A Primer on Sex Crimes

There are many, many statutes that can expose you to criminal liability for your actions with underage persons or for viewing child pornography on the internet; far too many to discuss in this article. But, you should be aware of some basic information about these crimes.

In most states and in the federal system the age of consent is 16 years old. There are states where the age of consent is lower. These states have statutes permitting sexual intercourse with younger aged children in certain situations like marriage and are a carry over from times when it was advantageous or a practice to have your child marry early so that the burden of caring for the child was transferred to another. There are statutes in many states that provide the age of consent is higher if at the age of 16 the person has not had sexual intercourse. In these states, even though the age of consent is 16, sexual intercourse at 16 is statutory rape or rape if the person is a virgin. So, you can only have sexual intercourse at age 16 if you have committed the felony of statutory rape prior to the age of 16. Confused? Try this example. If you wait until your girlfriend is 16 years old before having sexual intercourse – say on her 16th birthday, the lawful age of consent, you can only have sexual intercourse with her if she has had sexual intercourse before she was 16 years old, say 13, 14, or 15 years old, which is a felony! These statutes do exist so it is best to be aware of the criminal laws in your jurisdiction.

Pretty much every state has a statute or statutes that allow a parent or guardian to request that the Courts allow an underage person to marry even if the age of consent is 16. It is highly unlikely, though, that any state will permit marriage of a girl below the age of 14 years, but in some states, there is no limitation or “threshold” age written into the statute.

The penalties for child porn are very severe. You can be charged with production, dissemination, receipt, and possession under many state and federal statutes which carry decades of jail or prison. These statutes are designed to stem the dissemination of child pornography that has become readily available on the internet.

Chat rooms are the most prevalent source of “trading” child pornography. Persons who use these “chat” rooms are solicited by pedophiles to trade images they may find on the internet. This community of pedophiles operates on a “one hand washes the other” principle. If you want someone to continue to send you images of child pornography, then you will be required to send images of child pornography. There is a premium interest in never before disseminated child porn so chat partners are encouraged and instructed on how best to “groom” children into modeling or committing acts of a sexual nature.

You cannot protect from these images if you open an internet file or image containing child pornography. The authorities can find these images on your computer and reconstruct them even if you delete the images, your history, or your temporary files. Encryption does not protect. The authorities have very sophisticated software that can reconstruct the images and chats once they gain access to your hard drive.

There is a difference between child porn and child erotica.

Child Porn is unlawful. This would be an image or movie in which the child is depicted committing or having a sexual act committed on them, a child posing in a sexually provocative manner, or otherwise intending to excite the prurient interest of the viewer. Do not be under any delusions, there are very graphic images of very, very young children committing very explicit sex acts on the internet!

Child Erotica is not unlawful but can put you on the radar. An image of a nude child at play, not intended to excite prurient interests, is considered child erotica. This is how nudist sites get away with publishing these images. As an example, it is not unlawful to purchase modeling competition videos taken at nudist camps of children. There is no escaping the purpose for the purchase of these videos. But the Supreme Court has ruled that no matter the reason for the purchase, possession, and viewing of these videos or images, if the images are not pornographic, they are not unlawful.

Sex crimes are very complex. Sex crimes charges can destroy your life even if they are baseless and unfounded. You need competent counsel if you are charged with any of these crimes.

GPS – Sex Crimes Tracking Problems

GPS tracking systems have been proposed by some as the future of sex crime corrections policies. These devices allow authorities to monitor paroled convicts with ease and seeming reliability without having to spend a great deal of state funding on incarceration. However, in practice, these tracking systems have been less than ideal.

In 2007, Arizona’s legislature found 35,000 notifications assigned to only 140 people, which illustrated the high number of false alarms the system produce. More studies have noted that keeping the devices charged can prove problematic. In California alone, in the time between the study responsible for accounting for the statistics and the when the GPS law was passed, homelessness in convicts raised by 900 percent. Without a central location to mark GPS parolees, the police’s ability to effectively use the tracking devices diminishes strongly.

Taking economic factors into consideration, the original intention behind GPS tracking, which came into prominence as an update of traditional parole methods in 2005, was predicated on the parolee being tied down to a localized area. Generally, house ownership or permanent residence was one of the expectations of the law. With new issues generated by economic downturn, the challenges presented by a more fluid society has made some reconsider the usefulness of GPS tracking.

As the full surveillance system consist of the tracking device itself, that device’s charger, a signal receiver, and computers with GPS software to analyze the data, the possibilities of electronic miscommunication or device failure can keep authorities working harder to address technical concerns or false alarms. When faced with the alternative of traditional parole or extended prison sentences, many states are willing to put up with the system’s flaws.

Is There a Statute of Limitation for Crimes?

Most states have enacted statutes, which limit the time in which crimes can be prosecuted. These time limits are referred to as “Statutes of Limitations.” Once the statute of limitations has expired, it becomes an absolute bar to prosecution. Out of the fifty states in the nation, only two do not have a statute of limitations when it comes to criminal cases. South Carolina and Wyoming.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitation is a law that prevents a person or government agency in a criminal case from charging someone with a crime that was committed more than a certain period of time after the incident. The purpose of a statute of limitation is to make sure convictions occur only upon evidence that has not deteriorated with time and it protects the defendant from malicious claims from a person after the fact.

Not all crimes are covered

Murder and certain felonies involving the death of a person are not covered under the statute because such protections would reach an unjust resolution and promote a public policy for defendants to have an incentive to flee and or hide. Granting this protection to a person criminally responsible for the death of another would mean that the defendant could simply hide from the authorities fort a certain length of time and then forever be barred from facing their actions.

