses to a sex offense?
Generally, the defenses to a sex offense include insufficient or tainted evidence, factual innocence, mistaken identity, and, in some cases, consent.
Q: Do I need to hire an attorney?
A: Anyone facing sex offense charges should hire a lawyer. You have the right to an attorney’s assistance, and an attorney will help protect your rights and may be able to avoid charges or convince the prosecutor to bring lesser charges if hired early enough. A sex offense conviction may result in incarceration, fines, loss of job or family, and registration requirements. An attorney is best able to analyze all available options to put you in the best position to defend yourself and avoid these ramifications.