Can Juveniles Be Sex Offenders?
A sex crime is a serious charge. It can result in a misdemeanor or felony conviction and time behind bars, large fines, and many other consequences that can have a negative impact on a person’s life.
If a juvenile is facing sex crime charges, they could be justifiably be worried about their future. Even if they were joking around or didn’t know what they were doing, they could be subject to harsh penalties under the law.
That’s why it’s critical to hire an Oakland criminal defense attorney for sex crimes as well as learn more about whether or not juveniles can be labeled as sex offenders.
Can Juveniles Be Sex Offenders?
In the state of California, juveniles can be sex offenders. If someone was under 18 when the event occurred, they could be charged as a minor – or perhaps even as an adult depending on the nature of the crime. Usually, however, they will be charged and sentenced as a juvenile.
Juveniles Being Charged With Sex Crimes
Oftentimes, minors commit sex crimes against other minors. Or, minors are accused of it, even if they are innocent. For example, two teens may be in love until one day, one of them falls out of love, decides to break up, and then starts dating someone else. The person they broke up with may then make up stories about getting raped as a form of revenge.
Teens do not always make the best decisions; they can be impulsive and not think about the consequences of their actions. A false accusation can lead to devastating consequences for the accused.
What Happens When a Juvenile Is Arrested
When the police arrest a minor for a sex crime, they will decide what to do with the minor. The police may either send the minor home to their parents or take them to juvenile hall. The police or the county probation department will decide if the minor gets booked. Typically, minors who were accused of violent crimes – like rape and assault, for instance – will be booked.
The district attorney, also known as the DA, will then decide if there will be charges or the case will be sent to an adult court. The closer a minor is to 18 years of age, the more likely the chances are that their case will be sent to adult court. If the DA says that a minor can stay in the juvenile system, oftentimes, rehabilitation, instead of punishment, will be emphasized.
Juvenile Court vs. Adult Court
In California, juvenile court is not part of the criminal court system; instead, it is part of the civil law system. A referee, commissioner, or judge could hear a case in juvenile court, and just like adult court, there are prosecutors and defense attorneys. However, there are no juries. The judge will make the final decision on a juvenile’s case as opposed to a jury.
There is no “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict in the juvenile system as well. A minor can admit or deny the charges against them. There could be a deferred entry of judgment that is issued, where the minor admits to the crime but isn’t sentenced to custody time or juvenile hall.
It is better if a juvenile can stay in juvenile court as opposed to adult court, even if they don’t have a right to a jury. This is because if they are convicted, they could also receive greater punishment, like a harsher sentence.
Consequences of Juvenile Sex Crimes
If a minor is charged as an adult for a sex crime, then they could face a number of consequences, including:
- Time in jail or prison. A juvenile may also be sent to juvenile hall and then transferred to a state prison once they turn 18.
- Fines or fees.
- Formal probation that lasts up to five years. This includes going to a probation officer regularly and following the rules of probation, or facing penalties like more jail time if they violate probation.
- Mandatory lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Registering as a Sex Offender
One of the consequences of committing a sex crime could be having to list yourself on the sex offender registry. This is a requirement under Megan’s Law, which says that the California Department of Justice (CA DOJ) must notify the public about sex offenders. Anyone can go onto the sex offender registry website and look for registered sex offenders in their area.
The crimes that could require minors to register as lifetime sex offenders include:
- Assault to commit sodomy, rape, or oral copulation
- Forcible sex in concert with another
- Sodomy with a child under 14 years old or a person under 18 years of age
- Sodomy or oral copulation by force
- Annoying or molesting a child
- Forcible sexual penetration
Before being released from jail, prison, or probation, sex offenders who must register are notified ahead of time. When they are released back out into the community, they need to register within five days. They also need to update their information annually, but if they are sexually violent predators, they must update their information every 90 days. The registry will show someone as being “in violation” if they fail to update their information on time. Not registering on time is a crime that violates federal and state law.
Consequences of Being Registered as a Sex Offender
Along with having to register as a sex offender and updating it on time, juveniles on the sex offender registry could have to deal with other negative consequences.
For instance, they may not be able to live within a certain distances of gathering places for children, like playgrounds, daycare centers, schools, and parks. This means that it could be tough to find suitable housing that won’t violate any laws.
When a juvenile is old enough, they could have trouble finding a suitable job, since sex offenders may not be able to work in clothing stores with changing rooms, schools, and jobs where you have power over someone else, like a psychiatrist or a doctor.
