Child Molestation Crimes in San Diego
Child molest cases are extremely difficult cases to defend because it usually
comes down to one person's word against another's word, usually
that of a minor. Most attorneys shy away from handling these cases as
they are labor intensive and subject to more specialized aggressive prosecution
than any other type of case. The severity of the consequences in these
cases requires a heightened level of diligence and competence in defending them.
A number of clients have been falsely accused of this crime. False accusations
frequently arise from divorce and child custody litigation where one spouse
is trying to gain leverage on the case.
Penalties for Child Molestation in California
Convictions on felony child molest cases typically result in lengthy prison
sentences and mandatory lifetime registration as a sex offender. Sexual
registration is also required on some misdemeanor sex offenses. For these
reasons, it is essential that everyone facing these type of charges seek
competent counsel to represent them.
Set-Up Calls in Sex Crime Investigations
One bit of advice – while the case is pending watch out for the "set-up"
phone call from the alleged victim, also known as a "pre-text call."
This phone call is being monitored by the police and tape recorded. Assuming
the alleged victim has consented to this procedure, the police do
not need a wiretap authorization to do this. Don't talk to anyone but
The Deck Is Stacked Against You
If you are charged with child molestation, you are facing the toughest
gauntlet of your life regardless of whether you are innocent or guilty.
Understand that our laws are made by legislators who cater to the public
to get elected by popular vote. Since legislators make the laws, never
expect them to make laws that favor someone accused of such crimes. In
fact, expect the opposite. As cynical as it may seem, you can count on
the fact that legislators wait in line for the opportunity to sponsor
a bill that makes it tougher on child molestation and sexual assaults
or makes it more difficult for an accused to question their accusers.
This is a fact, not a political opinion.
Child Witness Testimony
One of the main problems is that a child witness is generally less reliable
than an adult witness. They don’t understand, as do adults, the
importance of taking an “oath” to tell the truth. They also
don’t understand, as do adults, the immense penal and social consequences
of being accused and convicted of child molestation or sexual assault.
Once an accusation is made, your defense lawyer stands a minimal, if any,
chance of talking to the alleged victim. In fact, you probably won’t
get the relatives, the social workers who interviewed the victim, or law
enforcement to talk with your defense attorney, either. If you dare to
wait until the preliminary hearing to question the credibility of the
alleged victim you will be penalized by the system for making the child
take the witness stand.
Medical Evidence in Sexual Abuse Cases
With cases involving allegations of child sexual abuse, another problem
a defense lawyer must address is the lack of objectivity in the medical
community. Most doctors who are experienced in the examinations of child
molest victims work for the Children’s Hospital or a similar institution
in the local area. There are very few medical doctors in private practice
that have enough experience to be credible in contesting what the core
doctors opine. It is my opinion that the body of medical findings that
physical molest has occurred is biased and without proper scientific objectivity.
If you hire a very good doctor to contest the findings, they will be cross-examined
by showing they have done very few of genital examinations with the resources
of Children’s Hospital. This is truly a dangerous situation for
real justice and for those accused of molestation.
Factors in Sentencing
Another problem facing the accused in a child molestation or sexual assault
case is the extreme severity of the punishments. If you are convicted
of molesting more than one victim, you are facing life in prison. This
is called the “one strike” law and judges have no discretion
to strike the allegation even in the interest of justice. This means,
for example, if you actually molested one child but the brother or neighbor
also says you did it to them as well, you are facing life. You have no
way to admit what you did and contest the act you didn’t do without
facing a life sentence.
Be Honest with Your Attorney
If you are guilty of child molestation or sexual assault, you need to consider
admitting it quickly to your lawyer so he or she can show you the right
steps to take responsibility for your acts and obtain a mitigated sentence.
The system may show some mercy if you admit early, save the victims the
embarrassment of a court hearing, and seek treatment. A good defense attorney
experienced in cases involving allegations of child sexual abuse will
commission a sexual psychological examination to show the D.A. and the
court that you are not a fixated pedophile and that you are at low risk
to re-offend. It is good for you if you are what they call a situational
violator and not a true ingrained pedophile. Maybe you lost your job,
began drinking heavily, and lost your inhibitions when the opportunity
arose. Beware, however, that an early admission of guilt in the wrong
hands can also make your case much worse.
Particularly with recent laws, be prepared to spend many years in prison
if there is more than one victim. If the DA’s office can credibly
allege multiple victims and acts of substantial sexual conduct you will
be sentenced heavily. Each situation is unique, but you will be sentenced
to many more years than had you committed these acts just a few years
ago. If there is a single victim the DA does not have the leverage of
a life sentence and chances are a good defense attorney can plea bargain
Winning a Molestation Case at Trial
If you are forced to go to trial, your defense lawyer and his investigator
must put forth a tremendous pre-trial and trial effort to win. The investigator
must attempt to interview all potential helpful people including school
teachers, counselors, fellow students, babysitters, relatives, family,
and any other relevant persons. You should motion for and/or subpoena
all possible documents that could shed light on the situation including
school records, medical records, and therapy records. A good defense lawyer
experienced in such cases is well versed in the special hurdles that can
otherwise frustrate access to the evidence you need.
Expert Testimony in Child Molestation Cases
In addition, you will need experts to cover many areas. Like in the adult
sexual assault cases you need to find the motive why the child is fabricating.
The options will depend on the particular facts of your case, including
the age of the child. There are many books written in this area and your
lawyer should know the major treatises on the subject. You will probably
need an expert in the area of suggestibility to demonstrate that when
a child has been interviewed so many times by the parents, the relatives,
the police, and the social workers that it is hard to tell what they really
know compared to what has been augmented by the interview process. Again,
your lawyer should know the well-qualified experts in the area. Social
science research shows that false accusations exist in cases involving
allegations of child sexual abuse. The rates of false accusations can
be high, as in the case of teenagers who are tired of having a step parent
in the home.
In addition, you may want to present evidence that you don’t possess
the character of a child molester. This is typically evaluated by a psychologist
and may be augmented by a sexual examination to show that your sexual
interests do not include children of the age involved in the case. In
many geographical areas there are psychologists who specialize in forensic
evaluations of this nature. If your purpose is for plea bargaining, you
want to make sure you get an expert the D.A. respects. If your purpose
is for trial, you want to make sure you get one with good academic credentials
who can withstand what will surely be an aggressive cross-examination
by the prosecutor.