Child molestation is the general term given to improper sexual contact with children and minors under the age of 16. In Oklahoma, there is no specific criminal charge termed “child molestation.” Instead, the sexual assault of a child is prosecuted as either child sexual abuse or Lewd or Indecent Proposals or Acts to a Child Under 16. The difference between these two charges typically lies in whether or not the alleged abuser is a parent or caregiver of the child victim.
A person accused of sex crimes with children is branded a pedophile or a child molester, and often, these people face tremendous difficulties from the stigma of an accusation even prior to conviction. Often, convicted child molesters are subject to additional hardships in prison as other inmates have their own code of justice and social hierarchy, on which inmates convicted of crimes against children are placed at the bottom.
Child molestation is a serious accusation. Whether you are the innocent victim of a false accusation or misunderstanding, or whether you have made a terrible mistake, you need swift and aggressive defense representation from a lawyer who is experienced at handling challenging sex crime cases and who has a record of success in defending people in situations like yours.
If you are accused of sexually abusing a child, you will likely be automatically cast under a cloud of suspicion, not only by law enforcement and prosecutors, but also by friends, co-workers, and even family members. You will likely be barred from any contact with your accuser or accusers, and even separated from your own children, whether or not they are alleged victims. A skilled lawyer can help preserve your rights as you fight to clear your name.
Most child molestation cases are charged as Lewd or Indecent Proposals or Acts to a Child Under 16. Often simply called Lewd Acts with Minors, or even just Lewd Acts, the statute forbidding sexual contact with children aged 15 and younger is a blanket statute covering all sex acts with children that fall short of rape.
Oklahoma’s Lewd Acts statute is codified in 21 O.S. § 1123. It prohibits and penalizes intentional lewd and lascivious behavior directed at or against children under the age of 16. This includes not only sexual contact with minors—or child molestation—but also acts performed for sexual gratification even if they do not involve physical contact. Illegal activities include:
Lewd or Indecent Proposals or Acts to a Child Under 16 is a Level 3 sex offense, and conviction can bring as much as life in prison:
Upon release from prison, anyone convicted of a Level 3 sex offense must register as an Oklahoma Sex Offender every 90 days for the rest of his or her life. Convicted sex offenders face residency restrictions which make approximately 80 percent of Oklahoma off-limits for housing. They are unable to attend school functions or sporting events. They may be subject to GPS ankle monitoring. Their neighbors may receive notification of their sex offender status, and their offense and identifying information will be publicly available on the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry.
Child sexual abuse is also defined in the Juvenile Code and in state laws regarding child abuse. Under these statutes, sexual abuse is described as rape, incest, or lewd acts with a child by an adult who is responsible for that child’s safety and well-being. Like lewd acts with minors, sex abuse and enabling sex abuse are punishable by a minimum of 25 years in prison if the victim is younger than 12. In all cases, child sexual abuse or enabling child sexual abuse is punishable by a maximum of life in prison.
The Oklahoma Children and Juvenile Code defines sexual abuse and sexual exploitation as follows:
“Sexual abuse" includes but is not limited to rape, incest, and lewd or indecent acts or proposals made to a child, as defined by law, by a person responsible for the health, safety, or welfare of the child.
"Sexual exploitation" includes but is not limited to allowing, permitting, or encouraging a child to engage in prostitution, as defined by law, by a person responsible for the health, safety, or welfare of a child, or allowing, permitting, encouraging, or engaging in the lewd, obscene, or pornographic, as defined by law, photographing, filming, or depicting of a child in those acts by a person responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of the child. (10A O.S. § 1-1-105b-c)
Child sexual abuse, or molestation of a child for whom one is responsible for providing care, is criminally penalized in 21 O.S. § 843.5, the statute that deals with the abuse, neglect, exploitation, and sexual abuse of children. Any parent or other person who “willfully or maliciously” engages in child sexual abuse, or any such person who enables child sexual abuse is subject to the possibility of life in prison without parole. If the victim is under the age of 12, the offense carries a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Accusations of child molestation come from many sources. They may come from well-meaning teachers or neighbors who misunderstand something a child says or does. They may come from vindictive spouses wishing to gain an advantage in a custody dispute. They may come from a bitter step-child who is angry about his or her parent’s new spouse. In some cases, they are the result of an inappropriate act by a person who has failed to get the help he or she needs in addressing sexual issues.
Regardless of why a person has been accused, a child molestation investigation or arrest requires wise legal counsel and skillful defense representation. If you are accused of molesting a child, do not speak to police, social workers, or anyone else about your case, even if you are only trying to clear up any misunderstandings and to proclaim your innocence. Let your lawyer speak for you to avoid critical mistakes that could leave you a registered sex offender for life.
Call attorney Ryan Coventon for a free consultation with an experienced sex crime defense lawyer. Your case review will be held in strictest confidence, and there is no risk to you. Call today.