Juvenile Sex Offenses
Kids see and hear about sex everywhere. They are exposed to sexual images on television, through popular songs, in movies, and through video games. This flood of sexual information can lead to confusion and inappropriate behavior. Kids who act inappropriately on their sexual impulses or feelings are prosecuted. Acts by juveniles that might once have been considered “curiosity”, “experimentation or “bad judgment” are now felony sex offenses. Kids who “play doctor” are now charged with felony sex offenses.
Juvenile sex offenses have severe consequences in Washington State. A juvenile convicted of a sex offense will be required to register as a Sex Offender. Sex offender registration information is available to the public until a Judge grants relief from registration. Juveniles charged with the most serious sex offenses crime, or who are repeat offenders, may face time in a juvenile rehabilitation facility . Careful handling of these cases early on is also critical to positive outcomes in future motions such as requesting relief from sex offender registration and sealing your child’s record. Certain juvenile sex offenses cannot be sealed, therefore, if your child is charged with a sex offense, it is critical to have an experienced attorney present information on your child’s behalf to negotiate for a resolution that will allow your child to seal his or her case in the future.
Juveniles commit sex offenses for many reasons. Understanding these reasons is the most important component of defending juveniles charged with a sex offense. Early contact with an attorney is essential to guiding your child’s case and choosing a course of action that will have the most benefit for your child. In many cases, juveniles act out sexually because they have been victims of sexual abuse themselves, or are suffering from confusion regarding sex in general. In these cases, treatment is essential to address the child’s needs and establish boundaries to help your child develop healthy relationships. Michele has excellent relationships with many Certified Sex Offender Treatment Providers who are essential to resolving these issues.
In other cases, juveniles are charged with sex offenses because what was perceived as a consensual act is reported as an aggressive or hurtful act. Early intervention by an attorney is essential to preserving evidence. An attorney can hire an investigator to interview witnesses and create a record of evidence and statements that can be used later to prevent charging, negotiate for a better outcome, or support a theory at trial.
Sibling and Family Offenses
A surprising number of juvenile sex offenses occur between siblings. Michele has extensive experience navigating situations where parents find themselves in the difficult situation of being the parent of both the victim and the offender.
These cases also have special concerns because Child Protective Services has a duty to investigate and determine whether the home environment is safe for both children. It is essential to be prepared for a CPS investigation and to address the safety concerns. If you are contacted by CPS or the Department of Social and Health Services you should contact an attorney immediately.
Special Sex Offender Dispositional Alternative (SSODA)
Washington recognizes children commit sex offenses for a variety of reasons and many will benefit from treatment. The SSODA program allows qualifying children to enter a community based treatment program in lieu of a JRA sentence. If the child successfully completes their treatment and probation requirements and does not have new offenses their case will be closed at the end of the treatment period. Many sex offenses are now eligible to be sealed after a period of time. Michele has worked with many children who have successfully completed the SSODA program and will guide your child and family through the process of obtaining a Juvenile Sexual Behavior Evaluation, entering and being successful in Sex Offender Treatment, and maintaining compliance with the strict requirements of the SSODA program.
Juvenile Sexual Behavior Evaluation and Risk Assessment
If a juvenile has been charged with or convicted of a sex offense, he or she will likely be required to participate in a Juvenile Sexual Behavior Evaluation and Risk Assessment. A qualified treatment provider will interview your child and family about general behavior, sexual behavior, family relationships, learning disabilities or cognitive and mental health issues. The evaluator will then review the information provided and make a determination about whether the child will be successful in treatment and presents a risk of future sexual offenses. A positive evaluation is the key to acceptance into the SSODA program. Michele has relationships with many treatment providers and can help find the right fit for your family.
For a complete list of sex offender treatment providers, download this PDF document: http://www.doh.wa.gov/portals/1/Documents/2300/directory.pdf.
