A conviction for child abuse can lead to some of the harshest penalties the United States legal system can give. These penalties include long jail term sentences, a lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender or child molester, the conviction going on your permanent criminal record, continual involvement with the Child Protection Services (CPS) agency and being stripped of parental rights for your own child or children. Apart from these, there are other consequences such as a ruined reputation and difficulty finding a decent residence or job. The situation is made worse by the media frenzy and hysteria that often surrounds cases of sexual assault and even more so when the victim of the assault is a child.
However, if you are charged with sexual assault of a child or child molestation, there are a number of defenses which may be able to save you from having to take the full brunt of consequences that are associated with this crime. Some of these are listed below:
Presumption of Innocence
This is the most basic defense to child molestation charges. If you use this defense, it is important to have a proper alibi. Essentially, you must say that you were not at the place the assault took place, at the time of the assault and back this up with proof that you were somewhere else at the time of the crime. Hence, it is impossible that you were the perpetrator of the crime.
For example, if John Doe was accused of molesting a child in New York City on 14th September 2011, but he says that he was actually in Seattle on that date and back it up with hotel records, credit card bills and flight information, it will be an effective alibi for convincing the jury that John Doe did not molest the child.
Defendants can also claim that the victim misidentified them as the perpetrator. This claim will usually have to be backed up with DNA evidence collected from the crime scene. If the defendant’s DNA does not match the DNA evidence collected from the crime scene, then “reasonable doubt” has been created. Once reasonable doubt has been created, the jury will usually have to return to acquittal.
Insanity or Mental Incapacity
Defendants who claim that they had a mental defect or were mentally incapacitated when the crime was committed can receive some leniency in their sentence. If the defendant can prove that the defect or incapacitation prevented him or her from knowing or remembering that sexual contact with a child is illegal, or prevented them from realizing that the person with whom they were engaging with sexually was a child, then they might not have to face the full wrath of the law.
This is also dependent on the nature of the incapacitation that the defendant was suffering from. Medical conditions which have a significant effect on cognitive function, such as dementia or a severe brain injury, can act as a good defense. Using prescription medication as directed by a doctor can also be a good defense if the medication has an effect on a person’s cognitive function.
If the defendant blames the crime on recreational substances such as alcohol or opiates, the jury will probably not be convinced the defendant is innocent.
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