More and more often, law enforcement agencies are cracking down on unlawful sex between minors. If your teenager has been arrested and charged for having sex with another child under the age of 14, you need to know that this is a very serious crime and will likely be aggressively prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office. If you are a parent in this situation, you need to seek representation from the skilled California juvenile sex crimes lawyers at Wallin & Klarich in order to protect your child’s rights. We have helped thousands of clients accused of child molestation over the past 30 years. We can help you and your child overcome this challenge.
Commonly referred to as “child molestation,” lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14 (California Penal Code section 288) is a violent sex crime pursuant to Penal Code section 667.5(c), punishable by imprisonment in juvenile hall or state prison and a fine. It does not matter if the sexual activity involved was consensual or not; children under the age of 18 are legally unable to consent to sexual conduct.
If your child is accused of lewd and lascivious acts, there are things you need to know:
1. Do not volunteer any information to law enforcement officers investigating the alleged crime. Ever.
Police officers and detectives are trained to encourage suspects and their family members to divulge damaging information before they arrest and charge someone with a crime. Your teenager’s Miranda rights do not apply until the police put him or her under arrest for a specific crime. Anything you or your child says prior to the Miranda warning is admissible in court as evidence against him or her.
2. Tell the police you want your teenager to speak to an attorney before answering any questions.
It is critical that you advise your child that if he or she is questioned about any crime by law enforcement, your child should politely tell them he or she wishes to speak to a lawyer before making any statement. Once your child invokes his or her Miranda Warning rights – remaining silent and requesting that an attorney be present during questioning – law enforcement must cease the interrogation [Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)]. A parent is not allowed to intervene on behalf of his or her child when they are speaking to the police.
3. If at all possible, record any police contact with a video camera.
Let law enforcement know they are being recorded. Police officers are more likely to back off and respect your or your teenager’s constitutional rights if they know they are subject to being video recorded. No police officer wants to subject themselves to a possible civil suit later on for violating your or your child’s rights.
4. Be prepared for your teenager to be taken into custody.
The police may decide to arrest and charge your teenager when he or she invokes his or her constitutional rights to remain silent and/or insist on attorney representation before answering any questions. The police don’t like it when they can’t get a confession out of someone because this means they have to work harder to find actual evidence or testimony to support their case to against your child
You need to understand that juveniles do not have a constitutional right to seek bail. Remain calm. Many juveniles are released to their parents or guardians prior to arraignment in juvenile court. If possible, put money in your child’s hand or pocket before he or she is taken away.
5. Hire an experienced California criminal defense lawyer immediately.
Let an experienced juvenile crimes attorney handle matters for you. Your child’s future is at stake and you don’t want to jeopardize your child’s rights. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can be the difference between the maximum sentence allowed by law and a lighter sentence such as probation or even a dismissal of the charges if your son or daughter is deemed to have committed a crime pursuant to Penal Code section 288.
6. Request from your attorney that your teenager’s case be heard in the juvenile court system.
Be prepared for your son or daughter to be tried as an adult. Based upon the age of the minor and the crime allegedly committed, the prosecution may be able to charge a minor and try that minor as an adult if he or she is 14 years old or older. Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b) outlines what crimes qualify as serious enough to warrant adult treatment and punishment, including child molestation under Penal Code section 288.
While a juvenile does not have the same rights as an adult in a criminal proceeding (there is no right to a jury trial in juvenile court, for example), a juvenile is also less likely to be exposed to the same harsh consequences as an adult, should he or she ultimately be found to be in violation of the law by the judge. This is because the purpose of the juvenile justice system is to attempt to rehabilitate the minor while the purpose of the adult criminal system is to punish those that commit crimes.
Furthermore, a juvenile “adjudication” (as opposed to an adult conviction) cannot be used against your child in the future for the purposes of enhanced sentencing under California’s Three Strike Law.
Additionally, if your child is ultimately adjudicated in juvenile court as having committed the crime of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under age 14, he or she cannot be required to be publicly listed on the Megan’s Law website of convicted sex offenders. While your child may have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his or her life while residing in or attending school in California, at least he or she can avoid the humiliation and stigma of being on the public sex offender registry. Avoiding public sex offender registration can make all the difference in your child’s future ability to attend college, get a job and find a place to live.
7. Gather contact information from supporting witnesses to give to your attorney.
As your attorney begins to collect information to defend your child, he or she will likely enlist your help to locate witnesses that may be called upon to help exonerate your child. Charges of child molestation are often a “he said/she said” situation. Often, the alleged victim’s testimony may not be reliable given the age of the other child.
In many cases, our clients tell us that they could not have committed the crime because they were at a different location when the alleged crime occurred. This is called an “alibi defense.” When this happens you will work with your child’s lawyer to interview all possible witnesses who can verify this alibi defense.
8. Prepare a defense fund.
Defending against a serious charge such as child molestation can get expensive. Not only will you have to pay for an attorney, there may be additional costs such as psychologists’ evaluations, expert witness testimony fees, trial expenses (if your teenager is tired as an adult) and fines and victim restitution should your son or daughter be adjudicated as a minor or convicted as an adult.
9. Familiarize yourself with California’s sex offender registration laws.
Remember that a minor is “adjudicated” of violations of the law in the juvenile justice system. An adjudication is not the same as a criminal conviction. If your child is found guilty of violating California Penal Code section 288 as an adult in adult criminal court, he or she will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his or her life pursuant to California’s Sex Offender Registration Act (Penal Code section 290), in addition to any other punishment imposed by the court. A conviction for a violent sex crime such as child molestation requires that your child’s residence address, picture and other personal information be released to the public via the Megan’s Law website, according to Penal Code Section 290.46.
If your child is placed on formal supervision – such as probation – as a result of his or her conviction, he or she may have very strict conditions to comply with in order to remain out of custody. These conditions may include:
- A restriction on where your child may live;
- Restrictions on where he or she may physically be;
- Restrictions on being around or contacting other minors, including his or her own brothers and/or sisters;
- Restrictions on computer or social networking use;
- A nightly curfew;
- Mandatory sex offender counseling;
- Anti-narcotic testing
You may have to move if you want your child to continue to live with you if he or she is on formal supervision. Read the law. Make sure you understand and help your child comply with all of his or her conditions of probation or supervised release from custody.
Contact the California Juvenile Sex Crimes Lawyers at Wallin & Klarich
If your child has been accused of an unlawful sex crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully representing our juvenile clients charged with a sex crime. With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, the knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been able to help minors to successfully defend against serious criminal charges such as registerable sex offenses. We may be able to challenge all the evidence against your child and help you win your case. We may be able to negotiate for alternative sentencing, probation or counseling, allowing him or her to avoid both commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice and lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.