If you have children, or live, work or have contact with children, it is possible (though statically quite unlikely) that, at some point, you might be falsely accused of child molestation or other sexually inappropriate behavior with a child. False accusations can be intentionally false accusations by an adult or a child or allegations based in error – for instance, because a child misunderstands something an adult does or because an adult misunderstands a child's description of an event. False accusations also can arise because another person misinterprets an adult's relationship with a child or a teenager, or lies about the relationship.
False accusations can occur in divorce and custody cases, daycare and babysitting scenarios, in teacher-student or coaching relationships, in families, among friends and neighbors, and between strangers. A child might even accuse an adult he does not know and who has no interactions with children, simply because the adult looks like or reminds the child of the offender.
Accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior with a child – whether by a child, a parent or other family member, or a third party – are a very serious matter. Such accusations often lead to criminal investigations and referral to a child welfare or protection agency, and can result in criminal charges against the person being accused, as well as loss of or suspension from employment. The initial response of the person accused can have a significant, permanent impact on this situation.
If any person (someone you know personally or a law enforcement officer, investigator with a public agency, or your employer) questions you about or accuses you of inappropriate sexual behavior with a child, try not to answer any questions, make any statements, or engage in any conversation or discussion with the other person until you have consulted an attorney. You can tell the person that you cannot discuss the matter until a later time or until you have consulted with an attorney. Even making a statement of denial can be tricky in this situation if you have not obtained legal advice. If you try to say that you did not touch a child inappropriately, the other person may misinterpret your statement. You also may make a simple statement that seems innocuous, like admitting you talked to a child at a certain time or were alone with a child, only to have the statement used against you at a later time.
If you are questioned by your employer or a representative of your employer, such as your supervisor, an administrator, or someone from human resources, and you become concerned that you may be fired if you do not respond to the questions on the spot, you will have to use your own judgment and decide whether to proceed without consulting an attorney. This is understandably a very tricky situation, as your employer could turn your statements over to law enforcement or a child welfare department if you respond, but might try to fire you if you do not respond. The one precaution you can take is to contact an attorney as soon as you hear anything – even a rumor – that you are being accused of child molestation.
The moment that you learn of accusations that you have had inappropriate contact with a child – even if you hear only rumors – you should contact an attorney for information and advice on what to do. Remember, communication between an attorney and a client is protected by attorney-client privilege, which means that any private conversations with an attorney are confidential and cannot be shared with anyone else or used against you in a criminal proceeding. Besides advising you, an attorney can immediately begin communicating on your behalf with anyone trying to question or contact you about the accusation.
For example, perhaps you are a teacher and a parent has contacted you and questioned your behavior with his child, or accused you of sexual contact, and told you he intends to contact the school administration. An attorney can contact a school administrator before you are questioned, begin addressing the matter on your behalf, and you will never find yourself in the uncomfortable position of being questioned by a school principal or other administrator without having consulted with an attorney or without an attorney present.
If you are falsely accused of molestation or other inappropriate sexual behavior with a child, you should also:
You should be prepared to share all of this information and material with an attorney.
The most obvious and serious concern if you are charged with a crime based on false accusations of child molestation is that you could be convicted of the crime. A conviction for sexual contact with or sexual abuse of a minor has serious potential consequences. A defendant could be:
In addition to criminal consequences, a person convicted of a child sex crime could:
Accusations alone, especially if the case draws media attention or other publicity, also can result in serious consequences outside an actual criminal prosecution proceeding.
Because of the possible consequences, no one should face a child sex crime charge without being represented by an attorney.
In investigating child sex crime charges and preparing a defense, it is important to explore certain issues, including:
An experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will be aware of the possible defenses to a charge of child sexual molestation or abuse and the issues that need to be explored. An attorney can:
If you are accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with a child, you should not: