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Sexual Assault, Rape, Sexual Exploitation | Forcible Sex Offenses in NC

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges in Charlotte NC for a sex offense, retaining experienced legal representation is an important first step. Sex offense cases such as rape, forcible sex offense, and possession of prohibited sexual materials are SERIOUS criminal charges in North Carolina. Just TO be accused can have life-changing consequences.

Unlike many other types of criminal charges, it doesn't matter if felony vs. misdemeanor, sex offense cases often start with an investigation PRIOR to being arrested, handcuffed, taken to jail, and formally charged.

"We encourage people to call us immediately, prior to talking to the police or giving any type of statement. It can make a tremendous difference in legal representation." - Bill Powers

"Sex Offense" cases involve a fair amount of scientific evidence. Defense lawyers experienced handling such criminal charges spend a considerable amount of time reviewing discovery. Given the complexity of such matters, defense lawyers also want to make sure the person accused of misconduct understands the law and the specific charges.

"It can get real complicated, real quick. More than many other types of felony criminal charges, clients don't understand the severity of the offense and what they're actually facing. It's also true that sex offense cases may also involve substance abuse and certain mental health issues." - Bill Powers

Like most states, numerous sex offenses are outlined in the criminal code in North Carolina. The sex offense laws, together with other criminal offenses, can be found in the "General Statutes" (North Carolina General Statutes). It's important to note that North Carolina also recognizes the common law for felony criminal offenses.

When defense lawyers refer to something as "statutory rape" for example, they're talking about the General Statute that prohibits a certain type of sexual contact between people based on their age. It is "rape" because it is defined by the laws of NC as such and not because force or battery or the threat of physical harm was involved.

Sometimes people accused of sex crimes don't really know what a sex offense is or even what is illegal in North Carolina. For example, clients sometimes don't understand that "consent" is not a defense to statutory rape charges. Under the criminal laws of North Carolina, certain people cannot "consent" to sex, sexual relations, or sexual contact. That also applies to people with certain types of mental infirmities or disabilities.

In fact, there are legal differences to the TYPE of sexual contact. For example, it's possible to be found guilty of both rape and a related "sex offense" that may relate to touching the genitals of another for the purpose of sexual gratification.

Sex crimes include a broad range of situations involving a sexual encounter, such as sexual battery, sex offense, and sexual assault allegations. Crimes involving sexual misconduct range from sending illegal sexting messages (e.g., sexting nudes), possessing pornographic content of children, to committing rape, attempted rape, or the crime of statutory rape.

In this age of mobile devices everywhere, sexual content has proliferated texts, emails, instant messages, and certain APPS like SnapChat.

"Young people often have no idea that what they're sending, even pictures of themselves, can actually be charged as a felony. We've seen images with elicit sexual content go viral in schools, as minors think it's funny to share pictures with one another. These are deceptively serious cases and something criminal defense lawyers handle with care." - Bill Powers

In criminal matters involving exploitation of a minor, or possession of child pornography, these carry the potential for registry as a Sex Offender in North Carolina, and under federal laws are applied to all the states. People charged with sex offense cases don't always realize the complexities of the laws or that registration as a sex offender may be required under the law.

There are certain misdemeanor charges in NC that require registration. You may have heard the saying, "Ignorance of the law is no defense." Make no mistake, these types of criminal charges carry potential punishments such as long prison terms, supervised probation, mental health treatment, exclusion from certain places or use of computers, or registration as a sex offender.

Sex offense convictions and their consequences can easily exceed a certain time in prison. There are some criminal charges that require registration on the federal database for no less than 30 years!

North Carolina sex crimes can carry significant criminal penalties, including state prison time, if convicted “as charged.” Criminal defense attorneys in North Carolina with legal experience understand the potential penalties and impact of a conviction. If you're looking for a Charlotte criminal defense attorney to defend such charges, we're here to help.

Remain Silent – Name and Address ONLY

ArrestedUpon hearing about possible allegations against you, and BEFORE talking to “investigators," which may include law enforcement, detectives or police, you should get a FREE lawyer consultation with a Charlotte criminal lawyer who has experience as a sex crime attorney.

When an alleged sex offense is under police investigation, TALKING is a common error that can change a "suspect" into a defendant.

Free ConsultationThe US Constitution only requires your NAME and ADDRESS, so beyond that SAY NOTHING FURTHER. Our criminal lawyers Charlotte NC answer the phones at our law office 24-7 for emergencies. We want to make it possible for you to consult with a North Carolina criminal defense attorney BEFORE having any conversation with law enforcement.

