Cases involving sex crime are usually related to specific and diverse issues, and most of these cases end up in court. The commission of a sex offense occurs when a person refuses to give consent to a sexual act. Normally, the alleged complainant would file a police complaint, and vital evidence such as DNA is recovered as an element of a sex crime case.
The law enforcement officers and prosecution team will take into account several factors when deciding what type of offense the perpetrator will be subjected to. These include whether the defendant used force, a weapon, or any threats to entice the alleged victim, the victim's age, and the physical and mental capabilities of the victim. Our team at the Sex Crimes Attorney can offer legal counsel and help you understand the sentencing classification of the different crimes based on your case.
Understanding the Basics of Sentencing Guidelines
The Federal law sentencing guidelines involve a sophisticated blend of judicial discretion and statutory requirements. The penalties for a crime can be determined by the laws, based on one of three conditions, which determine how the defendant will be punished. These include the court's sound discretion, the existence of either aggravating or mitigating factors, and the sentence's suitability.
To make sure that the penalty is legitimate and accomplishes the goals of sentencing, the accused should have an expert criminal attorney analyze it. Otherwise, an offender can be given a sentence that is longer or harsher than what the conviction calls for.
Sentencing Guidelines Under the Federal System
All federal crimes are governed by the federal sentencing guidelines. These rules make up the complex framework that establishes the ranges of punishment for particular offenses under the federal judicial system. Although the sentencing guidelines are complex, they serve as a simple sentencing table or grid that can be used to determine the sentencing terms and ranges.
The sentencing grid or table has a conviction history category at the top and levels of crime on the vertical side. In most cases, the crime levels are expressed as points. Each federal crime is assigned a certain amount of points to it. These points can also be added or subtracted based on the aggravating and mitigating factors.
Once the total points are tallied, the criminal categorization is also established. The criminal record section identifies whether the individual has 0 to 1 prior conviction, many previous convictions, or multiple prior convictions.
Criminal history is divided into only six main categories. The sentencing table or grid is used for establishing the sentencing guide once the crime level and previous convictions have been established. However, the magistrate has the discretion to break away from the guidelines and impose a sentence that is greater or lesser than the guideline range, depending on the severity of the aggravating or mitigating factors. It is crucial to remember that the point system means that the majority of federal offenses are not eligible for probation.
How the Courts Determine a Felony Sentence
The majority of crimes are subject to one of three predetermined penalties. If the law does not specify otherwise, the options are sixteen months, 2 years, or 3 years.
During the sentencing hearing following a conviction, the judge is required to choose one of the predetermined imprisonment terms as the basic punishment unless the statute specifies an alternative, like probation, fines, or mandatory monitoring for the duration of the sentence. While choosing among the various terms (such as victim statements), the court can take proof regarding aggravating or mitigating factors into account.
Depending on the severity of their crimes and criminal history, some defendants will be required to serve more time than the standard sentence for every felony conviction. While the majority of felony penalties are for a predetermined period, California law permits "indeterminate" penalties, which range from twenty-five years to life imprisonment, in some circumstances.
Magistrates have the discretion to consider the specific facts of every case that is brought before them before issuing a final judgment, and they can issue verdicts that are beyond the suggested range. One of the most common elements that judges take into account is the conduct of the defendant beforehand, during, and following the crime's commission.
The court can raise the penalty above the suggested maximum due to aggravating factors. Some factors that could be considered aggravating include the following:
- Loss of life.
- Using a lethal weapon while committing a crime.
- Severe physical harm to the victim.
The presiding judge can also take into account mitigating circumstances that could be applied to support a punishment that is less severe than the stipulated minimum, like:
- The offense was committed by the offender under duress or coercion.
- The victim's actions played a significant role in enraging the offender.
- ssisting law enforcement in capturing more defendants.
If you're accused of committing a sexual offense and would like to know how serious it is, you can make contact with a seasoned sex crime lawyer. He or she can advise you of your chances of being charged with either a felony or misdemeanor sex crime and help you mount a solid defense. Sex crimes are classified differently based on their nature and severity.
The least severe offenses are known as infractions, whereas more severe crimes are known as misdemeanors. Felonies are the most severe type of crime. The key distinctions between these categories should be understood since they affect both the content and the process of any allegation.
Mitigating and Aggravating Factors
Judges take into account the letter grade assigned to a crime depending on the nature and specifics of the crime laid out in the relevant law when deciding the penalty itself. The sentencing chart serves as a basis for determining how much time a defendant should serve.
Judges can modify that period as per mitigating and aggravating circumstances, each of which represents a point on the sentencing chart that directs the course of a sentence's determination.
Aggravating elements enhance or lengthen the sentence. The situation becomes more dangerous or worse due to aggravating factors. More aggravating circumstances result in more severe penalties. Examples include:
- The severity of the assault and/or injuries.
- Use of firearms or other weapons during the crime.
- The victim's vulnerability.
- Prior criminal history.
- Involvement of a minor.
Mitigating factors lessen or lower the amount of time served. The more mitigating factors there are, the less severe the sentence. Examples include:
- The accused person contributed a small part.
- The victim provoked the defendant to act, hence it was self-defense.