Juvenile Sex Offender Treatment
Juveniles convicted of a sex offense will be required to participate in a 12-24 month Sex Offender Treatment program. In this program your child will have individual sessions with their treatment provider as well as group sessions with peer-aged youths. Your child will also be required to complete homework and keep a daily journal.
Parent Support Groups
Being the parent of a juvenile charged with a sex offense is a very challenging and emotional role. For some parents, the availability of a Parent Support Group has been the key to successfully working through the process. Children do better in treatment when their parents are actively involved in the process. Parents will learn about the Sex Offender Treatment program, the expectations placed on their child, and how to support their child throughout the process. For more information on current availability of Parent Support Groups please see [pamphlet from Tim Kahn].
Sexually Aggressive Youth (SAY)
When a child under the age of 12 commits a sexually aggressive act or other act that is sexual nature they may be referred by the State to the SAY program in lieu of being charged with a crime. Children under the age of 12 are presumed incompetent to commit crimes. If a child is referred to the SAY program he or she will be offered services including treatment. Michele has been very successful in convincing prosecutors not to file criminal charges or refer children to the SAY program. If your child engages in this type of behavior Michele will help you put a plan in place to treat the issue early and demonstrate to the prosecutor that referrals are not necessary.
Sex Offender Registration
Any juvenile convicted of a sex offense will be required to register as a sex offender. Sex offender registration means the child’s name will be part of a database maintained by law enforcement that is available to the public. The database lists the names of all sex offenders in Washington State. Sex offenders are ranked as levels 1, 2, or 3 depending on the severity of their crime and the risk to the community. The law enforcement agency where your child resides and registers will make the determination about leveling. If your child is ranked as a level 2 or 3 their name will be published to the community and available on the online database. Most level 1 sex offenders are not published unless they are out of compliance with registration requirements. The majority of sex offenders are classified as level 1 and are considered at a low risk to reoffend. Here is a link to more information and the sex offender database.
Child molestation occurs when a person has sexual contact with another person who is too young to consent to the contact. Children can commit the crime of child molestation. The circumstances and ages of the perpetrator and victim will determine which level of crime occurred.
Indecent Liberties occurs when sexual contact occurs and the victim is forced to engage in the contact or is unable to consent to the sexual contact. This charge may be brought in circumstances where a young person forces themselves on a peer aged acquaintance for the purposes of sexual contact. Indecent Liberties charged with Forcible Compulsion is a very serious offense and in many cases cannot be Sealed.
Forcible rape occurs where a person engages in sexual intercourse with other person who has not consented or is not capable of consenting. An inability to consent can occur when a person is intoxicated, suffers from a mental disorder, or is physically helpless. Defending accusations of forcible rape are difficult and require an aggressive approach.
Rape of a Child
Rape of a child occurs when someone has sexual intercourse with another person who is too young to consent to sexual intercourse. It most often occurs where a child alleges that an older child has touched their genitals. Sexual intercourse includes any penetration, no matter how slight. The age of consent varies depending on how old the accused person is. For instance, a fourteen year-old can have sexual intercourse with a sixteen year-old but not an eighteen year-old. Sexual intercourse includes a wide range of conduct and is not limited to genital sexual intercourse. This is often an area where false allegations are made, particularly when adults hear children talking about sexual touching and begin asking questions. Adults not trained in child interview techniques can easily place ideas in children’s heads that they then adopt as their own version of events. Michele is experienced with the appropriate standards of child interview techniques and identifying when child victims may have been tampered with.
Voyeurism occurs when a person views, photographs, or films another person’s intimate areas in a place where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Kids have more access than ever to cameras and video through their cell phones and this can lead to serious trouble. Talk to your kids about appropriate use of cell phones and expectations of privacy. Even if an individual consents to an intimate photograph, they may change their mind later.
Sexting is a crime that occurs when someone sends a sexual image of a minor within a text message. Washington prosecutes these offenses as Communicating with a Minor for Immoral Purposes. This crime is a sex offense and requires the juvenile to register as a sex offender.