Frequently Asked Questions About Sexual Crime

1. How are sex offenses punished?

Punishment for a sex offense can vary dramatically depending on the category of crime. A misdemeanor sex crime conviction (such as indecent exposure) might receive less than a year of jail time, a fine, community service, counseling, or even probation. A felony, on the other hand, might be punished by a long prison term (up to a life sentence). Released sex felons must register as sex offenders. Multiple convictions typically lead to increasingly greater punishments.

2. Is consent a defense?

Consent, if it can be proved, is a defense to many sex crimes. However, some people are not considered able to consent to sex under the law. For those individuals, even if they explicitly agree, their agreement is not legally valid. For example, minors, the mentally disabled, and unconscious or intoxicated people (even if they willingly became intoxicated) typically cannot provide valid consent. Statutory rape or date rape charges may result.

3. What is entrapment?

Police operations often try to capture sex offenders by posing as prostitutes, underage individuals, or other parties in an attempt to catch them while committing (or preparing to commit) a sex crime. Some sex offense defendants argue that police actions, such as the offer of sexual services, are entrapment. Entrapment means that the police induced the defendant to commit a crime he or she did not intend to commit before it was suggested by the police. However, entrapment is not a valid defense if the defendant intended to commit the crime and the police simply provided a means to do so. In prostitution cases, for instance, the offer of sexual services by a police officer is almost never held to be entrapment because the defendant is generally found to have been intending to purchase sexual services prior to interacting with the decoy officer. The elements of an entrapment defense are complicated and very sensitive to the facts of your situation. Contact an attorney immediately if you believe you were entrapped.

4. Is it statutory rape if someone lies about his or her age?

A mistake about age is not a defense to statutory rape charges, even if the underage person lied and gave consent. It is a “strict liability” offense, which makes the perpetrator responsible regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

5. What is the difference between rape and sexual assault?

Many state laws no longer use the term “rape,” replacing it with sexual abuse or sexual assault to describe prohibited acts. Traditional rape is covered by these statutes and may be designated sexual abuse in the first degree. However, most sexual assault statutes cover more types of sexual acts and apply to victims of either sex. Also, husbands can generally be charged with sexual assault of their wives, and lesser offenses, such as unwanted touching, may be included.

6. What is probable cause?

“Probable cause” is a term that refers to the belief that a person has committed a crime by legal standards. A finding of probably cause can lead to an arrest or conviction. There is not a bright-line rule establishing precisely what is probable cause. However, a finding of probable cause requires objective facts indicating a likelihood of criminal activity. A hunch or an unfounded complaint alone do not satisfy the requirement.

7. Who must register as a sex offender?

Generally, any adult or juvenile who has been convicted of certain sex offenses, which vary from state to state, who is on active supervision for a sex offense, or who has been committed as a sexually violent predator must register with the state law enforcement agency as a sex offender. The duration of the offender’s duty to register varies, based on the original offense and the risk of re-offense. In some states, sexual predators or sexually violent offenders must register for life.

The information you obtain from this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

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