- Unique circumstances.
- Participation under duress.
- No damage is done to individuals or property.
The judge renders a final judgment on how long the defendant has to spend behind bars after taking into account the aforementioned considerations.
An Overview of Federal Sex Crimes Classification
Federal offenses are divided into two categories, that is felonies and misdemeanors. For misdemeanors, the potential sentences include hefty fines and serving time behind bars, typically no longer than a year. The most serious type of crime is a felony which can result in a life sentence.
Federal felony crimes are divided into the following classes:
- Class A Felony.
- Class B Felony.
- Class C Felony.
- Class D Felony.
- Class E Felony.
There are three classes of misdemeanors:
- Class A Misdemeanor.
- Class B Misdemeanor.
- Class C Misdemeanor.
In both classifications, the first category is regarded as the most severe and attracts the harshest penalties. The punishments lessen with each subsequent level.
Let us take a closer look at each of these categories and the sentence that is outlined for them under Section 3559 of the 18 United States Code.
This category is designated primarily for the most serious felony charges, such as first-degree kidnapping, forced child labor, and other heinous offenses. For a federal sex-related offense to be declared a first-degree crime, it should have been perpetrated with a threat or involved a deadly weapon during the forced sexual activity, the alleged victim suffered substantial physical harm, or the conduct ended in the death of the victim.
Class, A felony sex crimes include the following:
- Sexual abuse in the first and second degrees.
- Sexual exploitation of a minor under the age of 12.
- Forcible sodomy.
- Forcible Rape.
- Carnal knowledge of anyone under the age of twelve.
- Murder or manslaughter committed prior to, during, or following an attempt of sexual contact, rape, or any other kind of sexual activity.
- Sodomy perpetrated on an individual under the age of twelve.
- Illegal sexual activity with a juvenile, unless consensual, is a non-registration violation.
- Using a child to perform or produce nudity-oriented content.
- Gross imposition in a sexual manner.
- Child enticement.
Class A felonies are the most serious offenses under federal law, and they carry the harshest punishments. If you're found guilty of a felony under Class A, you might spend the rest of your life behind bars or perhaps face the death penalty and a $250,000 fine.
This category of felonies includes offenses that are grave but not the most severe. Class B crimes come with severe penalties since they are felonies, including lengthy prison sentences and/or hefty fines. A sex offender can be sentenced to not more than 25 years behind bars, but at least 10 years and a hefty fine of no more than $250,000.
An individual who has been convicted of a felony crime can be subjected to the most severe and lifetime consequences, including permanent points on their criminal records, stringent supervision through parole or probation, and an extended sentence in prison that will likely keep them away from their loved ones.
The maximum sentence isn't always automatically imposed. Usually, the prosecutor will seek a judgment depending on the circumstances of the crime and the defendant’s criminal record. The judge also has discretion when it comes to sentencing. Only in cases where there are mitigating circumstances can the judge impose a reduced punishment on the perpetrator of the crime.
When there are aggravating factors, such as sex crimes committed against minors, the use of a dangerous weapon in a sexually related crime, or prior convictions, the perpetrator could face a longer prison term.
Felonies under Class C are considered to be in the middle range of the spectrum of severity when compared to Classes A and B respectively. However, if the offender has past convictions or other aggravating circumstances, a Class C felony sentence still carries a significant prison term. Any person found guilty of perpetrating a sex crime against a person who is 18 years of age or older would often have their actions categorized as a Class C felony.
Without consideration of aggravating factors or past convictions, the presumed punishment for class C felony crimes is ten years or more (but not more than twenty-five years) behind bars and a hefty fine of no more than two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
The least severe felony crimes fall under this classification. Most Class D felony crimes do not include violent or dangerous behavior. Most Class D felony crimes have no victims. Class D felonies are nonetheless subject to punitive sentencing guidelines like lengthy prison terms, significant fines, and stringent probation requirements, just like any other felony crime.
A Class D felony conviction can have a lasting effect on you for the rest of your life since it will always be on your criminal file, regardless of when you have finished serving your term. A felony record can be detrimental since it could make it difficult for you to obtain decent job opportunities, visitation rights with your children, financial aid for education, or housing.
Some examples of felony crimes under Class D include public urination, solicitation, and sexually explicit exposure in public. If found guilty of a Class D crime, the defendant could spend less than five years behind bars but more than one year, pay a hefty fine of no more than two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, or serve one to five years on probation.
California's Felony Sentencing Guidelines
In determining a felony's punishment, the courts take the nature and severity of the crime, mitigating and aggravating factors, and other relevant elements into account. Three types of sentences could be applied to any felony: upper, middle, and lower. However, sentencing guidelines for certain felony crimes follow determinate sentencing, while other crimes fall under indeterminate sentencing.
Determinate and Indeterminate
The first factor judges take into account when deciding the sentence is whether the crime calls for a determinate sentencing or an indeterminate punishment, depending on California laws.
When issuing a sentence based on determinate sentencing guidelines, the court will pick one of the 3 potential terms and order the perpetrator to adhere to a predetermined period before being released on probation or parole.
