Published in Criminal Law by Chris Eskew on February 1, 2023.
Some studies suggest that minors make up around 25.8% of all sex offenders known to the police. They also comprise over one-third of sex offenders known to police whose victims were juveniles. Most known juvenile sex offenders are between the ages of 12 and 17. Almost 93% are male. Further, a vast majority of sex offenses committed by minors happen in their own home.
Despite these shocking statistics, minor sex offenders are relatively rare among juvenile offenders. Sex crimes make up only 3% of the known crimes committed by minors.
According to the National Juvenile Justice Network, there are some significant differences between adult and minor offenders. Children are often much more receptive to rehabilitation and treatment than their adult counterparts. They also have a much lower recidivism rate (5-15%), and in 9 out of 10 cases, the arrest of a minor for a sex offense is a one-time event. Studies consistently put the sexual reoffense rate for minors at around 2-4%.
So, Can minors be charged with sexual abuse? The answer is clearly yes. Most children accused of a sex crime are adjudicated in juvenile court. However, depending on the severity of the crime, minors can be charged as adults. The consequences when a minor is convicted of a sex crime are often life-changing. If you know a child who has been accused of a sex offense, contacting a sex crimes lawyer who can mount an aggressive defense is essential.
Types of Sexual Abuse a Minor Can Be Charged With
Minors can be charged with any sexual crime an adult can be charged with in Indiana. Juvenile sex offenses are taken seriously by the justice system.
Sharing pornography with younger children is a common sexual offense committed by minors. But with easy access to the internet, this behavior can be hard to track.
Another offense becoming more common due to technology is sexting between minors. Sexting is illegal for children in Indiana, even when it is consensual. If consensual sexting happens between minors close in age, Indiana often treats the offense as a misdemeanor. However, if the minors are further apart in age or the sexting is non-consensual, the state can push for felony charges. The charges can get much harsher if one of the parties shares the images with others.
Other sexual offenses minors can commit include unwanted fondling, sexual touching, date rape, voyeurism, exhibitionism, forcible rape, and gang rape. All these offenses are taken extremely seriously by the justice system and can carry heavy penalties.
Penalties for Sex Charges Involving a Child
The penalties for sex charges involving a child are often harsh. Children who are convicted of sex crimes can be charged as a juvenile or as an adult.
If the minor is charged as a juvenile, punishments can include registering as a sex offender, time in juvenile detention, mandatory sex-offender treatment, and probation with at-home confinement.
When charged as an adult, the penalties can get much more severe. Punishments for minors charged as an adult include registering as a sex offender, probation, and incarceration in an adult prison. The length of imprisonment can depend on the offender’s age, the severity of their offense, and any prior convictions they may have.
Defendants who are close to 18 and are charged with uniquely severe crimes can be directly filed into adult courts in Indiana. When this happens, the defendant does not get a hearing in juvenile court. Their trial will be in the adult court system under the usual rules.
When a Minor Can Be Charged as an Adult
The penalties for sex charges involving a child are more severe when the potential offender is charged as an adult. Juvenile courts adjudicate most cases involving juveniles. In rare cases, either the prosecutor files a motion asking for the defendant to be tried as an adult or a minor is directly filed into adult court.
When a prosecutor files a motion to transfer a case to adult court, the outcome will depend on several factors. The minor’s age will play a significant role in determining the result of the motion. In general, the closer the defendant is to 18, the more likely they are to be transferred to adult court. Juvenile courts will also look at the severity of the crime and the defendant’s prior convictions when making their decision.
Defending Against Sexual Abuse Charges
When a minor is charged with any crime involving sexual abuse, it is essential to mount an aggressive defense. Convictions for sexual offenses carry punishments that can follow the child for their entire life.
Hiring a knowledgeable attorney is essential if your child has been charged with a sex crime. A good attorney will zealously advocate for your child and push for them to get the best possible outcome in their case.
When to Seek Help
In addition to mounting an aggressive defense, finding help for your child is essential. Even if the accusations are false, being accused of a sex crime can be a traumatizing experience. Knowing when to seek help early can also prevent the sexual misconduct of a minor. Signs that a minor may need professional help include:
- The minor or another member of the family is charged with a sexual offense,
- The minor expresses an inability to control their sexual urges,
- You suspect the minor has had inappropriate sexual contact with another minor,
- You know or suspect the minor is watching problematic pornography,
- You suspect a group of children is sharing pornographic materials,
- The minor has exposed themselves to others,
- The minor is the perpetrator or victim of sexualized bullying, and
- The minor is engaging in any other inappropriate sexualized behaviors.
Seeking professional help before a young person commits an offense can help them correct their behavior without the intervention of the legal system.
Eskew Law Can Help
The defense attorneys at Eskew Law know how to zealously defend minors after they are accused of a sexual offense. Getting the best outcomes for our clients is our team’s first and only concern. If you or someone you know has been accused of a sexual crime, contact us online or call us today so we can formulate an effective strategy to defend against the charges.