Child molestation is viewed as a particularly loathsome crime. We can’t truly say that we disagree with that sentiment.
As a result of the public revulsion against child molesters, the punishments are very harsh for the various degrees of criminal sexual conduct with children. Unfortunately, the public is so fearful of these crimes that they tend to forget that defendants get the benefit of the doubt before they are found guilty.
At Holland and Usry, we want to remind everyone facing a criminal sexual conduct charge in South Carolina that the government has to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the charge. But you can’t hope that your innocent face and pleasant demeanor will be enough if you have been arrested. You’ve got to get a lawyer experienced in fighting these charges because the stakes are so high.
Let’s look at those stakes right now.
First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor
This usually involves sexual acts with a child under 11. But if you have a prior conviction for an offense that put you on the sex offender registry (or even an offense that could have put you on the registry), you can be charged with a first degree offense for sex acts with a child under 16—and you could get the death penalty.
Even for a first offense, you face a mandatory minimum 25 years to life in prison without parole.
Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor
This involves a child between 11 and 14. It also includes a child 14 to 16 if you are in a position of authority over the child. This charge does not apply if you are 18 or less and the act is consensual.
If convicted, you face at least 10 years to a maximum of 30 years in prison. You must serve the entire sentence.
Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor
This involves sex acts with a child under 16 that appeal to the lust of either you or the child. It does not apply if you are 18 or less and the child is 14 or more and the act is consensual.
If convicted, you face up to 15 years in prison.
The Stakes Are High and the Charges Are Not Going Away
If you get convicted, you most likely will get a life sentence, even if that’s not how long you serve in prison. In addition, all these crimes qualify to put you on the sex offender registry, and in South Carolina, placement on that registry is for life. And that’s assuming you get out of confinement—these crimes also qualify for the sexually violent predator program. The SVP provides for a “civil commitment” totally unrelated to your prison sentence and served after it, in a facility that’s pretty much like a prison. Unlike prison, there’s no definite term to serve and no end in sight; the state can hold you for “treatment” until state experts deem you safe to return to society (which could be never).
Worse, some of these convictions also require you to wear an ankle bracelet for lifetime GPS monitoring. That’s right: an ankle bracelet, potentially for the rest of your life.
This Is Grim, But Not Hopeless
These accusations are serious, and in all sincerity, they must be taken seriously by law enforcement. But because they’re so serious, your defenses to them must be taken equally as seriously.
The child has parents, family, law enforcement, and maybe forensic experts and even medical professionals on his or her side. You need someone on your side who can dig into the state’s investigation and find motivations and explanations behind these accusations that can prove them mistaken or just plain untrue.
You might as well be charged with murder. You’ve got to attack these charges with all you’ve got, so you need a seasoned lawyer experienced in these matters who’s not afraid to tackle them.
At Holland & Usry, we do not shrink away from these cases, because we understand innocent people get charged with crimes they didn’t commit by people motivated to hurt them, or by people who are misled and rush to judgment. We work to mount a formidable defense equal to these charges. If you’ve been charged with child molestation, feel free to contact us to discuss how we can begin working to overcome these charges.