Sexual offenses are among the most serious charges that a defendant can face. The vast majority of these offenses are felonies, and conviction for any of them automatically qualifies an accused as a sex offender under Megan’s Law. As such, you should fight for your legal rights, freedom, and reputation by mounting a solid legal strategy to defend Pennsylvania sexual offense charges.
In This Article
This article addresses six methods for defending Pennsylvania sexual offense cases by a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer and what to do if you face questioning, investigation, or arrest.
Defense 1. Consent Defense
The majority of sex crimes are predicated on this fundamental criminal element. You should not receive a conviction if you can prove that intercourse was consensual. However, it is worth noting that consent is irrelevant in statutory sexual assault cases.
Elements that can preclude your case from a consent defense include:
- Minor-aged Complainants
- Consent under victim duress
Rape and other sex offense laws are in place to protect people from being coerced into participating in sex acts against their will. If the sexual act is consensual, then no crime occurred in the eyes of the law. Prosecutors are responsible for establishing a lack of consent beyond a reasonable doubt, which could also provide you with a viable defense.
Defense 2. Incapacitation
Legal insanity is a mental state that unknowingly causes you to commit a sexual offense. If you can establish that you were legally incapable of understanding wrongdoing, then you may have a valid defense. In addition, demonstrating that you were forcibly or involuntarily intoxicated allows you to defend against your actions as well.
Essentially, you tell the court that your ability to discern right from wrong was impaired, implying that you acted without malice. These are not easy defenses to establish before a jury. As a result, an experienced sex crime attorney is a priceless asset in forming a successful defense.
Defense 3. Mistake of Age
Age is not a sufficient defense for the majority of sex crimes. It is only available if the victim is fourteen years of age or older. You were understandably led to believe that the complainant was of age at the time of the act. If the victim is under fourteen (14), this defense is not valid.
Additionally, mistake of age is not a valid defense to any statutory charge of sexual assault. This defense would be most effective in reducing the sentence, as the penalties typically increase in severity the younger victim’s age was at the time of the crime.
Defense 4. Police Misconduct Defenses
Sexual offenses are a sensitive subject that must be taken very seriously. Individuals, including law enforcement and prosecutors, will look for someone to prosecute. This situation can result in rash judgments or processing errors.
A sex crime defense attorney will analyze police files, retain experts, and conduct interviews with all parties involved in the criminal process to ensure that no errors were made and your rights were protected. If law enforcement violates your civil rights, you might have a viable defense to the sex crime charges you are facing or you may be able to get evidence thrown out as a result.
Defense 5. Alibi Defense
An alibi defense is when you tell the court that you could not have committed the crime since you were in another location or with someone else when it happened. This defense type seeks to undermine a central element of the prosecution’s case, which is your identity. If prosecutors cannot show that you committed the criminal act, a jury or judge should not find you guilty of a sex crime.
If you assert an alibi defense, you must produce evidence and testimony to support your claim. As such, your defensive strategy will require you to produce admissible photographs, receipts, witnesses, and experts if you want your alibi defense to be successful. You must also notify prosecutors of your intent to use an alibi defense through the proper legal channels.
Related Article: How Strong Is an Alibi Defense?
Defense 6. Statute of Limitations Defense
Per 18 Pa.C.S. § 5552, prosecutors must initiate proceedings with two (2) years of the offense’s commission as a general rule. This period is formally known as the Statute of limitations.
However, the law codified more extended periods for specific crimes, especially those committed against children, which we’ll discuss in this section. Regardless of your case’s actual deadline, you may have a legal defense against criminal sex charges if the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania attempts to charge you past the Statute of Limitations that applies to your case.
Below, we’ve outlined the Statute of Limitations according to their deadlines.
Twelve (12) Years: Major Sexual Offenses
The Statute also prescribes a twelve (12) year Statute of Limitations to “Major sexual offenses,” including:
- Aggravated indecent assault
- Institutional sexual assault
- Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
- Sexual abuse of children
- Sexual assault
- Statutory sexual assault
As such, you could face charges for an alleged incident over a decade ago or longer. Evidence degrades, and memories fade over time, making it challenging to defend your case due to the longer Statute of limitations. However, that may also mean that it’s hard to obtain a conviction depending upon the facts of your case, the prosecutor’s case theory, and evidence against you.
