Defeating a Child Molestation Charge in Washington
Being arrested or charged with child molestation in Washington can spell serious trouble for the accused. Washington state simply does not tolerate the abuse of children and as such, the results of such a charge can be devastating.
Even if you have not been arrested or have yet to be charged with an offense, mere rumors of child sexual abuse are damaging in themselves. In fact, more often than not, those rumors are all the evidence some will need to believe and convince others that you are guilty.
The sensitive nature of child molestation charges and the strong feelings that often accompanies it necessitates the intervention of an experienced Washington sex crimes attorney. In these cases, it is absolutely vital to get a child molestation defense expert involved as soon as possible.
If you have been visited by law enforcement and asked questions in relation to a child, it might already be too late. If you or someone you know has been arrested or charged with child molestation in Washington, speak at once with former prosecutor, James Curtis.
Having spent 14 years diligently serving Tukwila and its environs, Mr Curtis has the inside knowledge about prosecution that can be all the difference in your case. He understands how seriously a child molestation conviction can damage your life and is prepared to put his skills and knowledge to work helping you fight the charge.
Child molestation law in Washington
Child molestation is one of the offenses under Washington law that depend on the victim's youth. The offense occurs when a person has sexual contact with a person who is still a child, usually younger than sixteen.
The offense is also committed if the accused knowingly causes another person to have sexual contact with a child. The age range for the offense varies between twelve and sixteen years.
“Sexual contact” does not refer to sex though. It means any touching of the sexual or intimate parts of a person if it is done for the purpose of gratifying a sexual desire. It does not matter if the act was done to gratify the sexual desire of the victim or a third party.
One important aspect of the offense of child molestation is its “statutory” nature. This means that the charge can be applied even if the victim willingly engaged in the sexual act or even sought the act.
So long as the victim was under the age threshold of the offense, it is deemed under Washington law that they were incapable of giving consent. This mostly applies to the offense in the first degree.
Child molestation is usually charged in three degrees, with the offense ranging in seriousness from the first to the third degree.
- First degree: This is the most serious charge in the category. It is committed when the victim is less than 12 years old and the accused is at least 3 years older than the victim.
- Second degree: The offense is committed in the second degree when the victim is at least 12 but less than 14. The perpetrator must also be at least 3 years older than the victim.
- Third degree: Although it carries the least serious penalties, child molestation in the third degree is also serious. The offense is committed when the victim is less than 14 years old and not married to the accused who must be at least 4 years older.
The difficulty with child molestation charges
An accusation of child molestation is one of the gravest crises a person can face. There are fewer criminal cases where the risk of conviction on a false accusation is greater. The offense usually involves inflamed emotions, making it very difficult to defend against the charge.
When an allegation of child molestation is made, it becomes very easy for people to start seeing shadows where there are none. The situation is usually compounded by the lack of evidence common with these cases.
In most prosecutions, child molestation charges are not supported by much evidence other than the statements of the complaining child. The prosecution will usually look to support the evidence with any statements the accused has made.
This underscores the importance of consulting with an attorney before an accused makes any statement to anyone about the allegations. Such statements can easily be taken out of context and might simply be giving ammo to the prosecution.
It is also common for adults that know the accused and their lack of a sexual relationship with the child to begin to question what they know. Add to this the challenge of questioning a child's testimony and it all sums up to a very unfavorable situation for an accused person.
This is one of the reasons why few law firms take clients with these cases. To secure a positive outcome in these cases, you will require the services of a very skilled and experienced advocate.
Consequences of conviction for child molestation
Conviction on a charge of child molestation will result in very serious consequences. Washington law treats youngster sex offenders very harshly, and there is usually a high likelihood of significant jail time.
The consequences of conviction for this offense, according to the various degrees and other considerations include:
- First degree: The offense is treated as a Class A felony in the first degree. This will attract a punishment of up to life in prison and a fine of $50,000. Even a first offender may spend a minimum of 51-68 months in prison.
- Second degree: Class B felony which attracts up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $20,000. First offenders may spend a minimum of 15-20 months in jail.
- Third degree: In the third degree, the offense is treated as a Class C felony. This will attract up to 5 years in jail plus a fine up to $10,000.
A conviction may have other potentially worse and life-altering consequences. After serving whatever jail time is ordered, the offender may be put on community custody for years. In some cases, this may be for life.
A person on community custody must get permission before they can travel out of the county. They are prohibited from going to places where children congregate, such as a playground or a school, and cannot live anywhere near such places.
They will usually be required to undergo regular (lie-detector) tests to see whether they have been obeying the conditions of their community custody.
In addition to these, offenders will be required to register with the sheriff as a sex offender. As part of the conditions under the registration, law enforcement officers will routinely go to the person's home to confirm that they live there.
If the person's status as a registered sex offender becomes known to neighbors, it can lead to even more stigma.
How we defend clients charged with child molestation
We keenly understand the potentially catastrophic effects of a conviction on charges of child molestation. With this much on the line, we recognize your need for legal counsel that can defend you vigorously and intelligently.
At The Curtis Firm, LLC, we have helped numerous clients defeat child molestation and other sexual abuse cases. We understand the nuances of these cases and can help you successfully defeat the charge. Some of the tactics we will adopt on your behalf include:
- Scrutinizing the testimony of the child and the interview to ensure it is in line with the Harborview Interview Guide. Child interviewers in Washington are trained to follow this guide and if they fail to abide by it, we can challenge the evidence extracted as a result.
- Evaluating the actions of interviewers on the prosecution team to ensure they do not suffer from “confirmation bias” – the natural tendency to look for information that confirms an idea and overlook what contradicts it.
- Working closely with forensic interviewing experts and psychologists to study audio and video of the child's interviews to ensure there were no instances of suggestion or leading.
Reach out to us today
We strongly believe that everybody deserves their right to be tried fairly if they are alleged to have committed an offense. No matter how serious the offense you are charged with, the constitutional standard is that you are innocent until proven guilty.
Contact us immediately if you have been arrested or charged with child molestation. Let us put our fierce advocacy to work for you. Call us at 253-327-1063 to set up a free case review today.