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Last Updated on: 28th October 2023, 02:21 pm
What Are the Consequences of Sex Crime Charges?
Being accused of a sex crime can turn your life upside down. Even if you’re eventually found innocent, the consequences can be severe and long-lasting. Let’s take a compassionate look at what happens when someone is charged with a sex offense.
Arrest and Bail
Like other felonies, sex crimes lead to an arrest and processing at the police station. You’ll be fingerprinted and photographed. Most people charged with sex offenses aren’t released on just a promise to appear in court. The judge will require you to post bail to ensure you show up for trial.
Bail for sex crimes is usually quite high. For example, bail for rape may easily be set at $50,000 to $100,000 or more. Few people have that kind of money sitting around. So you’ll need to use the services of a bail bonds company, which typically charges 10% of the bail amount. That means coming up with $5,000 or $10,000 in cash just to get out of jail while awaiting trial. If you can’t pay, you’ll be stuck in jail for months until your case goes to court.
Booking and Fingerprints
After posting bail at the police station, you’ll be transported to the county jail for booking. Here, you’ll be fingerprinted again. Your fingerprints now go to the FBI, which keeps them on file. Your photo and fingerprints will be searched against unsolved crimes in their databases .
If you’re charged with a sex offense, the police will take a DNA sample from you. This gets entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national database. Your DNA will be compared to samples taken from crime scenes and victims to look for matches .
Sex Offender Registry
Simply being charged with a sex crime means your name will likely be added to the sex offender registry in your state. This information becomes public. Your name, photo, address, and details of your alleged crimes can be easily found on government websites. There’s a stigma attached to being on the sex offender registry. You may be ostracized by your community, even if you’re later found not guilty.
The media loves reporting on sex crime charges. Your name and photo may be broadcast on the local TV news and published in the newspaper for all to see. People will assume you’re guilty just because you’ve been accused. Even if the charges are later dropped, the public may still think, “No smoke without fire.” The news coverage can destroy your reputation. Your friends may distance themselves from you. Trying to rebuild your life after a dismissed case may be difficult with such public scrutiny.
Loss of Job
Don’t count on keeping your job if you’re facing sex crime charges. Most employers will fire you once they learn you’ve been arrested, whether the allegations are true or not. They don’t want the negative association. You’ll be left unemployed and struggling to pay your legal fees and other bills.
Hiring a Defense Lawyer
You’ll need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you and protect your rights after a sex crime arrest. But competent legal help isn’t cheap. Expect to pay at least $10,000 as a retainer up front, with the total legal fees running to $30,000 or more if your case goes to trial. If you can’t afford a lawyer, the court will appoint a public defender to represent you.
The court will likely order you to undergo a psych evaluation to determine things like your risk of reoffending. You may be required to take polygraph and plethysmograph tests. These examine your physical arousal when shown inappropriate images. Just taking such exams can feel demeaning, even if you’re innocent .
Plea Bargains and Punishment
Over 90% of criminal cases end in plea bargains rather than going to trial. The prosecutors may offer you a deal for a lighter sentence if you plead guilty. But this gives you a permanent felony record and requires registering as a sex offender. Insisting on your innocence means facing harsher punishment if convicted at trial. It’s a difficult decision with lifelong consequences.
Possible penalties for sex offenses include years in prison, fines, probation, and a lifetime as a registered sex offender. You may face restrictions on where you can live and work. Some convictions lead to chemical castration or civil commitment even after serving a prison sentence .
Years of Court Dates
Sex crime cases take a long time to resolve. The prosecution needs time to build their case. There are usually many pretrial hearings, continuances, motions, and other delays. It may be a year or longer before your case finally goes to trial. All the while, you’re out on bail or stuck in jail awaiting your day in court.
If your case goes to trial, it will likely be a jury trial. The jury pool already knows about the charges from the media coverage. Your defense lawyer will try to ensure a fair jury is selected. The trial process is grueling with intense cross-examinations. The prosecution paints you as a dangerous predator. Your lawyer works to instill reasonable doubt of your guilt. Sexual assault trials often come down to “he said, she said.” If convicted, you’ll immediately be taken into custody to await sentencing.
Years of Appeals
If you’re convicted at trial, the appeals process begins. Your lawyer will file motions challenging issues like evidentiary rulings, jury selection, and jury instructions. You can appeal to higher courts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Appeals take years. You’ll remain imprisoned while awaiting the outcomes. Few convictions get overturned on appeal, but the process must be exhausted before accepting the verdict.
Destruction of Reputation
The stigma of sex crime charges alone can ruin your reputation, even if you’re acquitted or charges are dropped. People will Google your name and see the arrest record. The Internet never forgets. Rebuilding your life after such allegations is extremely difficult. You may need to move to a new community for a fresh start.
Years of Therapy
The psychological impact of facing sex crime charges leads many to seek counseling. A good therapist can help you process the anger, grief, shame, and trauma. But therapy costs money and takes years of sessions to work through those feelings. Healing your mind after such a horrific ordeal is challenging.
Between bail money, legal fees, fines, loss of work, and psychological counseling, fighting sex crime charges can destroy you financially. The average cost to defend a sex crime case is $50,000 to $100,000 . Few have that kind of money lying around. You may go deep into debt trying to clear your name or repaying society.
Years as a Registered Sex Offender
If convicted of a sex offense, your name remains on the sex offender registry for years or life, even after serving your sentence. You must keep your registration current with address and job status updates. Failing to register properly leads to new charges. Your life is heavily restricted living under this kind of supervision.
Ostracism from Society
Registered sex offenders are outcasts in society. People treat you as a monster beyond redemption. You may be unable to find work or housing. Old friends avoid you. You’re forced to the fringes to survive. Healing and reintegration into society are extremely difficult under the stigma of the sex offender label, whether guilty or not.
Possible Vigilante Attacks
There have been cases of vigilantes targeting registered sex offenders for violent attacks or harassment. Your name, photo, and address on the public registry make you an easy target. Some neighbors have held protests demanding sex offenders move out of their communities. You may fear for your safety if your status becomes widely known.
Restrictions on Where You Can Live
As a registered sex offender, there are restrictions on where you can live. You may be prohibited from living near schools, parks, or other areas children frequent. Housing options become very limited. Landlords often refuse to rent to sex offenders. You may end up homeless if unable to find compliant housing.
Years or Life on Parole
If convicted of a sex offense, you’ll likely serve parole for years or life after release from prison. Parole comes with strict rules against things like accessing computers, viewing pornography, or contacting minors. Your home and workplace are subject to random searches. One slip-up means going back to jail, even years later. Your life is never fully your own again.
The consequences of sex crime charges are severe, even if the allegations are untrue. The stigma can destroy your life and reputation for years. The financial costs are crippling. And a conviction brings a lifetime of restrictions and ostracism. While we must take sex crime accusations seriously, we also cannot forget that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. We must find a better balance of justice that protects both victims and the falsely accused.
Sex Crime Charges, Convictions and Penalties, CriminalDefenseLawyer.com