For the legal community.
You may be new to the world of the law and sexual criminality. More than likely, you will have a lot of questions. Many of which, we here at sex offender help can answer. There are attorneys across the country who specialize in sexual criminality and there is most likely one near you.
Know Your Rights And Use Them
By Dennis E. Widdis, Esq.
Criminal Defense Attorney
Reno, Nevada, September, 2010
Beginning with police investigators, the criminal justice system is not primarily concerned with protecting the rights of a suspected sex offender. "Community safety" dominates the process, and can become the only consideration where children are concerned. Once suspicion has fallen, a suspected sex offender often must prove their innocence before regaining freedom in any meaningful sense. That cannot be done without the help of a committed, competent and compensated defense attorney.
I will discuss many issues in later submissions to this helpful website, and issues involving defense counsel will be amongst them. For now, the focus is upon you.
Many criminal convictions are made possible only because the suspect made the decision to speak with police investigators, or consent to searches of their homes or offices. They made the basic mistake of trying to appear innocent. Even innocent people have a hard time looking innocent, especially when being viewed by suspicious eyes. Innocent mistakes or a lapse of memory can be mischaracterized as a willful lie, and contrary to the old saying, what you don't know can hurt you.
Three rules of self-defense, therefore, are: DO NOT TALK ... DO NOT CONSENT TO ANY SEARCHES ... ASK FOR A LAWYER.
Detectives investigating sex offenses are experienced professionals. They have many hours of specialized training in interrogation techniques, and possess skills developed over years of questioning suspected wrongdoers. They did not just pick your name out of a hat and decide upon a meet-and-greet. A report was made, fingers were pointed, and they have prepared themselves thoroughly before introducing themselves to you. Innocent, guilty, or someplace in between, you are overmatched. Just say, "No, I want a lawyer" to any request by a detective, policeman, or welfare investigator, to "just answer a few questions."
You have the right to remain silent, exercise it. You have the right to have a lawyer present, exercise it. You have a right to refuse consent to search your person, home, office, vehicle or other belongings; exercise that right. You have a right not to assist in your own prosecution. Don't.
Police are allowed to lie to a suspect, and do so if it furthers an investigation. Police will make you feel they will help you. They will not. Police sometimes minimize and dismiss the help a lawyer can provide. The truth: the only person in the criminal justice system, start to finish, who is there exclusively to help the accused is his lawyer. In fact, the relationship between a defense lawyer and his client is the most sacrosanct and protected relationship recognized by law.
Which brings us to the final area of discussion: talking about your dark secrets with other people, and getting help.
When a person tells a friend, lover or spouse that they have engaged in, or are engaging in, sexually criminal conduct it is sometimes a "cry for help." It is always an invitation to be exposed and prosecuted. Dark secrets never remain secret for long.
At least when a sex offense involves a minor, you are not even safe "telling all" to a counselor or pastor. In Nevada where I practice primarily, virtually everyone is a "mandatory reporter" of sex offenses involving children. See NRS 432B.220, and NRS 202.882-888. The only exceptions are: (1) an attorney who has acquired the knowledge "from a client who is or may be accused of the" crime, and (2) "a member of the clergy ... [who] has acquired the knowledge of the [crime] from the offender during a confession."
It is unclear what is meant by "a member of the clergy," or "a confession." Also, many religious leaders or counselors are simply repulsed by sex offenses and sex offenders. They believe the path to redemption begins with surrendering to authorities, and will help that process along if someone hesitates to voluntarily surrender to police.
The only truly-safe way of obtaining help with criminally sexual behavior is a defense attorney and a mental health professional retained through the defense attorney. Your road to recovery and healthy living should begin there. It should also be your first thought if and when a policeman or social service investigator asks for "just a minute of your time to answer a few questions."
Caveat: Sometimes, evidence of a person's silence or refusal to cooperate with police can be used to show guilt or to enhance a sentence. In my experience, that happens infrequently, and it seems an acceptable risk when compared to the devastating consequences resulting from most "voluntary" police statements.
Disclaimer: What appears here is for informational purposes only, and nothing is intended to be relied upon as specific legal advice. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and any reader. Always consult an attorney in your jurisdiction for specific legal advice. The opinions expressed are those of the author alone.
Examining America's Sex Laws
By Rafael Mariano,
Throughout history the physical and sexual abuse of children and women has been commonly practiced. The Greek and Roman child lived his or her earliest years in an atmosphere known today as "sexual abuse." At that time girls usually married before puberty to older men and little boys often were masturbated by their mothers to put them to sleep. Furthermore, history reveals that as women were at the margins of society, without any rights, often they were treated as man's possession, susceptible to their desires and abuse. What once was seen as commonplace and acceptable in society is clearly defined as criminal acts and laws have been created to protect the most vulnerable.
