Facing child molestation allegations can put the person and those around them in a state of anxiety and uncertainty. Child molestation charges carry significant weight in Washington state and should not be taken lightly. Even before the formal filing of any charge, there can be damaging effects both on the personal and professional level.
Because these charges can have ripple effects in so many areas of life, selecting the right legal counsel is imperative. With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you can take on charges of child molestation with a sound and sturdy defense.
Washington State Child Molestation Laws
Washington state details three different classifications or degrees of child molestation. The primary differentiator among them centers around the age of the alleged victim. Further, in order to be charged with child molestation, the law also requires that the accused is at least three years older (1st & 2nd degree) or four years older (3rd degree) than the alleged victim.
Child molestation in the first degree occurs when a person:
“has, or knowingly causes, another person under the age of eighteen to have, sexual contact with another who is less than twelve years old and not married to the perpetrator.” – Revised Code of Washington, Section 9A.44.083
Child molestation in the second degree occurs when an individual:
“has, or knowingly causes another person under the age of eighteen to have, sexual contact with another who is at least twelve years old but less than fourteen years old and not married to the perpetrator.” – Revised Code of Washington, Section 9A.44.086
The final classification covers child molestation in the third degree, which happens when:
“the person has, or knowingly causes another person under the age of eighteen to have, sexual contact with another who is at least fourteen years old but less than sixteen years old and not married to the perpetrator.” – Revised Code of Washington, Section 9A.44.089
All child molestation laws do not carry the same penalties. Below, learn about the punishments that accompany child molestation charges in Washington state.
The Penalties for Child Molestation in Washington State
Each conviction of child molestation comes with a certain level of punishment under Washington state law. But what is common to all is that child molestation charges are taken very seriously and have far-reaching impacts for those facing them.
Felony Child Molestation Charges
Class A Felony: Up to life imprisonment or a fine of $50,000, or both. This includes a lifetime registration into the sex offenders list.
Class B Felony: Up to ten years of jail time in state prison or a fine of $20,000, or both. This includes being a registered sex offender for 15 years.
Class C Felony: Up to five years in state prison or a fine of $10,000, or both. This comes with a 10-year sex offender registration requirement.
The prison times listed above are the maximum sentences for each. However, actual sentence periods will be determined by Washington state sentencing guidelines. Hiring an experienced child molestation defense attorney who is well versed in Washington state law is your best course of action for understanding these guidelines and formulating a defense.
Steps to Take After Being Falsely Accused of Child Molestation
Being falsely accused of child molestation understandably causes feelings of anxiety and anger, but it’s essential that you remain calm. Acting recklessly could worsen your situation. The logical response is to create a plan that will clear you of these false claims. Here are the steps to take when faced with child molestation charges.
1. Don’t make any statements.
If you have been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with a child, don’t engage in any conversation or make statements without first consulting an attorney. When asked about the allegations, especially if it’s the police, avoid discussion by saying you cannot talk about the matter without a lawyer present. Even a statement of denial can be used against you if you did so without legal guidance.
2. Contact a lawyer right away.
Merely being accused (as opposed to actually convicted) of child molestation can take a huge toll on your reputation. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer to help you make calculated steps toward clearing your name does not make you seem guilty. Because the stakes are so high, having an experienced child molestation attorney on your side ensures that you navigate the legal processes smoothly.
Bear in mind that the burden of proof is not on you. The person who made the allegations must prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that an act of sexual abuse happened. Your lawyer will explain the circumstances to you as you move forward with your defense strategy.
3. Stay away from the accuser.
Do not make the mistake of contacting your accuser or their inner circle directly yourself, as this might hurt your chances of gaining a solid defense. The judge might bar the two parties from communicating in light of the sexual assault case. Even if such an order isn’t given, you can’t run the risk of being accused once again, this time of attempting to silence or threaten the alleged victim.
Leave things for your attorney to handle. Your job is to stay calm, stop talking, and stay away from your accuser.
4. Assemble your evidence and list of witnesses.
Writing down a detailed account of the events in question will help you identify pieces of evidence that can help you clear your name. These include receipts, pictures with timestamps, video footage with dates, tickets, or any other documentation that will verify your whereabouts and activities during the said time. Assembling a list of witnesses for your attorney’s investigator to talk to will also help a lot. Keeping a log will help to keep your statements consistent and organized. Work closely with your lawyer to create this timeline, as they may also need some additional information to strengthen your case.
The key is to take careful and well-planned steps to protect yourself by having an experienced attorney in your corner. Remember that once you are convicted of sexual offenses against a child, you can be required to register as a sex offender for anywhere from 10 years to life. This record will be publicly accessible and can affect your personal and professional prospects in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions After False Allegations of Molestation
Somebody I know has accused me of molesting their child and said they will contact the authorities. What should I do?
Call an attorney immediately and let your legal counsel face questioning on your behalf. The attorney will address the matter for you, so you don’t have to place yourself in an uncomfortable and highly inadvisable position of trying to defend yourself.
There are rumors that I allegedly molested a child but nobody has confronted me about it yet. What can I do to protect myself?
The moment you hear of any sexual abuse accusations against you, contact your lawyer for advice on what you should do next. Any communication between an attorney and you is protected by attorney-client privilege. All private conversations in these settings cannot be used against you in a criminal proceeding or shared with anybody.
What types of evidence should I gather to strengthen my defense?
There are many ways you can solidify your alibi on the event in question. You can gather physical evidence, like videos, objects, or photos, or any records with dates and timestamps, like emails, letters, receipts, mobile and GPS records, and other documents that will place you somewhere else at the time of the alleged incident. Another way is to gather a list of potential witnesses. Be ready to share all of these with your attorney so they can create a strong defense plan.
Arrange a Strong Legal Defense
Those falsely accused of child molestation have the right to fight these allegations in a court of law. Set yourself up with a legal team that has decades of experience working on behalf of those accused of criminal offenses.
The only absolute defense to false accusations of child molestation is that one has been wrongly accused. Common arguments made in support of this include:
- Underlying motivations of the accuser. For instance, being upset about a strict parent/guardian;
- Underlying motivations of an accuser’s parent/s. This can include a spouse seeking full custody of a child;
- False memories;
- Projecting sexual offenses by another person onto the defendant.
A skilled attorney will be able to examine your case and discover the best path stance to take in fighting these charges.
The stakes are too high to settle for a mediocre lawyer. Contact the professionals at Will & Will for a confidential consultation today. Or dial in for a phone consultation at 206-209-5585.