Child molestation charges in Georgia carry some of the toughest prison sentences of any charges under the laws of the state and prosecutors are now well trained in prosecuting these crimes. If you have been accused of child molestation or related crimes, it is imperative that you have a team of lawyers dedicated and knowledgeable in defending these charges. At Zeliff | Watson, our trial team has over 35 combined years of experience and the contacts to proactively defend your case both in and outside the courtroom; we are not afraid to defend child molestation charges and have experience in these allegations.
What defines “child molestation” in Georgia?
Georgia child molestation laws are found under OCGA (Georgia code) 16-6-4 and related sections of the law. The law prohibits performing any immoral or indecent act to or in the presence of a child under 16 years old, with the intent to arouse the sexual desires of the adult or child. Typically, it is for a jury to decide whether the act done was with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of the adult or child, as child molestation is a specific intent crime. Child molestation can also be committed by transmitting sexually explicit material to a child under 16 years old. Georgia's requirement of being in the "presence" of a child is also a hotly contested issue in these case- what constitutes "presence" is dependent on the facts of the specific case.
Aggravated child molestation is defined as any act of child molestation that either injures or involves an act of sodomy against a child under 16 years of age. Aggravated child molestation is perhaps the most seriously punished crime in Georgia.
Child molestation carries a 5 to 20 year mandatory prison sentence, while aggravated child molestation requires at least a 25 year prison sentence, with life on probation.
What if I wasn't read my Miranda rights while being investigated for Child Molestation?
Confessions, statements and interviews given to cops during the initial investigation of child molestation cases can be the MOST DAMAGING evidence against you in the entire case. Witnesses can lie, interviews can be conducted improperly, others have motives, but a confession by an accused is powerful evidence that judges, prosecutors, jurors, and most everyday people would agree hurts a case. Jurors have a tendency to believe what an accused says in an interview, not knowing how much science there is to debunk the myth that confessions are highly reliable. Therefore, when we take a child molestation case we examine ALL circumstances and factors that go into any interview, even where the cops claim Miranda rights were read, understood, and waived. Every stone must be overturned when one conversation can have such disastrous consequences.
Miranda laws are mandatory for officers when an accused person is both in custody and being subjected to questioning about the crime. Cops believe they know Miranda laws very well and use about every trick and shortcut to attempt to circumvent them. You need a team of defense lawyers who know the rules and laws around interrogations and are prepared to fight to keep these statements out of your case.
Can I use First Offender on Child Molestation Charges?
No, Georgia has written their child molestation and other laws (sexual exploitation if minors, enticement of a child, etc.) relating to sexual acts against minors to specifically NOT allow first offender treatment. This means a guilty plea on these charges is forever, without any possibility of future removal. This makes it all the more imperative that a case involving child molestation is expertly handled with all possible defenses explored.
Are any child molestation charges misdemeanors?
Georgia does have misdemeanor child molestation charges, or so called “Romeo & Juliet” laws. These laws are designed to be less punitive for young adults and minors, where both parties are relatively close in age to each other. Generally, if someone charged with child molestation is no older than 18, and the other party is at least 14, the prosecutor has the discretion to charge the crimes as a misdemeanor. Additionally, juvenile courts can also prosecute similar sex crimes for those under 17 years old. Note: in Georgia, 17 year olds are considered adults and subject to misdemeanor and sometimes felony sex crime laws.
In addition, there is a sexual battery crime that is defined as a misdemeanor under Georgia law which could save someone from having to register as a sex offender and could allow the Judge to give first offender treatment.
Is prison time absolutely required on child molestation charges?
In Georgia, prosecutors do have the authority to deviate from the minimum prison terms on child molestation cases, assuming the judge would accept the change and sign off on it. Certain factors must be met in order to deviate or depart from the minimum guidelines under Georgia law. We know these factors and know how to assess whether or not your case would likely be eligible for such a downward deviation.
- No prior convictions of sexual offenses
No deadly weapon or dangerous device was used
No similar acts have ever occurred
No intentional physical harm was suffered during the crime
The victim was not transported during the crime
The victim was not physically restrained
What assessments are usually done in child molestation cases?
In child molestation cases, psychosexual and risk assessments and evaluations are usually required pursuant to court order while on probation, along with other terms and conditions especially developed for sex offender cases. Additionally, if you are sentenced to any time in custody, the Dept. of Corrections will provide sex offender treatment.
A standard psychosexual evaluation consists of scaled inventories (tests), an interview and forensic evaluation, a life history, interviews with family and close friends, communication with your attorney, and a review of police and supplemental reports. The primary purpose of the psychosexual evaluation is to assess the risk to repeat the behavior, along with other pertinent sexual deviancy traits. A psychosexual assessment is NOT used to determine that you are a sex offender or determine guilt or innocence.
Along with a psychosexual assessment, in Georgia, the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board evaluates all cases for purposes of risk assessment classification once a final plea or disposition is entered. This review will, along other things, determine the registration requirements for someone classified as a sex offender and put on the registry in Georgia. It can be many years after your sentence before you are classified (leveled) in Georgia.
Where does my defense of these charges begin?
Defending against such serious charges, or having a loved one facing these types of allegations can seem overwhelming and helpless, however, the right defense team can make a difference. Being proactive, investigating the case thoroughly, and keeping an open line of communication with the courthouse are all essential elements of a good defense in child molestation cases; and our team knows each and every step to take.
From our initial consultation, we will discuss the steps that should be taken in your case to properly investigate and come up with our next steps in your defense. Waiting months until a child molestation indictment is handed down is not a good strategy, especially if a bond has not been set or is otherwise not affordable due to being so high.
Why should I consult with Zeliff | Watson about this case?
At Zeliff | Watson, we have a combined 35+ years of experience almost exclusively in criminal defense work. Our attorneys not only cover the Atlanta and Forsyth County areas, but all north Georgia courts. We have experience in just about every State and Superior Court north of Atlanta.
If you or someone you know is dealing with allegations of child molestation, give us a call today to have a confidential discussion about the case. We can be reached 24/7 at: (770) 676-1340, or by filling out a secure contact form on our site.