To be falsely accused of a sexual offense in Philadelphia, PA, is a nightmare scenario for everyone. With the stigma that even the accusation of rape can cause, and the very serious penalties involved in one being convicted, it’s incredibly important to know what to do when falsely accused of a sexual offense in Philadelphia.
If you have been accused, investigated, or charged with any kind of sexual offense in Philadelphia, the first thing you have to do is contact an experienced sex crimes attorney. There are many types of sexual misconduct which one might be accused: rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, indecent assault, child molestation, child abuse, statutory rape, forcible rape, and many others. The stigma even of just a false accusation of being accused of these types of sex crime can be life-altering.
Below we will explain in more detail the seriousness of these offenses and why it’s important that you immediately hire a sex crimes defense attorney.
What Are Sexual Offenses Under Pennsylvania Law?
The list of sexual offenses in Pennsylvania is long, and it comes with some of the biggest legal and the most lasting and damaging social consequences of any offense one could commit.
The sexual offenses listed below are categorized as second, or first degree misdemeanors or third, second, or first degree felonies.
Sexual offenses in Pennsylvania include:
- Rape of a child
- Statutory rape
- Indecent exposure
- Sexual assault
- Indecent assault
- Aggravated indecent assault
- Child pornography charges
- Online solicitation of a minor
- Child molestation
- Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
- Spousal rape
- Failure to register as a sex offender
- Date rape
- Internet sex crimes
In the eyes of the law, these offenses carry different degrees of severity, and the resulting punishments and penalties reflect that (see below). However, in the eyes of society, there are other stigmas and life-changing results that can come from facing sexual offense charges at any level.
Even if accused, investigated, charged, tried, and finally acquitted of all charges, the stain of the words “sexual offense” and “sex offender” (even merely accused) stay with you for years and quite possibly will never go away. If you are facing this situation, you must contact an experienced sexual offense legal team in Philadelphia, PA.
What Are the Penalties for Sexual Offenses in Pennsylvania?
The penalties for each offense depend first on their designation as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In addition, it depends on the particular circumstances of the offense. Perhaps most disturbing of all is how many cases are prosecuted successfully on fairly weak evidence of allegations of rape.
The fact is that the public’s negative perception of sex offenders reaches far and wide. Even when you are accused and not yet proven guilty, juries tend to view your position negatively. The initial perception tends to lean heavily toward the sexual assault victim and their story.
If charged and convicted of the above sexual offenses, what will happen? Below we have detailed some examples of how sex offense convictions are classified and how they are typically sentenced:
Rape (18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 3121)
The state of Pennsylvania defines rape as using force or the threat of force to engage in sexual intercourse (genital, anal and oral) with another person. It also includes any sexual intercourse where consent is not given.
“Lack of consent” is an important concept, and besides situations where the victim has denied consent, it also includes situations where consent can’t be given due to:
- The victim being unconscious
- The victim being drugged
- The victim suffering from a mental disorder or physical disability
It also applies to any situation in which the victim is younger than 13 years of age. Related charges to rape include:
- Rape of a Child: This is treated with the most severe punishment, if convicted. Sexual abuse of children is charged when an adult engages in sexual intercourse with a minor of 12 years old or younger. The charges become even more grave if the child also suffers from physical bodily harm as a result of this action.
- Statutory Rape: Statutory sexual assault is charged when an adult has intercourse with someone under 16 years. There is only likely to be a conviction in this case if the prosecution can prove that an act of sexual intercourse has taken place. Still, the heavier burden of proof lies on the sex crime defense lawyer in the case of statutory rape.
- Spousal Rape: Also known as “Marital Rape,” is a charge levied against someone committing an act of non-consenting sexual intercourse with their spouse. Physical violence is not always a factor in spousal rape, and the lack of consent is the critical element.
In Pennsylvania, any type of rape is classed as a first-degree felony.
Sexual Assault (18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 3124.1, 3122.1 and 3124.2)
Sexual assault is categorized as a second-degree felony and includes sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse to which one or more parties have not consented. It becomes a sexual assault charge when the requirements for a rape charge are not present.
As with many sex offenses, the exact charges are determined by the accusations:
- Indecent Assault: This charge comes under Section 3126 of Title 18, which names Pennsylvania’s sex offenses. It is charged if an offender causes an indecent contact or causes the victim to come into contact with urine, feces, or semen without consent. Depending on many variables, this can be a first-degree or second-degree misdemeanor or a 3rd degree felony.
- Aggravated Indecent Assault: Where one is accused of penetrating a victim with a part of his or her body for a reason unrelated to medical or law enforcement purposes. If the victim is under 13 years old, it’s classed as a first-degree felony. If they are older than 13, it becomes a second-degree felony.
Sexual Abuse of Children (18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 6312)
This charge is leveled at those who knowingly create, distribute, or sell child pornography, which includes any photographs, video, or computer-assisted depiction of minors under the age of 18 involved in any sexual act.
The first offense is categorized as a third-degree felony, while any subsequent offense is charged as a second-degree felony.
Indecent Exposure (18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 3127)
This can be charged against any adult who exposes their genitals in a public place in such a manner that could cause alarm or offense. It is more serious if there are minors under 16 years of age present.
With no minors present, indecent exposure is charged as a second-degree misdemeanor, but with minors present, the category of crime becomes first-degree.
Sexual Offense Sentences
The first type of conviction is a misdemeanor charge. These are divided into first- and second-degree misdemeanors:
- First degree misdemeanor – up to 5 years in jail; up to a $10,000 fine
- Second degree misdemeanor – up to 2 years in jail; up to a $5,000 fine
The next type of conviction is a felony charge. These are divided into first, second, and third degree felonies.
- First degree felony – Maximum sentence is up to 20 years in jail; up to a $25,000 fine
- Second degree felony – jail time – up to 10 year sentence; up to a $25,000 fine
- Third degree felony – Maximum sentence is up to 5 years in jail; up to a $15,000 fine
However, the fact is that these prison sentences and accompanying fines are only the beginning for convicted sex offenders in Pennsylvania.
What is Megan’s Law?
Besides time in prison, convicted sex offenders face continuing retribution after they leave prison. The most far-reaching form of retribution comes in the form of Megan’s Law.
Officially, Megan’s Law is a 1996 amendment made to the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Act. It is a law specifically designed to protect communities from the risk of nearby sex offenders by offering information about any high-risk sex offenders to community organizations.
Sex offenders have to report to local authorities, and they have to register as a sex offender in a publicly accessible database. Names in this database are searchable both directly by name and address so that residents can find out the names of any sex offenders in their area.
False accusations of sexual offenses can still lead to conviction and all the subsequent horror that comes with it. Those thinking that a sexual offense attorney in Pennsylvania would just be working on keeping an accused client out of jail are underestimating the value of such a service.
Hire a Sexual Offense Defense Attorney in Philadelphia, PA
If you are accused, investigated, or charged with a sexual crime in the state of Pennsylvania, you must contact an experienced and knowledgeable sexual assault lawyer right away. It’s not just about avoiding the legal penalties but also about overcoming the social stigmas and lasting character stains of possible false allegations.
Sex crimes charges are different from other types of criminal charges. People who make a false report of sex crimes may be jealous, greedy, or vindictive. False accusations are very serious and should not be taken lightly.
Choosing the right sex crime defense attorney is vital when defending yourself against false accusations. Convictions under the new laws could lead to a lifetime on the sex offender registry. Your life may be changed forever. Contact Derek Steenson, Attorney at Law. He is an experienced criminal defense lawyer skilled is defending against sexual crimes.