Ohio prosecutors and judges take child molestation accusations very seriously.
If someone has accused you of child molestation or unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
If you are convicted, you could face jail time for child molestation charges. Here, our sex crimes lawyers will discuss some of the potential consequences of a child molestation conviction in Ohio.
Child Molestation Definition
Ohio law defines a number of sex crimes, including rape and sexual battery, as child molestation or childhood sexual abuse when someone commits these crimes against a child who is under eighteen years old or against someone with a developmental disability or physical impairment who is under twenty-one years old.
State statutes identify multiple acts committed against children as child molestation. A few of these specific acts include:
- Compelling another person to engage in sexual conduct by force or threat of force;
- Coercing another person to engage in sexual conduct by any means that would prevent resistance by a person of ordinary resolution; and
- Substantially impairing someone’s resistance by administering any intoxicant in order to engage in sexual conduct with that person.
In addition, forced or offensive sexual conduct is child molestation when it takes place within the context of certain relationships in which one party is under eighteen or under twenty-one and has a disability. Such relationships include relationships in which the actor is:
- The parent or guardian of the victim;
- A teacher, administrator or coach at a school or higher education institution that the victim attends;
- A coach, instructor, or leader of a scouting troop of which the victim is a member;
- A mental health professional who has the victim as a client or patient; or
- A cleric serving a congregation of which the victim is a member.
This is not a complete list of the types of relationships that can give rise to childhood sexual abuse charges.
Finally, the age of sexual consent in Ohio is sixteen. This means that a person who is under sixteen years old is not considered legally able to consent to sexual activity.
It is considered statutory rape for an adult to engage in sexual activity with a person who is less than sixteen years of age.
What Charges Can You Face for Child Molestation in Ohio?
Jail time for child molestation charges in Ohio varies depending on the specific sex crime committed. For example, compelling sexual contact with or by a minor—known as gross sexual imposition—is a fourth degree felony.
If the minor is less than thirteen years old or the actor impairs the minor’s judgment by using a controlled substance, gross sexual imposition is a third-degree felony.
Jail time for fourth degree felonies ranges between six and 18 months. For a third degree felony, a judge may give a sentence of 1 to 5 years in jail.
A rape charge is a first degree felony and carries more severe penalties. A first degree felony is punishable by up to ten years in jail and a fine of up to $20,000.
Do You Have to Register as a Sex Offender If Convicted?
Anyone who is convicted and sentenced to jail time or confinement for any of the sex crimes that constitute child molestation must register with the sheriff of the county in which they were convicted. Further registration requirements apply after a convicted offender has completed their prison sentence.
Offenders must register with the sheriff in any county where they work or attend school. Registration requirements are lifelong and do not expire with time.
Ohio currently has an offense-based registration system. This type of system does not specify whether an offender poses a risk of repeat offenses.
There are some defenses that a knowledgeable lawyer may use to help you defend yourself against child molestation allegations.
Romeo and Juliet Law
Also known as a close-in-age exception, this law is designed to protect young couples who are close in age and are engaged in a consensual relationship that could technically classify as unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
Consensual sex between two minors who are at least thirteen years old but younger than eighteen is not a sex crime in Ohio.
In addition, there are reduced penalties for consensual sex if the accused partner is eighteen or older and the minor partner is less than four years younger than the adult partner.
Burden of Proof
The prosecution must sufficiently prove that the accused person committed the crime. If you can show that there is not enough proof to establish that you committed child molestation, then the court will find you not guilty.
It is important to note that not knowing someone’s age or a mistake of age is NOT a defense to child molestation.
When to Contact a Lawyer
You should contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you are alleged to have committed an offense or questioned about a child molestation offense.
Child molestation charges can carry serious jail time and require you to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life. You should contact a lawyer before speaking to anyone else about your charges because of the seriousness of this offense.
How Long Does a Child Molestation Case Take?
Each situation is different depending on the facts of the case and the specific allegations. It partially depends on the strength of the evidence the prosecution has collected. If there is very little evidence to support the charges, it is possible that the case will conclude within a shorter time.
How We Can Help
The attorneys at Gounaris Abboud have over fifty years of experience in criminal defense. They are knowledgeable about Ohio laws regarding sex crimes and child molestation and are ready to listen and fight for you.