How serious is a molestation charge?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I think I might be charged with molestation. I am wondering how serious this charge is and whether or this might affect my employment. I am also wondering if it’s worth it to try and hire a lawyer or can I fight these charges on my own?” 

What is molestation?

Child molestation is defined as "sexual acts with children up to the age of 18, including touching of private parts, exposure of genitalia, taking of pornographic pictures, rape, inducement of sexual acts with the molester or with other children, and variations of these acts by pedophiles. Molestation may include incest or unwanted sexual acts by a relative, but is short of rape."

Child molestation can be a very serious charge and can result in a misdemeanor or felony charge. Whether or not you will be charged with a felony or misdemeanor, however, will depend on your criminal history, what sexual acts were involved, whether the court determines the child was severely mentally or physically abused, and the state in which the abuse occurred.

If you are charged with a felony you might spend over a year in jail and be required to pay thousands of dollars in fines. Misdemeanor charges, however, will result in less than a year in jail or no jail time.

Other consequences of a molestation charge

Any type of criminal charge can be serious. In fact, if you are charged with a felony not only will you have to pay high fines and spend time in jail, you will also lose your right to vote, lose your right to own a fire arm, and potentially lose your ability to acquire certain types of professional licenses.

Due to the social stigma, however, child molestation charges can be especially difficult to overcome. In fact, not only will your reputation be damaged, you may be barred from having unsupervised contact with your child or other children. You may also have your parental rights terminated, be required to register as a sex offender, and have continual involvement with a child protective services agency.

Should I talk to a lawyer about my molestation charges?

Given the seriousness of a molestation charge it is always a good idea to consult with a lawyer about your options.  A criminal defense lawyer can review the evidence against you and help you decide whether or not to plead guilty and seek a plea agreement or plead not guilty and fight the charges in court.

What if you are falsely accused of molestation?

Due to mandatory reporting laws in certain states people who suspect a child has been abused are required by law to report it to law enforcement officials. In fact, failure to do so can be considered a misdemeanor which could result in a criminal charge, jail time, and fines.

It is possible that some individuals, especially those who work with children, may be falsely accused of child molestation. For instance, another adult might misinterpret something you did or said or a child or teenager may decide to fabricate a story. False accusations may also arise in a divorce or child custody case where one parent is attempting to get the court to rule in their favor.

Unfortunately for those who are falsely accused, even an accusation and charge which is not well substantiated must be investigated. Not only will law enforcement become involved but the child protection agency in your state will also investigate.

If you have been falsely accused of molestation, it’s important to immediately talk to a criminal defense lawyer. Do not make any statements to the police or any other investigating agency. You may be tempted to defend yourself or try to clear the matter up, but it’s almost always better to talk to a criminal defense lawyer first.

Bottom Line:

A molestation charge is very serious. In fact, in some cases you could be charged with a felony. Not only do you risk a loss of your reputation, but if convicted, you can also expect to spend a significant amount of time in jail.

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