Take proactive measures immediately after discovering that you are facing accusations of child molestation. Knowing what to do if you are accused of child molestation could help you avoid the legal ramifications and other consequences a conviction of such a crime could cause.
Stay calm and take the time to familiarize yourself with the situation. Avoid confronting the alleged victim or making any statements without legal representation. Involve a criminal defense attorney with a successful record of handling sexual molestation cases to protect your rights. Also, collect all possible evidence and information that could help your lawyer build a strong defense.
What To Do If You are Accused of Child Molestation
Remain Calm and Familiarize Yourself with the Situation
Learning that someone has falsely accused you of molesting a child can leave you shocked, scared, angry, disappointed, and hurt. Do not let these emotions overwhelm you and prevent you from taking the necessary steps to protect your rights. Instead, stay calm and take the time to acquaint yourself with the false accusations leveled against you and the potential consequences of child molestation convictions. Let this knowledge guide the next steps you take and the decisions you make to address your situation.
Avoid Confronting or Contacting the Alleged Victim
The first thing that might come to your mind after someone falsely accuses you of child molestation is to confront the accuser. You might also consider contacting the accuser or the accuser’s family to resolve the issue. Resist this temptation, as it might further worsen your situation.
You might get overwhelmed by emotions during your interaction with the alleged victim or the alleged victim’s family and say something that might hurt your case. So, it’s best to avoid any contact with the alleged victim, the alleged victim’s family, and anyone associated with the alleged victim.
Avoid Making Any Statements
Do not respond to questions, record statements, or discuss the details of the child molestation allegation against you with anyone until you have talked to an attorney. This consideration applies to your family, friends, colleagues, private investigators, or police officers. Politely decline to answer questions or discuss the matter by saying that you must consult an attorney first.
Do not even attempt to deny the allegations without the legal advice of a seasoned defense attorney. Denying child molestation allegations without talking to an attorney first may increase your odds of implicating yourself.
If failing to answer questions immediately might result in your employment termination, you will need to use your discernment to determine whether to move forward without talking to an attorney. The best way to avoid finding yourself in such situations is to get an attorney involved soon after you discover you are facing child molestation allegations or the police are investigating you for the same.
Seek Legal Advice and Representation Immediately
Get an attorney on board soon after you become aware of allegations that you have had sexual misconduct with a minor. Do not hesitate to consult an attorney, even if the allegations are rumors.
Be open and transparent with your attorney. Share any information you believe might help your case without worrying about implicating yourself. The attorney-client privilege protects any communication between you and your attorney.
An attorney with a record of representing sex crime defendants successfully can review the details of your allegations and advise you on the best course of action. The attorney will also handle any communications from anyone planning to question you regarding the charge.
Assemble All Possible Evidence
The burden of proof lies with the alleged victim, not you. The alleged victim must demonstrate “beyond a reasonable doubt” that an act of sexual misconduct happened, and you were responsible. That does not mean you should relax. Be sure to collect information and evidence that will strengthen your defense.
Assemble and safely keep any physical evidence associated with the alleged victim or how you related to the victim. This physical evidence might include clothing, pictures, personal items, and videos.
Assemble and safely keep any documentation or records that might show your location when the alleged sex crime happened. Phone records, credit card statements, and hotel receipts can help prove your alibi that you were somewhere else when the alleged sex crime occurred.
Prepare a list of all potential witnesses and get their contact details. A witness can be anyone who knows about the allegations, the alleged victim, or your relationship with the alleged victim. Your list should include even those witnesses you think might be detrimental to your case. Your attorney will also interview those witnesses, and devise strategies for discrediting their statements.
False Allegations of Child Molestation
False allegations of child molestation can describe a variety of situations involving children. The legal term can describe a situation where a child lies about getting sexually abused. It can refer to situations where the allegations stem from substandard police work. It can also refer to situations where parties close to the alleged victim have suspicions, which are rendered baseless after investigation.
Determining the possible reason for your false child molestation allegation could help your attorney develop a robust defense strategy. The following are some common reasons for false child molestation allegations:
Children sometimes make false allegations of child molestation against loved ones when the family is going through a rough patch. A malicious spouse pushing for full custody may talk a child into falsely accusing the other spouse of child molestation.
A child may resent one parent and use false allegations of child molestation to get that parent out of his or her life. A child may falsely accuse a parent of child molestation if that child feels ignored in the family.
Younger and some older children may not be aware of the potential consequences of child molestation accusations. Such children may make false child molestation allegations to hit back at adults they feel have treated them unfairly. School-going children may, for instance, falsely accuse a teacher who has disciplined them for misbehaving at school.
Lack of Clarity
A child may make false accusations of child molestation due to a lack of understanding. The child may be confused about what child molestation entails and how it happens. The best way to unearth the misunderstanding is to investigate the case further and skillfully cross-examine the child.