An indeterminate sentencing guideline lasts from twenty-five years to a life sentence in prison and only allows for the offender to be released on probation or parole. Once the defendant starts serving their sentence, the court renders the verdict.
Classes of Federal Misdemeanors and Penalties
Under federal law, misdemeanors are divided into three categories based on how serious the crime is. Federal law divides misdemeanors into three classes:
- Class A
- Class B
- Class C
The penalties for Class A offenses are the most severe of the subsequent Classes. This implies that you could face a relatively low fine if your actions are categorized as Class C misdemeanors.
Class A misdemeanor violations include disseminating indecent material via subscription cable or TV, transmitting obscene language, and general obscenity. Class A misdemeanor punishments include jail time of at least one year and not exceeding one year, with a maximum fine of $100,000. The period of probation ranges from 0 to 5 years.
A Class A misdemeanor remains on your record indefinitely unless it is expunged or sealed. Expungement does not apply to all Class A misdemeanors, and whether it does in a particular case depends on the gravity of the crime and if the accused has completed probation.
Sentences for Other Federal Misdemeanor Classes
- Class B misdemeanor crimes will face an imprisonment sentence for a term not exceeding 6 months and a hefty cash fine of no more than $5,000.
- Class C misdemeanor crimes carry a potential $5,000 fine and a 30-day maximum sentence in jail.
It should be noted that the maximum penalty increases to $250,000 in cases where a misdemeanor crime causes death. Infractions are normally punished by a maximum $5,000 fine and a 5-day federal prison term. The length of probation ranges between 0 and 5 years.
Even minor charges like a federal misdemeanor can have a significant impact on a person's life. Some federal offenses can result in the denial of a child's rights to custody, visiting rights, employment, professional licenses, or student financing loans.
California Misdemeanor Sentencing Guidelines
The California sentencing guidelines for misdemeanors work in the same way as those for felony convictions. However, the consequences of misdemeanor crimes are not specified in a specific act. Misdemeanor penalties are determined based on the general guidelines. Misdemeanors can be classified as either regular, gross, or aggravated misdemeanors.
When deciding on a sentence, courts take all relevant circumstances into account. A regular misdemeanor conviction can result in a maximum of six months behind bars and a $1,000 fine. A person found guilty of a gross or aggravated misdemeanor can be sentenced to no more than 364 days behind bars, and cash fines not exceeding $1,000.
California’s “Realignment” Program
The Public Safety Realignment Act mandates that defendants serve their time in jail instead of prison unless they hold a criminal record that includes recent or prior convictions for violent or serious felonies, they must file for registration with the sex offender registry, or their current charges include an enhanced sentence for an aggravated white collar offense. Violent or major felony crimes include voluntary manslaughter, murder, rape, carjacking, robbery, and any crime that involves the use of a deadly weapon.
Civil Repercussions of Federal Convictions
A Class A felony conviction can result in several adverse civil penalties in addition to the criminal penalties, such as:
- Losing your driving privileges.
- Losing your legal right to exercise democratic practices like casting your vote.
- Restrictions on jury duty.
- Loss of professional licenses.
- Loss of gun ownership rights.
- Loss of parental rights and/or visitation rights.
Civil Liability Following a Conviction
Additionally, the victim of a federal-level sex offense can seek damages from the perpetrator based on:
- Medical costs.
- Suffering and pain.
- Emotional trauma.
- Damage to property.
- Physical injuries caused as a result of the crime.
- Lost income.
FAQs Regarding the Sentencing Classification of Offenses
The following are some of the frequently asked questions about sentencing classifications of offenses.
What Is A "Wobbler" Offense?
A "wobbler" is an offense that can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony, based on the circumstances. A crime can be mitigated from a felony offense to a misdemeanor offense or escalated from a misdemeanor to a felony after reviewing the circumstances of the case and the criminal record of the defendant, if any.
What Happens If A Person Has Several Criminal Convictions?
If a person has been convicted of many crimes, they will serve multiple sentences. They could serve the terms concurrently or consecutively.
What Is Misdemeanor Expungement?
This is a court-ordered procedure that involves the erasure of a record related to an arrest or criminal conviction. Once the conviction is erased, the crime is regarded as though it never happened. The applicant thereby receives a spotless record that could be used when submitting applications for housing, job, and many other situations.
Misdemeanor expungement is only available to those who have successfully served their prison terms and have maintained an impeccable track record throughout their sentence. Additionally, there's a requirement that a specific number of years (often between 5 and 10 years) pass after the final conviction before any expungement is allowed.
Find a Sex Crime Attorney Near Me
Sex crimes at the federal level carry severe repercussions. When sentenced, the punishments are severe. Therefore, if you're apprehended or receive a federal infringement notice, you should consider engaging a professional sex crime lawyer. This is crucial because your freedom, reputation, and future are all on the line. During this tough moment, society at large and even those closest to you could be quick to condemn and reject you.
Our lawyers at the Sex Crimes Attorney will stand by your side to defend you and fight the allegations. We will go over the specifics of the case so that we can put together a strong defense strategy to contest the prosecutor's evidence to have the charges dropped or reduced. Reach out to us at 888-666-8480 right away.