A sexual assault conviction can have lasting consequences. It will be hard to find an employer who will hire someone with a history of sex crimes, and those jobs that are available usually don’t pay well. You may also have trouble being approved for a place to live, gaining custody of your children, obtaining a healthcare license, or pursuing higher education. If you are required to register as a sex offender, you will face many restrictions, potentially for the rest of your life. Since the sex offender registry is public, it may also affect your social relationships with family, friends, and neighbors even decades after your offense.
If you have already gone to trial and been found guilty of sexual assault, you may feel there are not a lot of legal options left. However, if you feel you were wrongfully convicted, a skilled attorney can help you explore options for making an appeal to have the decision reversed or to obtain a lesser sentence that correctly matches the crime you committed.
PENALTIES FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT
Not all sexual assault cases are the same, and the penalties differ greatly depending on the severity of the crime. According to the South Carolina code, all criminal sexual conduct is considered a felony and comes with stiff penalties. In general, criminal sexual conduct is divided into the following categories:
- First Degree – Includes the use of aggravated force or physical confinement while committing sexual assault. This is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
- Second Degree – Includes the use of aggravated coercion to commit sexual assault. This is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
- Third Degree – Includes the use of force or coercion without aggravating circumstances to commit sexual assault, or the victim was physically or mentally incapacitated, and force was not used. This is punishable by up to ten years in prison.
Criminal sexual conduct with minors is also separated into first, second, and third-degree offenses, and warrants higher penalties than offenses towards adult victims. The age of the victim, as well as the age of the offender at the time the crime was committed, are taken into account. Some situations may warrant a sentence of life in prison, and the death penalty is even possible in some cases involving a minor.
REGISTERING AS A SEX OFFENDER
South Carolina law section 23-3-430 requires that anyone who was convicted of criminal sexual conduct must register as a sex offender. This will subject you to many restrictions such as where you can live and work, and your registration must be updated regularly.
There are three tiers of sex offenders:
- Tier I: You must verify your registration annually for at least 15 years
- Tier II: You must verify your registration every six months for at least 25 years.
- Tier III: The most serious of the tiers, you must verify your registration every 90 days for the rest of your life.
If your offense involved minors, the restrictions imposed on sex offenders will be much stricter than if the offense involved an adult.
MAKING AN APPEAL
If you feel that you were unfairly convicted of sexual assault, you may have the option to make an appeal to a higher court that the conviction was not legally correct. This trial will usually only reexamine the court proceedings from the previous trial and the goal is to determine whether the decision was made based on legal error. Additional evidence and witnesses are not considered during this process.
Making an appeal is difficult, and only a small percentage of appellants have their decision reversed. Due to the complicated nature of the appeals process, it is crucial that you seek help from an experienced attorney immediately to protect your legal rights.
REDUCING THE SENTENCE
It is also possible to have your sentence reduced after you are convicted if additional evidence becomes available or in various other circumstances. An attorney will be able to help you understand how the law applies to your specific situation and whether or not this would be a possibility for you.
CONTACT TRUSLOW & TRUSLOW TODAY
Being convicted of sexual assault has life-altering consequences, whether you are guilty or not. Even if you made some poor choices, you deserve to have legal representation with your best interest in mind. Sexual assault is a serious offense and is nothing to take lightly, but your punishment should match the crime committed.
If you have received an unfair conviction or an excessive sentence for sexual assault, the South Carolina criminal defense attorneys at Truslow & Truslow may be able to help. Contact us today at (803) 590-6688 for a consultation.