"Everything you say to your attorney is strictly confidential. Lawyers keep secrets. That's what defense lawyers refer to as the 'attorney client privilege." - Bill Powers

What is Sexual Assault?

The term “sexual assault” covers many types of potential crimes, much like the word “theft” covers many types of stealing. To get an idea of how broadly a sexual assault definition can be, Wikipedia defines a sexual assault as:

“Sexual assault is an act in which a person sexually touches another person without that person's consent, or coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act against their will.”

The two words “sexually touches” covers a lot of ground, including a man putting his hand on a woman’s breast, even when she is fully clothed. There are legal protections in NC for unintentional, incidental contact.

Of course, "sexually touches" may also may include far more inappropriate, non-consensual touching, such as entering a person’s bedroom while the person is asleep, and touching the sleeping person’s genital area for the purpose of sexual gratification.

It gets even more serous when the person accused of a crime is in a position of authority or trust and the victim is a minor. The Prosecutor can accuse the criminal case broadly, adding multiple “counts” for different sexual activity.

Be aware that in ONE incident where a sexual assault is alleged to have occurred, it is possible, if not common, for multiple DIFFERENT sex charges to be accused by "the State." In NC criminal cases, the State is represented by the Prosecutor who works for the Office of the District Attorney. Defense lawyers often refer to the prosecutor as the "DA" or the "ADA" which stands for "assistant district attorney."

When a district attorney charges a defendant with multiple, separate criminal acts in alternative ways, lawyers may refer to that as new “count” or description of how a NC law is alleged to have been broken.

"Being charged with a criminal offense is not the same as being convicted. Sex offense cases are just different. Not only are they downright serious, they are all-too-often false accusations made in anger or to 'scare someone.' People making the allegations, just like our clients, don't always understand the criminal sex crimes laws in North Carolina before saying something they might later regret. It happens more than you might expect." - Bill Powers

If there are multiple counts for sex crimes, each allegation carries a separate potential punishment, including jail time for sex offenders, for each count. When a criminal defense lawyer from our law firm undertakes legal representation, the gathering of evidence requires careful consideration of all aspects of the background facts and police investigation and witness statements (i.e., time of day, presence of others, prior relationship between the parties).

Another difficulty with sex offense charges is that allegations of criminal conduct can come sometimes years later. In North Carolina, there is no statute of limitation for felony criminal charges. That means it's legal for prosecutors to seek an indictment or "indict" a defendant at any time if they think they can make their case.

When a Grand Jury returns a True Bill of Indictment or "True Bill," defense lawyers regularly deal with very general descriptions of the sexual allegations, and specifically the dates or time frames the sex offenses are alleged to have occurred.

As defense attorneys, one of our jobs is to carefully review the charging documents, indictments, and warrant for arrest, making certain to note the dates, times, and the specific conduct or alleged criminal offenses, and comparing the separates “counts” to determine if a motion or a Motion to Suppress or Motion to Dismiss is legally appropriate.

Those types of motions are conducted in a pre-trial motion hearing, outside the presence of a jury, with the purpose of suppressing or limiting evidence that can be admitted or even being considered by the jury, if felony Superior Court trial is necessitated.

Defense lawyers may want to review discovery, or what some clients occasionally call the "Motion for Discovery" prior to filing a written Motion to Suppress or Motion to Dismiss.

Domestic ViolenceAgain, once legal representation is formally established, a sex crime lawyer from our criminal law firm evaluates the circumstances and timing of the arrest, in relation to the time of the alleged sexual assault or sexual battery. Even if the person accused decides not to retain our law office, the attorney-client privilege protects everything you tell our defense law team.

If wrongly or illegally drawn, an indictment can constitute a violation of that individual’s due process rights, or possibly violate equal protection of the law prohibitions. Depending on the level of the violation of our clients’ rights, a judge has the legal authority to order that the criminal charges can be dismissed.

It happens. Indeed, it even happens in North Carolina. You may remember the now- infamous wrongful prosecution of the Duke University lacrosse team. That's not to say it happens in every case; but, it is an example of why diligent research, hard work, and a dedication to defending criminal defendants is so important.

"Clearly there are some cases where the best thing we can do to help a client is help explain the laws and legal system, personalize our client, and hopefully limit their exposure to long prison terms. Sex offense crimes in North Carolina, and pretty much every other state in the country, are tough a for a reason. But, that makes it all the more important to make sure innocent people are not convicted, just because people feel bad for a victim or believe 'someone has to pay.' Our job as defense lawyers is to defend people, not the criminal offense, even if they're not liked by the public or presumed guilty, prior to people actually knowing the facts." - Bill Powers

First Degree Forcible Rape

North Carolina criminal laws put in writing what is illegal. For example, in a case of forcible rape in NC, it means where the accused acted against the will of another individual, or forced another person to engage in vaginal intercourse and inflicted serious bodily injury, committed this crime with the assistance of another person, or displayed or used a deadly weapon in the commission of the act.