In the United States, the view of sexuality and human behavior started with the Puritan movement which brought strict controls on sexually morality. Consequently, these views and religious influences have created a climate in America in which there is little open talk about sex, sexuality, sexual desires, and no public sex education on TV. This creates a sexually repressed society which in many cases results in sex crimes. To contain this uninformed and repressed population, the government and it's politicians desiring to be "tough on crime" impose increasingly tougher regulations to punish and ultimately remove from society's eyes those individuals who could not manage their sexuality. As a result, convicted sex offenders are assigned a tier level and are put on sex-offender registries. The purpose of a risk assessment scale is to provide a standard for notification to the public so as to address the public safety concerns of the community regarding the location of convicted sex offenders who pose a risk of committing further offenses. These assessments are based upon a lengthy formula, which considers the seriousness of the offense, the number of instances, the factors of violence, etc. Currently Tier 1 is a low level offender that poses little risk, Tier 2 is moderate and Tier 3 is high risk. Unfortunately, this system is not accurate as many offenders are being reassigned to higher tier levels based on factors that do not statistically represent a higher risk. The tier system also fails in placing all sex offenders together on the same list for life without specifics on their crime and as a result it is not utilized in a way which would be most helpful.
Most significantly, registration of sex offenders and tier level assessment of sex offenders does not prevent re-offenses. According to Human Rights Watch, more sex crimes are committed by new sex offenders than by re-offenders. Further, there are approximately 700,000 Americans on sex-offender registries, and said number continues to grow because many states require registration for people who visit prostitutes, for consensual sex between young teenagers and for indecent exposure. As one can easily see, the present harsh laws don't really protect the innocent. The reality is that harsh laws help dangerous sex offenders, serial rapists and murderers to blend among those who don't offer risk to society because having too many petty sex offenders on registries makes it hard for law enforcement to keep track of the truly dangerous ones.
Furthermore, the great majority of offenders victimize individuals who are known, related, or intimate to the victim, contrary to media depictions of stranger assault or child molesters who kidnap children unknown to them. Thus, despite the public awareness of the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders, there has been no evidence shown that mandatory registration has made society safer.
Unfortunately, even though America's strict sex offense laws are not resolving the problem and are not preventing new sex crimes to occur, other countries are following American's example by importing Megan's laws or increasing penalties without providing the proper education and/or treatment for the convicted in order to prevent future crimes.
In contrast, there are countries like Brazil that do not follow America's example. Brazil does not impose harsh laws for sex offenses, does not have registration of sex offenders nor has a tier level assessment of sex offenders. Brazil's laws evolved with time and with the sophistication of the people. For example, in Brazil a person will only be criminally convicted of a sex crime involving minors, if the other person involved in the sexual act is under the age of 14 years because there is a presumption of violence, and this crime in Brazil is called "rape of the vulnerable." But there is an exception in Brazilian's criminal law, if it is proven that an individual under the age of 14 consented with the sexual act and that she or he had conscience of her or his sexual acts, the presumption disappears under the law and the sexual act is not characterized as criminal conduct. This exception exists because in Brazil, the legislator is trying to create laws that adapt with today's society and the understanding that in today's society there are teenagers under the age of 14 who possess experience and enough knowledge about sexual acts and their consequence. Unfortunately, the Brazilian's model is also failing, since as in the United States, the legislature is not providing education, counseling, support and treatment for those who are convicted of sex crimes. The Brazilian woman is the one most affected by sex crimes in the world according to a 2005 UN report regarding the rate of sex crimes worldwide. Despite this fact, Brazilian legislation considers some domestic violence crimes punishable with a lower penalty than a fight in the street.
Reality is that neither harsh laws nor less stringent laws are the solution to this growing problem. Perhaps the solution does not lie in the severity of the law. History shows that societies tend to ignore, isolate, and remove those that are different and problematic, which gives a false sense of security and order. This is chosen over treatment, understanding and counseling victims and offenders. Regrettably, in the United States, sexual offenders have become the modern day lepers of society. Instead of trying to understand, educate and treat sex offenders and society about them, we lock them up, isolating them from the general population and after they serve their time, they are put on registry lists. They are being marked for life just as lepers in the past were isolated on islands or marked with bells on their necks. There is the perception that there is no redemption for sex offenders. Humankind needs to learn from history: When lepers were treated as human beings and their disease was addressed and studied, leprosy was controlled, and became treatable and lepers were placed back into society to rebuild their lives. The United States, like many societies in the past, is only providing a symbolic response to sex crimes yet this is not fixing the problem. We need to have a deeper understanding as to how and why sex crimes happen in the first place.