Understand what a sex offense is
There are many different types of sex offenses that a juvenile can commit. Aside from nonconsensual sexual touchings and acts, two very common juvenile sex offense charges are Rape of a Child or Child Molestation. There are different degrees of Rape of a Child or Child Molestation. The exact degree of crime depends on the type of sexual activity, the age of the younger child and the number of months between the younger child and the older child. Even the briefest sexual touching of the private areas of a child deemed too young by statute can constitute child molestation. The significance of a sex offense is that if your child is convicted of a sex offense, he will be required to register as a sex offender, may face significant loss of liberty and the conviction will be a matter of open public record forever.
Be aware of the red flags that your child may be charged with a sex offense
The first red flag is becoming aware from a family member or friend that your child may have had some sexual contact with a younger child.The biggest red flag that a juvenile sex offense charge may be coming your child’s way is when you learn that CPS and/or the police have been notified that your child reportedly had sexual contact with another younger child. Often the report is made by a mandated reporter (for example, a counselor or a teacher) who received a disclosure of sexual abuse from a child or the child’s parent. CPS is then required by law to notify law enforcement. Law enforcement is required by law to investigate and to report their investigation to the prosecuting authorities whenever their investigation reveals that a crime may have occurred.
Be knowledgeable and ready for responding appropriately to the call from CPS or law enforcement
There are many ways for a well meaning parent to make big mistakes when his or her child is under investigation for a sex offense. It is critical for a parent not to assume that law enforcement or the prosecuting authority will be lenient or understanding simply because your child is still only a child himself. A parent also must not assume that because the younger child’s parents do not want criminal prosecution, that a law enforcement investigation is a harmless formality. The job of CPS and law enforcement is to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse which means they gather statements, evidence and confessions for a prosecutor to review for consideration of filing felony sex offense charges in court. In this process, law enforcement may try to question a parent about the circumstances surrounding what his or her child may have done or said and thus, the parent may end up being a witness to a sex offense charge against his or her own child.
Be prepared if law enforcement decides to arrest your child
While many law enforcement investigations do not result in arrest, sometimes the police do arrest children. In this circumstance, neither the parent or child should not get into a verbal or physical tussle with law enforcement if an arrest is to be made. Most important is that your child should know that he does not have to nor should he give a statement. The police will either arrest and release your child later or arrest and take your child to detention. Giving a statement will not change likely not change that plan. However, the wrong statement, including denials of responsibility, can have a lasting and negative impact on the case. This is a critical time to contact counsel for guidance. Until counsel is involved, respectful silence is the best and safest course.
Be prepared for court
The most important first step for a parent is to retain an attorney experienced in juvenile sex offense representation. In some cases, some attorneys may be effective in seeking to intervene before a sex offense charge is filed. An attorney may also help a parent anticipate how to best protect and position their child for possible sex offense charges. This will usually involve discussions around avoiding contact with the alleged victim and advising your child not to talk to anyone other than a lawyer about what happened. In some cases, an attorney may advise getting started on a specialized sexual behavior evaluation or further independent investigation or both. Once your child is charged in juvenile court, the attorney can prepare you for securing a release on conditions while the case is pending. In most cases, the judge will likely impose extensive conditions of release i.e., rules that must be followed if an accused youth is to stay out of detention while the charge is pending.