Child Molestation Laws

child-molestation-lawsFor the purposes of this article on child molestation laws, offenses ranging from statutory rape and sexual assault to matters of incest, indecent exposure, and child pornography are excluded.

According to U.S. Department Justice, child molestation is a broadly defined term which includes: contacts or interactions including inappropriate physical contact between a child and an adult when the child is being used for sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or another person when the perpetrator or another person is in a position of power or control over the victim. Sexual Molestation is  a term defining offenses in which an adult engage in non-penetrative activity with a minor for the purpose of sexual gratification; for example, exposing a minor to pornography or to the sexual acts of others.


The definition of a minor varies from state to state; with states such as Arkansas allowing for consent at age fourteen and California which allows for consent at the age of eighteen. Consent is not a matter of consideration, and is not available as a defense to a charge of child molestation because federal and state laws do not recognize a child capable of issuing consent for any sexual acts.

Molestation of a minor is a felony punishable by the minimum sentence of two years in prison for first time offenders for child molestation: to the death penalty in some states for anyone convicted of a second or subsequent conviction of molestation involving a child less than fourteen years of age. A sentence enhancement including use of a fire arm, or a strike offense can lead to longer sentences. Five of fifty U.S. states can seek the death penalty for repeat offenders. If you are convicted, you will be required to register as a sex offender for life. The sex offender database can be legally accessed by anyone except for convicted sex offenders. Convicted child molesters that serve time in prison face greater peril than any other type of offender; they are considered by other inmates as being the “lowest of the low” and fair game for attacks against them. Convicted child molesters are often housed in protective custody for their own well being.

There are laws to enforce mandated reporting which requires persons that work in professions such as education, social service, medical professionals and any type of social work. They are required to file a report of any suspected abuse. The usual confidentiality afforded to therapist and their patients does not apply to child molestation.

There are several related child molestation laws on a national level, but the federal government does not usually get involved unless the crimes occur under federal jurisdiction, such as interstate transportation. If that is the case, the federal government of the will enhance child molestation laws to include charges such as transportation of a minor, soliciting and possibly kidnapping. Most of the laws concerning child molestation laws put enforcement in the states’ hands which is why the wording of the law and the penalties vary so much.

Allegations of child molestation are the easiest crime to accuse and the hardest to defend. The general public including juries is prone to automatically believe the allegation of a child. This can result in a situation where anyone accused of a sexual offense against a child is for all practical purposes presumed guilty. It is a difficult charge to defend but with qualified counsel it can be done. The most publicized defenses are affirmative defenses. An affirmative defense shifts the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defendant and includes mental disease or defect, intoxication and immaturity as well as affirmative belief that the minor misrepresented them to the defendant. The prosecutor knows only what the police or social workers have stated in their reports. Child molestation defenses are similar to child pornography defenses.  Under child molestation laws if the defendant can show that the minor represented themselves to be reasonably believed as an adult by showing documentation that appears to be legal for the purpose of validating a minors age, they may obtain an acquittal , but this is by no means certain, and one should never rely on documentation of proof of age as a license to commit crime.

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