Numerous studies have found that teenagers are more likely to fabricate false accusations of sexual abuse intentionally than younger children. Some younger children may, however, formulate false allegations if they are persistently asked suggestive questions by a parent or law enforcement officer.
Law enforcement officers may make substantial mistakes during investigations due to the emotional nature of these crimes. They might believe the alleged victim’s account without asking questions that cut into the facts of the allegations. They might charge you with life-altering allegations, such as child molestation or statutory rape, after a shallow investigation and a rushed interview of the alleged victim.
A statutory rape defense lawyer knows what police investigation involves and can explain how the investigators deviated from their professional duty to the jury or judge. The lawyer can bring motions and present evidence-supported arguments to get your charges dismissed.
Children with mental illnesses that interfere with their memory or capability to recall details of specific experiences may unintentionally make false child molestation allegations. Bipolar disorder, paranoia, delusions, dissociative identity disorder, and schizophrenia are examples of such mental illnesses.
What Are the Potential Consequences of a Child Molestation Conviction?
A child molestation conviction carries harsh penalties and long-term consequences. The penalties vary from state to state. They, however, depend on the sexual act in question, the alleged victim’s age, and the defendant’s previous convictions. Minnesota recognizes child molestation as criminal sexual conduct and categorizes it into five degrees.
Penalties for a Child Molestation Conviction in Minnesota
- First-Degree Child Molestation: You will face a first-degree child molestation charge if someone accuses you of sexual penetration with anyone under 18 years or sexual contact with anyone under 14 years. A conviction of this offense level carries up to 30 years in prison or up to $40,000 in fines, or both.
- Second-Degree Child Molestation: You will face this level of charge if you engage in sexual contact with a minor. Aggravating circumstances, including force, coercion, threats, and authority over the alleged victim, may exist at this offense level. A conviction of this nature carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years or a fine of up to $35,000, or both.
- Third-Degree Child Molestation: You will face this charge if you are accused of sexually penetrating a minor, especially if the incident is less aggravated than first- and second-degree child molestation. A conviction of this offense level carries up to 15 years in prison or up to $30,000 in fines, or both.
- Fourth-Degree Child Molestation: This offense level applies if you engage in sexual contact with a person below 18 years. The incident is deemed less severe than first-, second-, and third-degree charges. A conviction carries up to 10 years in prison or up to $20,000 in fines, or both.
- Fifth-Degree Child Molestation: You will be charged with this offense level if you are accused of masturbating or exposing your genitals in front of a minor below 16 years. Penalties for a conviction of this offense include a prison sentence of up to a year or up to $3,000 in fines, or both.
Sex Offender Registration
A child molestation conviction also carries a mandatory sex offender registration. Of course, this registration happens immediately after your prison term ends. The length of sex offender registration ranges from 10 years to a lifetime. Getting registered as a sex offender can result in lasting consequences on your life, including social humiliation and loss of reputation, relationships, employment, and housing.
You need to take advantage of the skills and knowledge of a St. Paul Megan’s Law information attorney if you are facing registration with the sex offender database. The attorney can negotiate with the judge and prosecution to remove the registration requirements. The attorney can also minimize the time your name remains in the database if you must register.
Collateral Consequences of a Child Molestation Conviction
Besides criminal consequences, child molestation also carries severe collateral consequences. They include:
Loss of Right to Vote
A felony child molestation conviction will lead to losing your right to vote. You will only regain your right to vote after completing your sentence, including supervised release and parole.
Loss of Professional Licenses
A felony conviction will result in your professional license suspension or revocation if you are a lawyer, medical practitioner, or social worker.
Loss of Child Custody
You will likely lose custody of your children if you are convicted of molesting a minor. This applies even if the victim was not your child. The court will typically allow you to have only supervised time with your children.
Immediate Termination of Employment
You may get fired from your job immediately after a child molestation conviction. Even if you do not get fired immediately after a conviction, you may still lose your employment due to the time spent away from work while serving your sentence.
Trouble Getting a Job
Getting a job after a child molestation conviction is hard due to the hesitation by employers to employ individuals with a prior conviction. Laws locking out sex offenders from specific job categories further worsen the situation.
Trouble Renting a House
Landlords in many states, Minnesota included, perform rigorous background checks before approving rental applications from would-be tenants. They may reject applications from potential tenants with a conviction on their records.
Trouble Securing College Admission or Tuition Loans
A criminal record for a child molestation conviction can significantly reduce your chances of securing college admission. It can also disqualify you from securing a tuition loan to pay for college.
By knowing what to do if you are accused of child molestation and taking the appropriate steps, you may help protect yourself from these and other short- and long-term ramifications of such allegations.