- Criminal Defense
If you become aware that you are being investigated for First Degree Child molestation it is imperative that you seek qualified legal counsel. Your legal counsel should have experience defending these charges, from investigation through indictment and trial. It is crucial that you obtain the correct legal advice as to what extent you will cooperate with this investigation. There are some cases where an interview with police makes perfect sense and other times that it does not. Your actual innocence has very little to do with this decision.
To defend against a child molestation charge in a court of law can be an very unsettling and unpredictable experience. The initial arrest may result in a denial of bail and a two-week wait for a bail hearing. Simply having friends, family or coworkers find out about a charge can be enough to turn your life upside down. Child molestation is an extremely serious crime, and anyone facing it should know their legal rights, as well as the penalties within the state of Rhode Island.
Conviction of this crime not only carries the most severe jail terms but offenders will be required to not only register as a sex offender in the state of Rhode Island. If the crime is deemed severe then as part of the Jessica Lunsford Child Predator Act of 2006 the offender will be required to be “electronically monitored via an active global positioning system for life”.
It may start with a mysterious knock at the door. Or perhaps a phone call from police requesting that you contact them right away. Whispers among the neighbors.
Anyone facing the daunting accusation of child molestation cannot and should not go it alone. Here’s what to expect if you or a loved one is facing the most hideous of all accusations – child molestation.
First things first – Don’t Talk. The police have a job to do and protecting you or your rights is really not high on their list of priorities. That voice welcoming you to come to the station to give “your side of the story” or to “clear things up” is really after one thing: your confession to the crime which they have no doubt you committed.
You see, investigations go a lot quicker and smoother when the target of a child molestation investigation – YOU or your loved one – admits to the crime. Even if you don’t admit to it, you may give versions of events so contradictory that your future defenses are severely limited.
The Don’t Talk advice also applies to talking to others as well. Any statement you make to family, neighbors, or friends can also be used against you. You have the absolute right to keep quiet until you speak to counsel – your lawyer cannot be compelled to speak against you.
While there are some cases where a sit down with the police may be helpful, the problem is it’s rare and only a seasoned veteran can spot it. Don’t ever think that speaking to the police alone will help your case – it won’t.
If the police decide to arrest you, they can do it anywhere. Typically, though, they will do it where they know you have to be, like your home or workplace.
Second, get a lawyer on your side quickly. Decisions as to how to proceed in your case have to be made fast. Decisions, such as collecting potentially helpful evidence, interviewing witnesses, or starting a dialogue with police or prosecutors, can have a major impact on your case and should be trusted to an experienced attorney. Time is of the essence during the early stages of a child molestation accusation.
Finally, get ready for a long road. These cases may start quickly but they do not end quickly. The process in Rhode Island takes time – usually six months in the District Court followed by 6-18 months in Superior Court. During this time, getting released on reasonable bail conditions with the ability to work and travel is critical.
First or Second degree child molestation charges are generally charged by police by way of criminal complaint. This gets the case immediately before a District Court Judge for what is called an arraignment or initial appearance. The judge will decide your terms of bail and other conditions of release, such as a no contact order or ability to travel.
In First Degree cases, the police typically request that the defendant be held without bail for a bail hearing in 10 business days. That’s two weeks when weekends are included. At a bail hearing, there may be an agreement between the judge, prosecutor and your lawyer as to release you on bail or it may be a contested hearing with witness testimony.
If it is a contested hearing, the state must provide evidence, in the form of witness testimony, to prove that there is “proof evidence or presumption great” that a capital offense was committed. Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross examine any state witness. At the conclusion of the hearing, even if the state meets its burden, a judge must decide if you pose a danger to the community or risk of flight.
In a Second Degree case, bail must be set by the District Court judge along with the typical conditions of a no-contact order.
In Rhode Island, bail may be posted with cash or credit in the amount of 10% of the total bail. In other words, a $10,000 “with surety” bail may be posted with $1000. This money is returned at the conclusion of the case, less any court costs.