Other crimes and misdemeanors are not covered such as in California and Arizona crimes involving public money or public records have no statutes of limitation. While in Colorado, treason has none.

  • Florida Code Section 775.15
  • California code Section Pen. §§799 et seq.
  • Colorado Code Section 16-5-401

What is tolling?

Statutes of limitations are designed to benefit the defendant. A plaintiff, however, can prevent the dismissal of his action for untimeliness by seeking to toll the statute. When the statute is tolled, the running of the time period is suspended until some event specified by law takes place. Tolling provisions benefit a plaintiff by extending the time period in which he is permitted to bring suit.

Sex crimes and DNA evidence

In recent years, there have been efforts to eliminate statutes of limitations for sex offenses generally and child sex offenses specifically. These movements are often based on the premise that victims have been hurt and scarred for a lifetime and criminals should not escape punishment. There are practical considerations, however, that complicate this approach.

Some states have no statute of limitations on felony offenses, no statute of limitations on sex offenses, no statute of limitations on child sex offenses or extended statute of limitations for sex offenses. Several states have also chosen to enact statutes which toll (extend) the statute of limitations based on DNA identification.

Examples of states that toll based on DNA evidence include:

  • Arkansas Code. Ann. § 5-1-109(b)(1)(B) & (H) DNA tolls for 15 yrs. (rape cases only)
  • California. Penal Code §§799-803.6 1 yr. from the date identity is established by DNA. Applies to sex offenses and other offense.
  • Colorado Rev. Stat. § 16-5-401(1)(a) the identity is determined by DNA within 10 years after the offense, there shall be no limit on the period of time during which a person may be prosecute.
  • Connecticut Gen. Stat. § 54-193a the SOL is tolled for 20 years for sex offenses

If you have questions about the statute of limitations in a criminal case whether it’s a misdemeanor or felony charge, call a trusted and experienced Charleston criminal defense lawyer to help.

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Is the Constitution Dead for US Citizens Labeled As a Sex Offender?

The US Constitution, with the Bill of Rights, is supposed to protect life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness to ALL its citizens. However, for a certain section of the US citizenry, namely those labeled as registered sex offenders, any such rights become largely absent, with more restrictive laws being passed locally, statewide, and nationally. These people have served their time in incarceration and paid their restitution, and yet they are subjected to harsher social ostracism for decades, even for life in several states.

Let us look at how far the United States has come with the gradual chipping away of the Constitutional rights for the people labeled as sex offenders.

1st Amendment – In certain state/s, like North Carolina, it is illegal for anyone registered as a sex offender to visit social websites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Such laws further isolate these people from their family and friends who live away from them.

These people are required to disclose their identity in a church or religious places where they attend. This creates an environment of suspicion and discomfort for everyone. Moreover, such requirements infringe upon a person’s right to practice a religion freely and peaceably.

It is generally illegal for them to assemble with each other. Such restrictions stifle their voices from being heard by precluding them from organizing a protest. Social media laws also prohibit them from expressing their concerns or issues in wider social forum.

Generally, there is a lack of fact-base and honest discussion in news media regarding the sex offender issue. Meanwhile, few cases are hyped to bring about even harsher laws across the board in the registry. This only reflects the lack of freedom of press in a broader spectrum for people in the registry.

2nd Amendment – It is generally illegal for people with a felony to possess a firearm, which precludes them from exercising their constitutional right to protect themselves, their family, and their property using firearms.

3rd Amendment – N/A

4th Amendment – Apart from their regular sentences in incarceration, people convicted of a sex crime usually serve additional sentence in a form of Post Release Supervision for many years which is similar to probation. People who are in Post Release Supervision are subjected to any searches and seizures without the need for a warrant or a probable cause. This is apart from the sex offender registry itself which sets its own restrictions on a place of residence, work, social associations, etc.

5th Amendment – People who are in the Sex Offender Registry have already served their mandatory minimum sentence in incarceration. The registry, with its inherent restrictions and requirements, is a form of additional penalty. However, decades or even lifetime of additional punishment is not considered as a double jeopardy or a cruel & unusual punishment. This reflects gross injustice against them in the society.

Sex offenders are also subjected to become a witness against themselves (http://mynorthwest.com/244967/court-state-violated-fifth-amendment-rights-of-sex-offender-steven-powell/)

6th & 7th Amendments – The notion of sex crime is such that people are generally predisposed to crude preconceived notions regardless of a crime or whether any victim was involved. Sex offender registry has become so broad that petty offenses like public urination, public nudity, underage teenage consensual sex, underage teens having their nude photograph in their phone, adult consensual sex in a beach, etc. can all land someone in the sex offender registry (https://www.hrw.org/report/2007/09/11/no-easy-answers/sex-offender-laws-us). With the overwhelming negatively in the society, people labeled as sex offenders are more likely to be convicted in a trial and receive harsher judgment.

8th Amendment – Bail system in this country is a multi-billion dollar business, and bails are generally handed out in our courts like candies during Halloween. People accused of a sex crime are generally more likely to receive higher bonds due to fear and social stigma.

9th Amendment – Those who are in the sex offender registry are restricted to travel freely. They need prior notification and permission to travel. More restrictions are imposed upon those under supervision or probation.

In the states like Florida where sex offenders are marked in their driver’s license, they are more likely to face discrimination even in minor incident such as a routine traffic stop or while booking a hotel room. Also with the recent expansion of the International Megan Law, sex offender passports can be marked. This has opened new doors of restrictions or discrimination against sex offenders abroad, even physical harm to them and their families traveling with them.

10th – 27th Amendments – N/A, except for the infringement upon the right to vote in some States, especially those under probation or supervision.