October 14, 2014 • Jerod Gunsberg, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer
There are few things more terrifying than being charged with a sex crime in California. In Los Angeles County, the District Attorney’s Office is notoriously aggressive in pursuing convictions in sex offenses that would result in a defendant’s lifetime inclusion on the sex offender registry. In most cases this also means inclusion on the public Megan’s Law sex offender website and severe residency restrictions. For most defendants, the prospect of registering as a sex offender is worse than any other consequence of a criminal conviction. It’s understandable. Even a misdemeanor offense that may carry three years of informal probation turns into a life sentence if sex offender registration is involved.
So what can be done?
First and foremost, the most important thing is not to panic. A qualified criminal defense attorney who is familiar with sex offenses and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office as well as the local courts can guide you through the process. A good attorney will attack the charges on two prongs: facts and mitigation.
Analyzing and attacking the alleged facts is always the first step. Is the accuser credible? What’s the entire story and context behind the allegations? Of course: if you are accused of a sex crime you should never ever speak with the police without first talking to a lawyer, but if there is a confession, was the confession coerced? Was there a pretext call between the alleged victim and the accused (in other words, did the alleged victim contact the accused, use a script supplied by law enforcement, and then coerce a confession)? Are there alibi or character witnesses? Is there physical evidence? Were DNA samples taken? If so, were they processed properly? These are merely a few of the areas that need to be explored when defending a case.
If the facts are not in dispute, mitigation is critical. If the facts are not in dispute, once again do not panic. There is extensive mitigation to be done. What are the life circumstances of the accused at the time of the alleged offense? Are there underlying substance abuse issues? Mental health issues? Trauma or extreme stress at the time of the alleged offense? What is the nature of the relationship between the accuser and the accused? Often mitigation requires the services of a forensic psychologist or psychiatrist to take a full social and psychological history of the accused and, if it would be helpful to the case, to generate a report. A credible, thorough report can go a long way in negotiating a disposition with the prosecutor that may alleviate the harsh effects of a sex offense. In some cases, it may be enough to prevent the accused from registering as a sex offender at all.
Bottom line: sex offenses in California, especially Los Angeles County, are serious. Even misdemeanors. They must be defended methodically and with a firm plan in place.
If you or a loved one are accused of a sex offense in Los Angeles County, or anywhere in California, contact The Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg at 310-210-0744 or via this contact form.