Over half of molestation-abuse accusations are false, yet this crime has the highest conviction rate of any felony charge. An accusation of child molestation can start in a divorce/custody battle and lead to juvenile and criminal cases. An anonymous accusation of abuse can lead to the removal of your children, to criminal charges, to separation from your spouse, and ultimately to a prison sentence. Your only defense is to understand the system you face and having the most experienced legal representation possible.
It is very easy to be falsely accused of child abuse or child molestation, but it is exceptionally difficult to be exonerated in court.
Even though 60% of molest or abuses charges are false, more of these trials end in the wrongful conviction of the innocent than any other type of criminal case. Widespread media attention has caused a state of hysteria in which people who are accused are presumed guilty. This highly emotional charge tends to destroy the ability of the system to handle such cases objectively.One charge of molest or abuse can send a parent, professional or any adult who deals with children to prison for up to eight years. In most cases it is a mandatory sentence and, therefore, many innocent people are now serving long prison sentences.
If you are accused of molest or abuse, you do not want to risk these odds of being convicted for a crime you did not commit. That is why it is critical that you understand what you face in this type of case and what you must do to protect your freedom, your reputation, and your family.
How can you win?
First and foremost, if you hope to win your case, you need experienced legal representation in this highly specialized field. Your attorney is the leader of a team of experts who engineer a comprehensive and decisive plan of defense.
Case law dealing with molest and abuse is complex. For that reason, our firm has extensive brief banks of law on all important issues that arise in these cases. This research allows us to present a defense to the jury and judge that thoroughly explains the case. At the same time, we use these brief banks to prepare motions that block inflammatory or irrelevant evidence from being introduced by the prosecution.
Thorough investigations are necessary in most cases to develop evidence for the defense. Our investigators are carefully trained in defense tactics and theories so they can gather relevant information that others often overlook. Even before being formally charged, a professional investigator can provide the information needed to dissuade the prosecution from pursuing a frivolous case or to have the case dismissed before going to a full-blown trial.
Another essential part of your team is the expert witnesses that your attorney can use to defend you. They educate the jury about the physiological, psychological, and medical issues in your case, and provide the information necessary to refute the prosecution’s witnesses. Our experts have the latest controlled studies on these issues, collected and translated by our firm from international sources.
What to Do If Accused…
Under no circumstances should you talk about your case with anyone (police detectives, clergy, doctor, therapist, friends, social workers, state agencies, or parents) until you have retained an attorney. Your statements to your doctor, clergy, and therapist are not privileged (confidential).
Not talking is the hardest urge to control you hope to explain what really happened. The police rely on that emotion to get as much information from you as possible in order to prosecute you.Immediately contact an attorney who specializes in child abuse cases. He can help you pre-arrange bail so that you can avoid spending any length of time in jail if arrested. People accused of child abuse are targets for beatings. Do not tell any other inmate what you are charged with! Do not rely on the police investigation to uncover all the facts. Your only hope of proving your innocence is having a defense investigator discover and protect important defense evidence before it is lost.
If called by the accuser or a family member of the accuser, hang up immediately. The call may be taped by the police and any statement you make can be taken out of context and used against you to build a case.
Be prepared for a search of your house, car or even your workplace. The police most commonly look for pictures of children, books and magazines with sexual material, sex toys, sex manuals or encyclopedias, diaries, correspondence or address books. Address books and correspondence are used to contact anyone you know, including your employer. They may also look for any private notes on your case that are not clearly marked Attorney/Client Work Product.
Should your house be searched, you have no right to interfere. Call your attorney during the search and do not engage in any conversation with the police.
What happens in Criminal Court?If you suspect that you might be criminally charged with abuse or molest, an attorney can begin an investigation of your case and help you make the financial arrangements necessary for a bail bond or own recognizance release even before the charges are filed. Arranging your bail prior to any formal charges will keep you from spending any unnecessary time in jail.
If you have not made prior arrangements through your attorney, you could be arrested at work or at home rather than voluntarily surrendering yourself. In either case, you will be finger-printed and photographed prior to being released.
Next, you will be arraigned in Court where you will be informed of the charges against you and your rights. At the second hearing, which is called the preliminary hearing, the court decides whether or not there is sufficient evidence to bind your case over to Superior Court for trial.
If you are bound over for trial, you will go to Superior Court for arraignment, the presentation of motions, and for a trial date.Depending on your case, your trial may be scheduled from 60 days to 6 months from the date of your arraignment and can last from a few days to several weeks. All 12 jurors must vote not guilty in order to acquit you.
Criminal charges of child abuse will take a tremendous emotional, financial and psychological toll on you and your family because criminal charges put you in the greatest risk of losing your freedom, your family, and your life as you once knew it.
What happens in Juvenile Court?
Anyone can be accused of abuse, which includes neglect, emotional or psychological abuse, corporal punishment, and physical or sexual abuse.
Removal of Children
An anonymous report can result in the removal of your children from your home or their school without your permission or knowledge. Child Protective Services can detain your children for up to 48 hours without notifying you and can strip search them or give them vaginal and anal exams without your consent.
If charged, the process begins with a detention hearing. At the hearing, a judge decides whether or not the children can be returned to their home. You can lose your children to the system at this hearing, even though you have not had a trial.
Your trial will usually be set within 30 days. However, because of case loads and time restraints, you may be offered a plea bargain of no contest. Should this happen, remember, that if you accept a plea bargain, the court and CPS will treat you as an abuser or molester, and you will never have a second chance to prove your innocence.
Trial / Jurisdictional Hearing
Your trial is called a jurisdictional hearing in which the judge decides the truthfulness of the accusations. If they are found to be true, the state becomes the parent of the children.
At the disposition hearing, the court will decide where to keep your children, visitation issues, and counseling issues.
The toll of these actions not only severely affects the parents involved, but may permanently damage the children emotionally and psychologically. The best protection you can give your children is to find the right attorney who can quickly terminate the case. Your attorney can help prevent the placement of your children in long-term foster care or in the state’s adoption process.
What Happens in Divorce Court?
Divorce court is the arena in which most false charges of abuse or molest occur because one parent wants complete custody of the children and is willing to damage the children psychologically and emotionally by pitting them against the non-custodial parent. This may be the most devastating of all three courts because the accused is not only going through the emotional trauma of divorce, but risks losing his or her children and then facing juvenile or criminal charges alone.
If charged, the process usually begins with a temporary order initiated by the spouse that prohibits you from seeing your children.
The case will be assigned to a mediator who is usually a counselor. The mediator is required to report accusations of child abuse or molest to CPS and the police. If the court did not issue an order preventing you from visiting the children, CPS might then file a petition in Juvenile Court to prevent you from seeing your children.
Your trial may be postponed indefinitely because the court calendars are so full. The case will go back to the mediator who will continue to make recommendations to the judge, which usually limit your visitation rights and attempt to settle your case out of court. It is critical to present a defense that shows motive, and many times this is shown through the introduction of parental-alienation syndrome. It is also crucial that the children be placed with the non-alienating parent. However, this is extremely difficult because the non-alienating parent is the parent under the cloud of an accusation.
Even if you do go to court and win, there is no guarantee that charges will not be made in juvenile or criminal court against you. The end result is that you are financially and emotionally drained, and you may still lose custody of your children.
Certified Criminal Law Specialists: A Necessity
The California State Bar has developed a program to distinguish attorneys as “Certified Criminal Law Specialists.” To qualify, an attorney must meet rigid standards of work experience and specialized education. Only after several years of practice may an attorney apply to take a second, one-day bar examination that tests his knowledge exclusively in criminal law, and after passing that exam, does the attorney become state certified in this specialty.