Until the Child Reaches Age Fifty (50)
The Statute of Limitations on alleged crimes committed against minor-aged children does not start until the Complainant reaches age eighteen (18). Then, they have until age fifty (50) to pursue criminal sex charges.
This rule applies to the following criminal offenses in Pennsylvania:
- Aggravated indecent assault
- Corruption of minors
- Endangering the welfare of children
- Indecent assault
- Indecent exposure
- Involuntary deviation from sexual intercourse
- Sex trafficking
- Sexual abuse of children
- Sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation of children
- Sexual servitude
- Statutory sexual assault
This rule significantly expands the types of sex with longer limitations. If you face any of these charges, it is critical that you mount a solid legal defense. Otherwise, you could unnecessarily face charges for a crime that prosecutors have no legal right to pursue.
Defense 7. Romeo and Juliet Defense
Was your child arrested for a sex offense over an event that occurred consensually between them and a minor close to their age? You might be able to use the Romeo and Juliet defense if they were both under age 18 but there was a four-year or less age difference.
For more information about Pennsylvania’s Romeo and Juliet defense laws, click here.
What to Do If Accused, Investigated, or Arrested for a Sexual Offense in Pennsylvania
Anyone under investigation in Pennsylvania for a sex crime should contact an experienced attorney immediately, even if law enforcement asks you to come in for questioning. A single misstep or misstatement could result in criminal charges.
Hiring a Philadelphia sex crimes lawyer will help you avoid inadvertently or unknowingly waiving your rights. We can also assist you in interviewing witnesses and preserving evidence that could clear your name. However, it’s essential to protect your case proactively in the meantime.
Step 1. Get Legal Representation As Soon As Possible
It is vital to retain counsel as soon as you learn of a criminal investigation or charges. Contacting an attorney early on will support your strategy to control as much of the outcome as possible. It also helps you amass evidence and consider potential defensive tactics that you overlooked.
Step 2. Remain Silent
You have the right to remain silent. If arrested or questioned for a sexual offense in Pennsylvania, you do not want to speak to law enforcement without an attorney present. Even if you are not under arrest, your words may still be used against you, so it is necessary to exercise legal caution.
Step 3. Manage Expectation
Police can seize your smartphone, computer, laptop, tablet, and other devices if they obtain the proper search warrants. They have the authority to subpoena your phone records and search your home to take personal items associated with the case, such as clothing, bedding, and other household items.
This process will feel incredibly uncomfortable. However, an attorney can review the facts to strike inadmissible evidence or fight against illegal searches. We also ensure that no one is violating your rights as they search your personal effects.
Step 4. Safeguard Your Case (And Reputation)
Individuals charged with sex crimes suffer the consequences long before they have the opportunity to present their case in court. Even a mere accusation has the potential to tarnish your reputation indefinitely. An experienced sex crimes defense attorney can assist you in mitigating potential case damage by speaking to the media on your behalf and denying the charges vehemently.
Step 5. Follow Your Lawyer’s Legal Advice
The most effective defense is a strong offense. The sooner you retain an attorney, the more aggressively your rights and privacy can be protected. Additionally, you can review your legal options and build your case by interviewing witnesses, preserving pertinent evidence, and demonstrating to the prosecutors your intention to contest their charges vigorously.
Your criminal defense lawyer wants nothing more than to see you walk free or obtain the best deal. Ensure you manage risk effectively, both personally and professionally, throughout the duration of your case. This strategy could result in prosecutors reducing or even dismissing their charges entirely.
Schedule a Free Case Evaluation to Defend Your Case
Consult with Brad V. Shuttleworth, Esq. as soon as possible. Your Philadephia sex crimes attorney will work with you to determine all possible defenses to your charges. Regardless of the applicable defense available, we will assist you in presenting your defense persuasively while meeting statutory obligations.