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Child Molestation: Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

Child molestation is one of the most grievous crimes that one can be charged with. It is a sexual offense against a minor, which goes to show just how serious it is. Sexual offenses are generally deeply frowned upon by society, and offenses against children are just as hated. If one is convicted of child molestation, they are virtually condemned to a lifetime of shame and exclusion.

Due to the weight attached to child molestation convictions, only those who are truly guilty of the crime should suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, numerous false accusations of child molestation are made regularly to various authorities. This leads to some innocent people being punished harshly for a crime they did not commit. Here is all you need to know about child molestation, when the statute of limitation applies, and how you can prove your innocence if you are falsely accused of the crime.

What Constitutes Child Molestation?

Child molestation involves using a child for one’s sexual arousal and gratification. Physical touch is an important element of child molestation; otherwise, a crime that does not entail touching the child would qualify as sexual abuse. Touching a child inappropriately, even where no penetration is involved, can result in a molestation conviction. However, exposing a child to pornography or having them watch sexual acts would not amount to molestation.

For one to be convicted of child molestation, the victim must be a minor. The perpetrator, on the other hand, does not need to be an adult. As long as they are three years older than the child, they can be tried for the crime, even if they are minors themselves.

Who Can Report a Child Molestation Allegation?

A victim of child molestation can report the occurrence to the authorities. Some professionals are also required by law to report allegations or suspicions of child molestation. These include teachers, social workers, and health care providers. They can tell suspected cases of child molestation where there are behavioral changes in a child, such as emotional outbursts, neglect, and undue aggression. Bruises on the child can also be indicators of molestation.

Child Molestation Charges and Punishment

Typically, a person is charged with child molestation depending on state laws. There are times, however, when this can be a federal offense, for instance, where it happens on government or military premises. Once one is charged, they can either plead guilty, not guilty, or enter a plea of no contest. If one is found guilty of molestation, they face:

• Imprisonment, which can be enhanced to life imprisonment
• Fines
• Losing all parental rights
• Probation and counseling
• A lifetime of ticking the sexual offender box

Courts weigh various factors before sentencing an individual. Some circumstances can aggravate the seriousness of the crime, while others can be extenuating. A few of the factors that a court considers before sentencing a person found guilty of child molestation include:

• Threatening or using force on the child
• Whether or not the child was a victim of kidnapping
• Whether the child was injured in the process
• The child’s age
• Whether the accused has had previous sexual offenses convictions

Child Molestation and the Statute of Limitations

Generally, the statute of limitations does not apply to child molestation cases. This means that the prosecutor’s office can charge a perpetrator several decades after they committed the crime. In some states, there is no time limit for when victims can bring civil suits against those who molested them as children. In others, however, the right to bring such a claim lapses once the victim turns 18.

What About False Allegations?

False allegations of child molestation are made against individuals more often than most people realize. Given the dire consequences that follow a child molestation conviction, innocent parties must be vindicated of unfounded claims.

If you are facing this predicament, your move is to prove that you could not have possibly committed the crime. This could be by providing an alibi or showing that you were not alone with the child when the molestation occurred. If you think that the child was molested, showing who the real perpetrator of the crime was can also help vindicate you.

However, you should avoid attacking a child’s character by all means. You may come across as too aggressive, which is often mistaken for guilt.

Conclusion

Child molestation is a serious crime. If you have been accused of this offense, you should contact a lawyer at the earliest opportunity. They can help you prepare a winning defense, in addition to clarifying sections of the law that may be blurry to you.

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