There is a high occurrence of false accusations in child molestation prosecutions. In many cases there is no evidence against the accused other than the statements of the complaining child. Unfortunately, this means that anyone who spends time with children is at risk of a child molestation accusation. That means parents and other family members, of course, but we regularly see news stories and cases involving child molestation accusations against teachers, childcare workers, pastors, coaches, scout leaders, and health care providers.
Regardless of the underlying facts, if facing an accusation as serious as child molestation, you should engage an attorney as soon as possible – an attorney who understands how to defend a case where juror emotions can easily be inflamed by the nature of the conduct alleged. These inflamed emotions increase the risk of wrongful conviction, so it is crucial to have someone in your corner who knows how to help a jury get beyond its revulsion at the acts alleged.
If you have been accused of child molestation, you may be wondering what exactly the charges mean and what type of consequences you are facing if convicted. Below is an overview of the three types of child molestation charges in Washington.
Child Molestation in the First Degree
Child molestation in the first degree is the most serious charge in this category. It applies when the alleged victim is younger than 12. A person is guilty of child molestation in the first degree if they have had sexual contact with a child who is less than twelve years old and they are at least three years older than the child.
Washington state law defines “sexual contact” as “any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person done for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire of either party or a third party.”
Child molestation in the first degree is a Class A felony, so it is punishable by up to life in prison. However, the Standard Sentencing Range for someone with no prior record who is charged with one count of first-degree child molestation is 51 – 68 months in prison. Also, some defendants may be eligible for the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative, which allows for treatment in lieu of prison; this usually requires a defendant to serve a year in jail.
A conviction carries with it a lifetime sexual offender registration requirement.
Child Molestation in the Second Degree
The elements of child molestation in the second degree are the same as those for the first degree offense except with regard to the age of the accuser. If the sexual contact occurs with a child who is 12 or 13 years old and the accused is at least three years older than the victim, then it is a second-degree offense.
Child molestation in the second degree is a Class B felony, so it is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. However, again, in looking to the Standard Sentencing Range for this offense, a single offense is likely to result in a prison sentence of 15 – 20 months for a defendant with no previous criminal history.
This charge carries with it a 15-year sexual offender registration requirement.
Child Molestation in the Third Degree
Child molestation in the third degree is charged when the accuser in the case is either 14 or 15 years old and the accused is at least four years older than the accuser. Child molestation in the third degree is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. A single offense of child molestation in the third degree by a defendant with no criminal history would likely result in a sentence somewhere within the range of 6 – 12 months in jail.
This charge carries with it a 10-year sexual offender registration requirement.
If you are facing accusations of child molestation, the Marshall Defense Firm is here to help. Our experienced, skilled defense attorneys would be happy to discuss the matter with you. Please contact us at 206.826.1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.