How Is A Sex Crime Defined Under California Law?
Most of the time sex crimes are categorized as any type of sexual contact, direct or indirect, between two parties. There is a difference between whether or not the case proceeded under juvenile law versus adult court, although the crimes themselves are the same.
There are differences in the way the cases are treated as well, both pre-conviction and post-conviction because of changes in the law that deal with sex crimes. There is now something called the “sexually violent predator act”, which discusses whether or not a person should be released even after they have been convicted.
There are a lot of different intricacies and procedures that are involved in these types of cases in the state of California. There is some federal crossover as well when things such as child pornography on the internet is involved, because that could have federal implications.
Difference Between A Felony Level And A Misdemeanor Level Of Sex Crime
The legal difference to distinguish between misdemeanors and felonies is how much time the person would have to serve in custody. A misdemeanor would typically carry up to, but not beyond, one year in the county jail whereas felonies carry the potential for custody in a state prison beyond a year.
The decision regarding what the person may be charged with in court would be within the discretion of the district attorney’s office.
Charges could either be considered misdemeanors or felonies, so when a case is brought to a prosecuting attorney to file, they examine the seriousness of the offense, the facts relevant to that offense, the background of the suspect and they would also take into consideration the integrity or lack thereof of the alleged victim.
All of those things come into play when a prosecutor makes a determination regarding not only what charges to file, but whether they will file it as a felony or a misdemeanor if possible. This is also known as a wobbler.
In today’s society and also as a means of having the upper hand, most prosecutors typically file cases that involve sex crimes as felonies so that when they go to court, they have a much stronger position by way of punishment so that while the case was is negotiated, it leaves the door open for misdemeanors.
The Most Common Types Of Sex Crime Cases
Internet sex crimes are very prevalent right now, especially child pornography. The development of newer areas of sex crimes cases involve chat rooms and undercover stings with officers who pose as minors and ultimately have contact with the person on the other end of the chat. This would generally be similar to what we have seen on television for the last several years termed as “To Catch a Predator” type cases.
A lot of sexual crimes involve family members acting upon minors, and there are certainly sex crimes sometimes associated with domestic violence cases. Those are probably the most common types of sex crimes, although there are cases that involve people who are strangers to one another as well. Those are probably rarer, however.
A Sex Crime Case And Arrest Would Be Public Knowledge
Unfortunately, being charged with a sex crime can be quite public and there aren’t always tools in place to protect against that from happening. This is why it is important to have an attorney on board right away. if the accused waits for the arrest and police had already done a pretext call, law enforcement will have gathered corroborative evidence, and then the arrest would certainly not only become public, it could be media fodder.
I have handled many high profile cases where people come to me after the fact. Fortunately, though I have also handled many cases where people come to me because they heard that someone made an allegation. This is the best time to protect oneself because I have often had cases that had not only not been filed, they had not even been brought to the district attorney’s office because of the investigative work we quickly put in motion. Therefore, the allegation itself did not hit the press, and did not become public.
Some family members might perhaps know about it, of course, but it certainly will have the media attention in the event of an arrest or something of that nature. As far as the person being able to otherwise protect themselves from the news going public, they really would not be possible once it gets out there.
If a case is adjudicated and the accused is proven to be innocent or the case is not filed because of lack of evidence and more importantly, if it is proven the person is innocent, then there are tools in place to have the arrest record destroyed, not just sealed but destroyed, by the Department of Justice.
This would be a rather complex application to the court system, and it would require a very strong showing. It would be different than a case just being dismissed or rejected for insufficient evidence because in this case, the person would actually have to prove they were innocent.
Since the burden of proof is on the prosecution, if they are unable to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, they should not proceed. This does not always happen because of pressure from the media and pressure from the alleged victim’s family, who do not want to see the district attorney’s office make the unilateral decision to dismiss a case. Sometimes cases proceed because the district attorney’s office feels it is in their best political interest to simply try a case and if they lost, they lost, but they would at least did their job.
This is a sad state of the judicial system because a prosecutor has an ethical duty to not prosecute a case they don’t feel they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt and it becomes a much higher burden for the person to prove their innocence.
It is extremely important to fight these types of charges right away when allegations are made. It is very hard to prove ones innocence once they have been accused of doing something. Even if the accused is dismissed from any formal criminal case, there will always be an association, so it is important to be extremely aggressive and to act fast.
For more information on Sex Crimes In California, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (626) 784-4143 today.