If that's what happened, you or your loved one could be facing first degree rape charges. Defense attorneys and sex crime lawyers have to deal with co-defendants who will “flip” on our clients, meaning that the other person “turns State’s evidence” to be the key witness against our client. While unusual, there are instances where multiple people are charged with first degree forcible rape - where more than one person is involved or accused of participating in the sex offense.

Second Degree Forcible Rape

Second degree rape charges may apply in North Carolina if the accused engages in sexual intercourse by acting against the will of the victim, or by using force, or in situations in which the victim was physically helpless, mentally incapacitated or mentally disabled.

Fewer of these cases involve an additional co-defendant, but a sex crimes attorney occasionally will find that the District Attorney has such a potential, damaging witness. Like statutory rape, people with a diminished mental capacity may not have the ability to "consent."

First Degree Statutory Rape

As stated, Statutory Rape is different than other type of sex offense cases. Consent is not a defense if the sexual activity falls within what is prohibited by the North Carolina General Statute in the definitions of "statutory rape." You could be found guilty of first degree statutory rape if the accused individual engages in vaginal intercourse with someone under the age of 13, and the defendant is a minimum of 12 years old or at least 4 years older. Remember that North Carolina Laws do not allow the victim’s willingness to participate to constitute a defense, since that person is legally presumed to not be of the statutory age of consent.

Statutory Rape can also be defined as:

  • Statutory rape of an individual who is 13 through 15 years old by a defendant at least 6 years older involves situations in which there is at least a 6 years of age difference between the victim who is between 13 and 15.
  • Statutory rape of a person who is 13 through 15 years old by a defendant who is more than 4 but less than 6 years older. This includes allegations in which a sexual act has been carried out with a victim between the ages of 13 and 15 and a defendant who is at least 4 but less than 6 years older.

Sometimes clients ask, “Is it statutory rape with parents’ consent?” The answer is still YES. This tends to be an area of of law in North Carolina where people don't understand what is legal or illegal. It's complex, but "ignorance of the law is no excuse" for statutory rape cases. Because people don't understand what is prohibited or realize there are different age-related aspects of the law, statutory rape is also one of the more common types of sex offense cases in North Carolina. Statutory rape is a felony in North Carolina and subject to the sex offender registry laws.

First Degree Forcible Sex Offense

A defendant can be found guilty of first degree sex offenses if he or she engages in a sexual act that:

  • Involves a victim under the age of 13 and an accused person who is at least 12 years old or 4 years older that the alleged victim
  • Against the will of the victim and using force in committing the alleged sex crime, with at least one other person, inflicting bodily injury on the victim or upon another individual while committing the criminal offense, or displaying or using a deadly weapon.
Second Degree Forcible Sex Offense

In a case of second degree forcible sex offense in NC, this involves sexual misconduct against the will of the victim or by using force, or with anyone who has been mentally incapacitated, mentally disabled or physically helpless.

Indecent Liberties with a Child

A defendant may be found guilty of taking indecent liberties with a child if he or she is at least 16 years old and 5 years older than the child in question and either:

  • Willfully attempts to commit or commits any lascivious or lewd act on the body or any part of the body of a child under the age of 16.
  • Attempts to commit any improper, immoral, or indecent liberties with a child or commits them under the age of 16 with the purpose of gratifying sexual desire.
First Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

Sexual exploitation of a minor may involve:

Inducing, coercing, employing, encouraging, or facilitating a minor to engage in sexual activity for a live performance, or producing images of a visual representation of this activity.

Photographing, filming, duplicating, developing or recording material that shows a visual representation of a minor engaged in the sexual activity for the purpose of pecuniary gain or sale.

Permits a minor under his control or custody to engage in sexual activity for a live performance for the purposes of producing images of a visual representation of this activity.

Pays for the transportation or transports a minor across or through North Carolina with the intent of that minor engaging in a live performance or producing images for sexual activity.

Second Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

Second degree sexual exploitation of a minor may apply if you know the content in question and the accused:

Photographs, develops, films, records or duplicates material (e.g., sexual pictures) of it.

Distributes or receives in any way visual representation of a minor engaged in sexual relations or similar sexual acts.

