Those who are charged with child abuse are facing a very serious crime. The exact sentence and penalties that they will incur vary depending on a range of factors. These include the age of the child, which state the crime was committed in, the extent of the molestation, whether the molestation led to physical or psychological injury, and whether the offender had any previous convictions.
Child molestation cases sentences are often very difficult for everybody who is involved. Usually, the media turns these into high profile cases, and this often stigmatizes the family as well. As such, extreme discretion is expected of the judges.
Child molestation is almost always classed as a felony offense. The sentences can range up to life imprisonment. Usually, the longer someone’s prior record is, the more significant the punishment will be.
Child Molestation Laws
Child molestation laws are covered under several different sections of the U.S. Code 18. The sections are 2241 (aggravated sexual abuse), 2242 (sexual abuse), 2243 (sexual abuse of a minor or a ward), and 2244 (abusive sexual contact). If the abuse took place in a single state, which is generally the case, it will not be covered under federal laws, but rather under state laws. There are some exceptions in which case federal law will always take place. These include Indian territories, government owned properties or land, and military bases.
Child Molestation Crimes & Charges
Child molestation crimes are very complex crimes. This is because it can be hard to define what ‘molestation’ actually is. According to the law, any type of sexual touch that takes place between an adult and a child is classed as molestation. If there is a three year or more age gap between two children, it is also classed as molestation. What sets child molestation apart from child sexual abuse, however, is that some form of touching must be involved. If someone were to watch child pornography, or otherwise engage in a sexual behavior such as showing or looking, then it is classed as sexual abuse, not molestation. In most cases, child sexual molestation is not a single event, but rather a gradual process. Children are often groomed before the abuse takes place. This is why law enforcement agencies and courts are now focusing strongly on this grooming process as well.
Child Molestation Punishments
If trialed under federal law, someone convicted of child molestation will usually face both fines and imprisonment. If there are any aggravating circumstances, the penalties will generally be higher. Common punishments and penalties include:
• Lifetime signing of the sex offenders register
• Losing all parental rights
It is important to understand that someone can also be criminally charged for not reporting suspected child molestation. In some states, reporting this to law enforcement or a hotline is mandatory by law and failing to do so is classed as a misdemeanor. This can carry with it jail time and/or fines.
Child Molestation Sentencing Guidelines
Sentencing guidelines for child molestation are complex. A judge will usually look at a number of aggravating factors, including:
• Whether any threats of force or actual force were used
• Whether the child was injured or died
• Whether a child was kidnapped
Suspects can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Their plea will also have an influence on the punishment that is imposed on them.
Judges, unfortunately, have a difficult job to do as there are also many cases of false reporting of child molestation. This is often done in bitter separation cases out of revenge, or even by children who do not like their parents’ lifestyle choices. It is very complex to demonstrate this, however, as it would involve attacking the character of a child.
Another difficulty judges have is proving that the suspect actually did what has been alleged. They will often suggest that a child has repressed or altered his or her memory and is therefore not a reliable witness. Again, this can be very difficult to deal with as questioning a child about the validity of his or her claims that, if proven true, will have already caused tremendous emotional upset, which often feels unnatural.
Child Molestation Statute of Limitations
Usually, there is no statute of limitations on child molestation cases. Additionally, most jurisdictions have imposed no statute of limitations on civil actions, which is more unusual. Often, the limit for civil action is several years after the victim turning 18, but an increasing number of states are now removing this limitation as well.
Child Molestation Cases
• A high school teacher at Liberty County High School, FL, has been arrested following a complaint stating that the teacher, Antony Joseph, who is 55, had sexual relationships with one of the students. A police investigation ensued, leading to the arrest of the teacher who is currently held on bond. (WCTV)
• A man from Battle Ground has been accused of child molestation, the child in question being a relative. The abuse is alleged to have taken place in the man’s home, from where he operated a day care together with his wife. The day care’s license has since been suspended and the man is held in jail, waiting to appear on May 6, 2016. (KOIN 6)
• A man from Flagstaff has been indicted on child molestation. He is accused of continuous sexual abuse between 2004 and 2006. Fifty four year old Richard Watt suffered a mental breakdown and this led to the charges being brought. The question the jury will have to face is whether they find Watt or his alleged victim more credible. (Arizona Daily Sun)
• A teacher from Placer County, James Caroll, who was also a youth minister, has been arrested on a child molestation case that is several decades old. It is alleged that Caroll committed child molestation in the 1980s and 1990s. He has been suspended from his superintendent and youth minister jobs. (CBS Sacramento)
• Gary Gutierrez has spent the last three years in jail on charges of child molestation, involving a five year old girl. If convicted, he could have faced 33 years in prison. However, he managed to agree to a plea deal that included a guilty plea, meaning he was only sentenced to five years, of which he has already served three. (Santa Fe New Mexican)
Quick Links & References
Child Molestation Laws by State
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming