Sex Crimes are some of the most serious crimes charged in our society. If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime, contact a Philadelphia sex crimes attorney at The Zeiger Firm for a free consultation on what can be done to fight a sex crimes case. Few criminal cases generate the sort of reaction that sex crime charges or arrests bring. Our Philadelphia sex crimes attorneys are experienced to know, false allegations of rape and other sex crimes happen all too often. That is why it is vitally important to have an attorney represent the accused as early as possible in these cases.
With aggressive investigation and lawyering, the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys at The Zeiger Firm have convinced authorities to drop and dismiss cases at their inception, before reputations are ruined. When cases do go forward, our criminal defense attorneys understand the various crimes that a person may be charged with, and will aggressively and zealously defend against these charges. If you have been accused of any type of sex crime, please contact defense lawyer Brian Zeiger and his legal team for more information today.
Sex-related Charges in Philadelphia
There are a variety of sex crimes set out in Pennsylvania law, all of which are taken extremely seriously by authorities. The following are some of the sex crime charges The Zeiger Firm can aggressively defend against:
- Rape refers to sexual intercourse to which one person does not consent. Rape can be committed in many different ways, including:
- Using force or violence
- Threatening harm or displaying a weapon
- Having sex with a person who is unable to consent due to intoxication or mental impairment
- Having sex with someone who is unconscious and unaware of the sexual intercourse
Rape is often divided into two main categories—“stranger rape” and “date rape.” Stranger rape occurs when one person attacks someone they do not know and generally involves significant violence, threats, or weapons. Date rape happens between two people who know each other socially and is significantly more common than stranger rape.
Many people believe that so-called date rape is less serious than forcible rape between two strangers. However, it is critical to realize that both stranger rape and date rape can be charged the same under Pennsylvania law. The law does not lessen the penalties if someone knew or was dating the alleged rape victim. In fact, a spouse can be prosecuted for raping their spouse if the sexual intercourse was nonconsensual. Whether you are accused of stranger rape, date rape, or marital rape, you need a highly skilled rape defense attorney on your side.
There is another form of rape in Pennsylvania called statutory sexual assault – or statutory rape. This type of rape does not involve force but instead centers around the age of the parties. Statutory rape occurs when a victim is 13, 14, or 15 years old and the defendant is four or more years older than the minor. Because the sexual intercourse is consensual in these cases, many people do not think that any criminal charges will be as serious. However, this offense is charged like any other type of rape and the consequences of a conviction are dire. The consequences become more severe if the defendant is a teacher, coach, or in another trusted position in regard to the child.
In Pennsylvania, rape is a first-degree felony—the most serious category of crime outside of murder. Statutory rape can also be charged as a first-degree felony if the defendant was 11 or more years older than the minor. If the defendant is between four and ten years older, the charge can be a second-degree felony.
First-degree felony rape convictions can result in up to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $25,000. If a defendant is accused of drugging a victim in order to carry out a rape, the fine can be increased to $100,000. In addition, a conviction for the rape of a child younger than 13 carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and if the child suffers a serious bodily injury during the rape, the maximum sentence is life in prison.
Every rape charge is extremely serious and you need aggressive defense representation as soon as you are arrested. Rape cases are often “he-said, she-said” and anything you tell the police may be used against you. The Zeiger Firm can begin protecting your rights and building your defense from the moment of your arrest.
Child Pornography Possession
Child pornography involves any depiction of a minor under age 18 simulating or engaging in a sexual act. This can include photos, videos, books or magazines, computer images, and more. Possessing child pornography is not only against the law in Pennsylvania but even an accusation carries a stigma that can follow you for years to come. Facing child pornography possession charges can ruin your family, your personal relationships, your career, and almost every other aspect of your life.
At The Zeiger Firm, we have represented clients charged with child pornography possession and mount a vigorous defense in every case. Our attorneys do not pass any judgment on our clients based on the nature of criminal accusations and we will work to protect your rights throughout the entire criminal process. We have obtained successful resolutions in child pornography cases, including arguing to have a case dismissed before the case ruins your reputation. It is critical to call our office immediately if you have been arrested or charged with possession of child pornography.
You can face criminal charges if you knowingly possess or even view anything that qualifies as child pornography. In the world of the internet, child pornography is more easily distributed and displayed and all too often, you may receive a file or email that contains child pornography. In addition, if you share a network or computer, someone else may download child pornography and you may have no idea the files even exist. These situations commonly result in wrongful accusations and we will fight to prove that you did not have the knowledge or intent necessary for a conviction.
Many people believe that they can defend against child pornography possession charges by claiming they did not know the individual in the image or video was a minor. However, the law prohibits mistake of age as a defense to child pornography charges—even if the minor misrepresented their age. Therefore, defenses in these cases must be carefully developed and may be complicated. Our attorneys know how to identify any possible defenses or 4th Amendment violations that may be used in your favor to have your charges dropped.
Possessing or viewing any type of child pornography is a third-degree felony and a subsequent offense can be a second-degree felony. A conviction can mean years in prison and hefty fines. You should always have the right defense representation to fight against these charges and to protect your rights and reputation.
Child Pornography Distribution
Since simply viewing any form of child pornography can result in serious consequences, you can imagine that actively distributing child pornography carries even more severe penalties under the law. Child pornography distribution charges can involve any of the following regarding child pornography:
- Exhibiting or displaying for others
- Transferring possession
- Possessing child pornography with the intent to do any of the above
Possession with the intent to distribute child pornography can be a complicated matter. For example, how can a prosecutor prove what you intended to do with any child pornography that you may have possessed? Often, intent to distribute is based solely on circumstantial evidence and our defense attorneys can present evidence to challenge that you ever intended to distribute anything in order to get your charges and penalties significantly reduced.
If you are convicted of distributing child pornography, you will have a serious felony on your permanent record and may be sentenced to years in prison. This is a serious offense and anyone facing these charges needs a serious defense.
Sex tourism refers to travel to a foreign country to engage in sexual activities—often with prostitutes or minors. Many people are surprised to learn that their conduct outside of the United States can result in criminal consequences in our country. However, federal law makes it illegal to travel to another country and engage in sexual activity with children. Sex tourism is heavily investigated because of its common connection to sex trafficking and forced prostitution of children, therefore, people in the U.S. face prosecution more often than you may believe.
Sex tourism charges are almost always filed by federal authorities. Federal investigators will often engage in complex investigations to identify when sex tourism is being planned—and often, they can make arrests before someone even takes their trip. Instead of going to Pennsylvania state court, sex tourism cases will take place in federal district court. The Zeiger Firm has experience defending against charges in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (EDPA), Middle District of Pennsylvania (MDPA), and Western District of Pennsylvania (WDPA) and we can help you fight your serious sex tourism charges.
Sex tourism crimes are enforced under numerous federal laws such as the PROTECT ACT and are enforced through initiatives like “Operation Predator” by the Department of Homeland Security. Defending against sex tourism charges can involve complex jurisdictional issues because they involve conduct outside of the United States. You need the right defense lawyer who understands all laws and legal issues involved in this type of case.
All sexual offenses have a stigma that can damage your reputation. However, being accused of planning ahead to engage in sex with a minor can ruin almost all of your relationships. It is important to mount an aggressive defense from the very start to limit the effects of sex tourism charges. If you believe you are under investigation or are arrested for sex tourism, you face potentially harsh federal sentencing if convicted. You should not delay in calling The Zeiger Firm for help.
Megan’s Law requires that individuals who are convicted of certain sexually-related offenses must register with the Pennsylvania State Police. Once a person has registered, information about the offender and the details of his or her offense will be available to the general public in a registry maintained by the State Police. Details about the offender that are made available include a picture, residential address, primary offense, age, race, height, weight, and any scars, marks, any tattoos, scars, or marks he or she may have, and others.
Offenses covered by Megan’s Law are broken down into three “tiers.” Individuals who are convicted of Tier I Offenses must register for 15 years, Tier II offenders for 25 years, and Tier III for the rest of their lives. The frequency with which offenders must report to an approved Verification or Registration Site also depends on the classification of the offense of which they were convicted. Tier I offenders are required to appear annually, Tier II offenders are required to appear twice a year, and Tier III offenders four times each year.
For many people, the requirement to register as a sex offender is the most terrifying and undesirable potential outcome of allegations of a sex crime, and it is easy to see why. Sex crimes occupy a special place in our society, and the fact that a person is a known sex offender can have a significant and deleterious impact on nearly every aspect of his or her life. Here are some of the issues you may deal with as a registered sex offender in the state of Pennsylvania:
- A court, probation officer, or parole officer may restrict where you live
- You may be barred from certain types of employment
- Your neighbors may avoid you and refuse to interact with you
- You may find it more difficult to make friends or pursue a romantic relationship
- Even if not barred from a particular job, you may find it more difficult to get hired
Due to these serious consequences, if you are facing allegations of a sex crime in Pennsylvania, it is essential that you take every step possible to protect your rights— which starts by retaining an experienced attorney. It is important to understand that it is never too early to retain a lawyer to represent you, and you should seek legal counsel as soon as you suspect that you may be under investigation. Be aware of the fact that if the police “just want to talk” to you about a suspected criminal sexual incident, it is likely that they consider you a suspect. While it may seem like cooperating with the police is your best bet of clearing your name, the reality is that the things you say to law enforcement can hurt you much more easily that they can help you. Consequently, you should always secure the representation of a lawyer prior to speaking to the police about an alleged crime.
If you have already spoken to the police and are facing a sex crimes case, do not make the mistake of thinking all is lost. There are often defenses available in cases involving sexual misconduct and the representation of a lawyer can have a significant impact on the way your case is resolved.
The Importance of Having the Right Defense Attorney
It is important to understand the nature of these serious sex crimes and why you need an attorney who will work to develop the best defense possible to these charges. Although rape is one of the more common sex crimes, there are many others, including:
- Child molestation
- Indecent exposure
- Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
- Lewd or lascivious conduct
The reality is that, while some people are guilty of these crimes, many others have been wrongfully accused simply because the police generally believe the accusers.
The criminal defense lawyers at The Zeiger Firm understand the laws, rules, and procedures necessary to defend clients charged with rape, child pornography, and other sex crimes, and we fight to obtain the best results for our clients. We also recognize that the penalties for a conviction have increased and that a conviction for certain sex crimes will result in a mandatory jail sentence. When clients are charged with a sex crime, our attorneys know that our goal is to obtain the best results for our clients, whether that means fighting procedural battles or representing our clients before a judge or jury. We work hard for our clients, explaining their options and keeping them updated on the status of their case.
Defending against Sex Crime Charges
Every sex crime is a serious matter and no matter what type of charge you face, there is too much at stake to not have effective defense representation. At The Zeiger Firm, we understand that defending against sex crime charges is no easy task. The judgment of society often plays a significant role in these cases – even if you are not convicted. For this reason, you need an attorney who knows how to defend against your charges while mitigating the other effects of your charges on your life whenever possible.
There are many different defenses that can be used in sex crime cases and the specific defense appropriate to your case will depend on your specific circumstances and charges. Some defenses that our legal team regularly presents include the following:
- Consent – If a defendant believed – through words and actions – that another person consented to the sexual activity, this can be a defense to sexual assault or rape charges. Note that this is not a defense to statutory rape or other offenses involving minors. Consent is a tricky concept to prove, as how consent was portrayed can vary significantly from situation to situation. Consent can be given and taken away during the same encounter and can be interpreted in many ways. An alleged rape victim does not always clearly state “no,” and any signals of non-consent may be misinterpreted as consensual. In addition, an alleged victim may claim they were too drunk or impaired to consent when in reality, it seemed to the defendant that they had all of their mental faculties and voluntarily engaged in the sexual activity. It takes a skilled defense attorney to present consent as a defense in rape cases.
- Mistaken identity – This defense can be common in stranger rape cases, especially in which the victim identifies the suspect via lineup or photo lineup. Lineups can be notoriously unreliable for a variety of reasons. Often the victim of a traumatic crime is too stressed or focused on a weapon or fear to accurately remember what someone looks like. Then, at a later date, when they are presented with numerous options, it can be all too easy to identify someone who may look similar to their image of the perpetrator but is, in fact, the wrong person. An attorney can argue that lineups were overly suggestive or challenge a mistaken identification in many other ways to prevent a wrongful conviction.
- False reporting – In some cases, a so-called victim will make a false report of a sex crime. This can happen when someone regrets a sexual encounter, tries to cover up infidelity, or simply has a vendetta against the defendant. False reporting is also common in child abuse cases, as children can often be confused or may not understand the consequences of falsely accusing someone of sexual misconduct. Many steps should be taken to question the reliability of testimony and we will always thoroughly investigate whether a crime was falsely reported.
- Age – In cases involving minors, proving their age can help in many ways. First, if someone was old enough to legally consent to a sexual encounter, any charges of statutory assault should be dropped. In addition, charges can be less serious depending on a minor’s age. For example, the penalties for statutory rape can be less severe if the age gap between the defendant and the minor is smaller, so proving correct age can lessen the consequences or can even result in a dismissal.
- Involuntary intoxication – Many rape cases focus on the intoxication of the alleged victim and whether they were able to consent to the sexual activity. However, a defendant can defend against charges if they were also involuntarily intoxicated and were unable to have the requisite intent to commit a crime. If both individuals were drugged without knowing, the person charged with rape can defend against those charges based on involuntary intoxication. If a defendant was unaware of what they are doing, a prosecutor cannot prove the defendant intended to commit the crime, which is necessary for a conviction.
In addition to the above defenses, we will also closely examine the circumstances leading up to your arrest and following your arrest to determine whether any violations of your constitutional rights took place. Such violations can be used to exclude evidence from your case—often, important evidence on which the prosecutor’s case relied. Raising constitutional violations can often result in the dismissal of the case early in the process, which can often help salvage your reputation.
Even if there are no defenses available to have your charges completely dropped, our defense attorneys will work to reduce your charges and sentence whenever possible. For example, in many cases, we are able to reach a favorable plea bargain with the prosecutor by presenting mitigating evidence and agreeing to avoid a trial. If you plead guilty to an offense, the prosecutor may drop certain charges or may recommend a lesser sentence—such as probation instead of time in prison. Our attorneys are skilled negotiators who will work continuously to obtain the best plea agreement available in your case.
It is important to know that we will never push our clients to plead guilty if they do not want to, however. We are experienced criminal litigators who are not hesitant to take a case to trial to protect your rights against wrongful conviction. We work closely with our clients to determine the best course of action in each individual case. You can trust we will provide individualized representation in your sex crime case and will bring all of our resources to the table to defend against your charges in any way possible.
Contact a Philadelphia Sex Crimes Defense Law Firm for Help Today
When you need a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney to defend you when you have been arrested and charged with a sex crime, contact The Zeiger Firm, who represent every client zealously in order to obtain the best results possible in each case. To arrange a consultation, please give us a call at 215-546-0340 or send us an email via the form to the left.