People could also be judgmental of the juvenile and not want to associate with them anymore. This could further isolate the juvenile and damage them emotionally.
Types of Sex Offenses
In California, a sex crime is defined as a crime that involves unwanted touching of someone else’s body part, including their genitals, anus, breasts, groin, or buttocks. Some examples of sex crimes include rape, statutory rape, sodomy, oral copulation, sexual assault, annoying or molesting a minor. Sex crimes that do not involve touching are stalking, indecent exposure, solicitation, sexting, and distributing and/or making child pornography.
There are a few sex crimes in particular that could commonly apply to minors. One of them is statutory rape. Statutory rape is “unlawful sexual intercourse is an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator, if the person is a minor.”
Two minors that have consent from one another could be charged with statutory rape. In California, the age of consent is 17, which means that consenting 17-year-olds might not be charged, but if an 18-year-old has intercourse with a 17-year-old, they could be charged with statutory rape.
Sexting Charges in California
Another common sex crime among minors is sexting. A minor can be charged with a sex crime for sexting with someone else, including another minor. Sexting involves sending nude or provocative photos to another person, and when a minor sends a photo of another minor, including themselves, it could count as distributing child pornography and lead to charges. Typically, the juvenile court will handle sexting charges.
Parents who may be concerned about their child’s use of technology can set up blockers to limit usage. They can also monitor their children’s devices and talk to them about the dangers of sexting. Not only can sexting lead to criminal charges, but it can also damage a minor’s reputation and lead to bullying and other emotional damage.
Defenses to Sex Crimes in California
If you are a juvenile being accused of a sex crime (or your child is), there are defenses that could apply to your case.
For instance, perhaps there is insufficient evidence. There may only be an accusation, which isn’t enough to convict someone. There must be physical evidence, witnesses, or some other type of proof that the incident actually occurred.
A juvenile may have an alibi as well. They might not have been anywhere near the alleged scene of the crime when it occurred. If they have evidence, they could prove that they were somewhere else at that time.
There could also be a case of mistaken identity. A witness’ memory may not be right and it could have been someone else who committed the alleged crime.
Note that consent is not valid in a statutory rape case where minors are involved.
What to Do If You’ve Been Charged
If you (or your child) have been charged with a juvenile sex crime, then the first thing to do is call an Oakland criminal defense attorney immediately. Don’t tell the police anything, since you have the right to remain silent. Meet up with your attorney right away to talk about your case.
You should never contact the alleged victim or anyone else involved in the alleged crime, even if there are no harsh feelings between you. This could be used against you in court. It’s never a good idea to discus your case with anyone aside from your Oakland criminal defense attorney. This includes posting on social media, which minors often do. Stay away from social media for the time being so that you don’t say anything that could be used against you.
If you have any evidence, you should present it to your attorney so they can use it to defend you. For example, perhaps you have text messages from an ex who went off on you and said they were going to claim that you sexually assaulted them as retaliation for something. Keep any proof you have and don’t respond to anyone who is trying to talk to you about your case – even close friends.
You’ll need to find an Oakland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could be charged as an adult and face harsh consequences that will affect you for the rest of your life. You could have trouble finding a job or housing or not be able to get funding for college, for instance. You don’t want to risk your entire future just because you failed to hire an attorney.
Hiring an Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney
To find an Oakland criminal defense attorney, look for one who has several years of experience dealing with criminal cases and has excellent case results. Elliot Silver of Silver Law Firm could be the ideal fit for you, whether you’re facing sex crimes or additional charges as well.
In one case, Elliot Silver represented a high profile client who was accused of rape, but the accusations were false. Not wanting to see his client unfairly prosecuted, attorney Silver set to work to clear his client’s name right away. Elliot provided compelling exculpatory evidence to the police before the charges were filed, and the case ended up not being forward to the prosecutor’s office. Elliot’s client moved past the incident without unnecessary embarrassment or permanent harm.
In another case, a man who recently immigrated to the U.S. on a dependent visa was accused of child molestation. He was facing jail time, registration as a sex offender, and deportation. Elliot Silver went all the way to verdict, and in the end, his client was vindicated when the jury returned their acquittal. The client was free to resume his life in America, uninterrupted.
Elliot is prepared to assist you as well to try and secure a favorable outcome for your case. If you’ve been charged with a sex crime or any other criminal charges and need representation, reach out to Oakland criminal defense attorney Elliot Silver today at (510) 995-0000 or by emailing him at email@example.com. He looks forward to assisting you with your case.