Sexual exploitation of a minor charges in North Carolina are felony criminal offenses. They are subject to NC and federal sex offense and sexual offender registration laws. In some cases, kidnapping charges (felony) may also be indicted in a sex offense case. Those could be charged as additional “counts” of an indictment relating to other misconduct.

These are all serious felony criminal offenses that justify an immediate lawyer consultation with an experienced sex offender attorney who understands the far-reaching implications of sex crimes and related felonies that are often part of a true bill of indictment.

Sexting is Prohibited under North Carolina Child Pornography and Obscenity Laws

SextingCell phone technology has changed how sexual content is being produced and shared. It's extremely easy to take a picture and "text" it to someone, not understanding that could be a felony. With the "dark web," access to prohibited materials is also much easier to obtain nowadays.

What people consider a "child molester" or what that even means is a developing area of consideration by lawmakers. It goes beyond the unlawful touching or physical sexual contact. The term exploitation doesn't necessarily mean the person accused of the sex offense took the pictures or forced a child to participate in pornography or sex acts.

Almost like felony criminal conspiracy charges, you can be accused of exploiting a minor by participating in the obtaining, sharing, and possessing of sexually graphic content involving minors or children, even if the child is from overseas or not specifically identified by name. The individual child or children are thereby exploited time and again by re-sharing the materials.

As you might understand, these are complex criminal defense cases. Each individual picture or movie (.jpg or .mov) can be the basis for an additional felony charge for sexual exploitation of a minor.

Many sex crimes start via the Internet. Studies show that teens and young adults often do not have knowledge of the fact that by sharing materials that had been sent to them they may be committing a felony in North Carolina, under our child pornography and obscenity laws.

Teen sexting (e.g., sending naked selfies or a photo of genitals) can be a criminal act in North Carolina. If so, this can carry very harsh penalties, including sex offender registration depending on the offense. North Carolina lacks a sexting law directly identifying texting, emailing, Snapchat, Facebook or other electronic apps. The criminal conduct being indicted is usually accused under laws prohibiting child pornography and obscenity.

Do You or a Family Member Need a Sex Crime Lawyer?

Have you or someone you know recently been accused of a sex crime in North Carolina? Our criminal defense law firm knows how damaging an allegation or arrest for a sex crime can be. Sex offender crimes can end a career, and push a family to the brink of bankruptcy, if the breadwinner is unable to work and produce income.

A sex offender attorney can make the difference in many cases, when quick action is taken to investigate and uncover valuable information for the defense of these serious felony charges.

Plus, when a young person is facing a potential sex crime that would place him or her on the North Carolina sex offender list, a felony conviction for a sex offense can negatively alter the remainder of that person’s life. Where the person lives, works and visits can be controlled by strict sex offender laws.

Many states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas) even require persons residing within such states who are on any sex offender list to undergo regular polygraph tests.

If hired to represent you, our law office attorneys will leverage our experience and resources to fight these serious crimes and the harsh penalties that are built into the NC sex offense laws. It might seem as though your future is forever changed by such an allegation.

But finding a Charlotte law firm with experienced criminal defense attorneys that work from Day 1 to explore all possibilities in your criminal defense is exactly the support you and your family need during this challenging time. One of the main goals of legal representation for an indicted, alleged sex offender, is to determine whether there is a legal basis to avoid being placed on the North Carolina registered sex offender list.

There are certain federal laws in the United States that mandate sex offender registry, where it does not necessarily matter if the criminal charges are deemed to be felony or misdemeanor in the individual states. Sometimes it has to do with the determination of whether criminal charges are said to be "crimes of violence." Defense lawyers therefore want to carefully consider the criminal allegations, factual basis, and supporting scientific evidence before providing a legal opinion as to guilt vs. innocence.

Our sex offender lawyers have represented numerous clients facing sex crime charges in the Charlotte, Mecklenburg County courts, and we know what it takes to develop an appropriate defense strategy to possibly avoid or minimize the consequences. You deserve to have someone in your corner committed to your future. Our lawyers for sex offenders in NC are here to help get you through this difficult time.

Powers Landreth has extensive experience with sex crimes defense throughout Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and surrounding counties. Partner John Landreth is also a member of the South Carolina State Bar, and handles cases in York County, Ft. Mill and surrounding counties in SC.

Accordingly, our Charlotte attorneys approach each case involving sexual allegations with care, compassion, and insight from courtroom experience. Even when the sex crime allegations seem hopeless, our lawyers in Charlotte are here for you.

Resource for North Carolina state laws/charges listed in this document:

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