Sex offenses, whether they involve accusations of sexual conduct with a child or with an adult, are the most frightening of all charges, in part because they involve the notorious sex offender registry.
I address the issue of child pornography separately, which also involves possible registration as a sex offender.
The accusation of rape is life altering; in response, people accused of sexual misconduct can sometimes hurt their case by seeking to explain their conduct, or deny conduct, when interviewed by an investigator. Before speaking with a law enforcement officer, child protective services social worker, or anyone about the case, a person accused of a sex offense should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
How can I prove my innocence in a sex case?
An investigation into a sex-related offense is a scary process that is fraught with pitfalls. In many cases, police lack forensic evidence. Consequently, investigators are trying to determine who is telling the truth based on inconsistencies or differences in stories.
Proving a negative is often difficult, and in many cases impossible. Therefore, speaking about a sex-related offense with investigators can often lead to inadvertent admissions that the person was present with the alleged victim, that some conduct did not occur, even if the person being investigated does not believe the conduct involved a criminal offense.
It is crucially important when approached with a sex-related accusation or investigation to consult with an attorney, rather than attempt to prove your innocence by talking to investigators without a lawyer presence.
What are the potential consequences of a sex related conviction?
In the case of forcible rape, North Carolina imposes a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison, followed by sex offender registry upon release. Lesser crimes may involve jail time, and will likely involve some sort of sex offender registry. Even low level sex-related felonies generally require sex offender registration that may be reviewable only after 10 years.
How can I avoid the sex offender registry?
For certain types of sex offenses, the registry is mandatory. Any conviction involving rape, indecent liberties, or the possession, distribution or creation of child pornography (in North Carolina, the crime is called exploitation of a minor/child) will include registration as a sex offender.
That registration will limit where you can live, where you can physically be, and various employment opportunities. In short, sex offender registration is like a kind of virtual jail that follows you around.
Even the misdemeanor sexual battery involves sex offender registry.
Avoiding the sex offender registry will, in many cases, mean trying to avoid a conviction altogether, since registration is a statutory requirement associated with the conviction to certain offenses.
Should I talk to Child Protective Services (CPS)?
If the allegation against you involve a child, you may be approached by child protective services. It is important for you to not make any statements to anyone, including CPS, without the advice of a criminal lawyer who handles these types of cases. You may make statements that can be used against you in criminal court.
The decision to talk to CPS is one you should only make with the advice and consultation of a lawyer. The lawyer will probably want to be present during any interview, if you decide to be interviewed by CPS.
CPS has tremendous power that is almost unfettered. As a result, CPS may threaten to place you in the Responsible Individuals List, or threaten to prevent you from having contact or custody of your own children. You certainly need to talk to a lawyer before talking with CPS.
Should I take a lie detector?
A lie detector, also known as a polygraph, is not a very reliable device, but is often used as an investigative tool. The results are inadmissible at trial. However, you may be asked to undergo a polygraph examination. If asked, talk to your lawyer. In general, moving forward with a polygraph exam runs the risk that the detective will ask you why you are being “deceptive” if you deny the allegations. You may try to provide an “answer” to satisfy the detective’s question.
You may elect to undergo a lie detector test, and in fact your lawyer may advise you to retain your own polygrapher where police have not offered a lie detector. However, you should do so only with the advice of a lawyer.
Police may also ask you to undergo a voice stress analysis. This device is worse than unreliable. It is junk. You should talk to a lawyer before you decide to undergo any lie detector or voice stress analysis exam.