You may also post equity in property so long as you have the documents to prove you have $10,000 worth of equity and the Attorney General’s office agrees and signs on.
Finally, you may post bail with a bondsman. A bondsman will charge you 5% of the total bail (in the example above, $500 to post a $10,000 bail). The difference is, the bondsman keeps the money as his fee to post his property as surety.
After a case is brought to District Court by criminal complaint, the state has six months to indict you and formally charge you in Superior Court. An indictment is a formal charge made by a grand jury who has heard some of the evidence and concluded that probable cause exists to charge the case.
After an indictment is handed down by the grand jury, the case is scheduled for an arraignment in the Superior Court. At the arraignment, a Superior Court judge must decide your bail conditions going forward.
After the arraignment, the pre-trial process begins with mutual requests for discovery. Your attorney must formally request in writing copies of all evidence that the state used to indict you and all evidence it plans to use at trial to convict you.
The pre-trial process can take anywhere from six months to multiple years, depending upon the complexity of the case.
If a plea agreement is reached between your attorney, the prosecutor and the judge, you will appear before the court to formally change your plea from not guilty to nolo contendere. In Rhode Island, a nolo plea is essentially a plea of guilty since you are admitting to the facts forming the basis of the charges.
A trial in the Superior Court starts with pre-trial motions “in limine,” to limit the evidence each side expects to show the jury. This is followed by jury selection. During the jury selection process, each side has the ability to strike jurors that appear to be biased against their side.
Once a jury is selected and sworn in, each side has the opportunity to present opening arguments. An opening is a road map of the case, pointing out what evidence each side intends to present to prove their case.
After openings, the state presents their witnesses in the form of direct examination and defense counsel has the opportunity to cross examine them.
After the state finishes its case, defense counsel may move for a judgment of acquittal on the basis that the evidence fails to prove the charge(s). If denied, defense counsel may present its own witnesses or rest.
If defense witnesses are presented, the state may cross examine them and present rebuttal witnesses – or witnesses called to rebut or refute what the defense witnesses testified to.
After all evidence is presented, each side gets to present closing arguments to the jury, starting with defense counsel. Once closing arguments are completed, the judge will instruct the jury as to the applicable law and then select 12 jurors to deliberate. Any criminal ver dict must be unanimous.
If you or a loved one is convicted of this crime, it not only carries the most severe jail terms but offenders will be required to register as a sex offender in the state of Rhode Island. If the crime is deemed severe then as part of the Jessica Lunsford Child Predator Act of 2006 the offender will be required to be “electronically monitored via an active global positioning system for life”.
If you or your loved one has been accused of child molestation, the two most important things that need to be done are:
The State of Rhode Island defines first degree child molestation as penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth by any part of the body of a person age 14 or under body by an adult. This is what differentiates the crime from second degree child molestation which focuses primarily on any type of lascivious touching of intimate body parts. It is important to be aware that a child’s consent does not alter the crime or the penalty in any way whatsoever.
If you have been charged, arrested, or even just investigated you need to defend your rights and privacy immediately. The affects on your life will be far reaching even if the accusations are false. Call an experienced and aggressive sex crimes trial attorney immediately. With over 20 years experience as a trial attorney and former Rhode Island Public Defender, John MacDonald understands how important the first steps are to your successful defense and case outcome.
Call Rhode Island Child Molestation Lawyer (1st) First Degree Child Molestation Sex Crimes Defense Attorney John E. MacDonald today at 401.421.1440 or EMAIL us today for a FREE CONSULTATION. We can come to you if you have been detained or incarcerated by the state.
Trial Attorney John E. MacDonald handles sex crimes cases in the following areas (and more):
If you are being investigated, charged or arrested for a sex crime in Rhode Island, Massachusetts or Connecticut, please contact Criminal Defense Attorney John E. MacDonald for a free consultation.
We can come to you if you have been incarcerated. CALL TODAY!
Your or your loved one’s future hinges on your being calm and making the right decisions in this high stress moment.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter. Also, the Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any field of practice.
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