May 16, 2013
Virginia may reform its sex crime laws
Some laws are crystal clear, while others are riddled with nuance and exceptions. When it comes to laws involving intimacy, most crimes are fairly obvious. Adults may legally engage in consensual sexual encounters, provided that both parties are of sound mind and are not related closely by blood. Generally, sex crimes all exist in scenarios that do not meet those specific criteria. However, it is possible that even certain consensual encounters between adults will now be considered criminal in Virginia.
Many educators, legislators and judges are concerned about the increasing number of sexual relationships forming between Virginia’s teachers and students. As a result, the State Crime Commission is even going so far as to study the potential implementation of laws that would prohibit consensual sexual relationships between teachers and students who are aged 18 or older.
The logic behind this proposal is that the power dynamic between educators and students, even if they are no longer minors, makes their sexual relationships inherently unequal. This inequality may potentially breed corrupt teaching practices and cause the students to be taken advantage of.
The Commission will likely weigh this issue over the course of the next several months before making any recommendations to lawmakers. It will hopefully consider not only the best ways to protect students but also the general predictability and consistency of the state’s criminal legal code. When you start to narrow the ability of adults to make their own decisions about who they may and may not be intimate with, you restrict freedom of choice and diminish the concept of personal accountability. Moving in this direction should not be a decision considered lightly.
Source: NBC12.com, “Commission to study toughening child sex laws,” Brent Solomon, May 8, 2013
January 31, 2012
Is the Court of Public Opinion Too Quick to ‘Convict’ Those Accused of Sex Crimes?
By now most have heard about the allegations of sex crimes against former Penn State defensive coach Jerry Sandusky. Many may also be thinking twice about how they judged whether Joe Paterno was also to blame, at least in part, for not doing more to stop the alleged sex abuse.
Sandusky himself faces 40 counts of child sex abuse, stemming from incidents between 1994 to 2009. But Paterno, who passed away from cancer during the course of the release of information and subsequent investigation, was never criminally charged. But, he did lose his job, one that he’d held for over 40 years, as the football coach at Penn State.
As a reminder, it’s a cornerstone of our criminal justice system that one is innocent until proven guilty, something that criminal defense lawyers across the country fight for daily.
Unless you are tried in the court of public opinion, that is. Paterno was considered just as guilty, by many, as if he’d committed the alleged sex crimes himself.
Whenever a sex crime is alleged — including child pornography, rape, incest, statutory rape or an internet-related sex crime — the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney cannot be understated. Many are quick to condemn those accused of sex crimes, particularly those involving children, before all the facts are laid out in a court of law.
It is true that children need and deserve to be protected. But it is also true that people need and deserve to be protected from false or overstated accusations. And a civilized society has no room for an intolerance of both the criminal justice system and the presumption of innocence.