Sexual harassment and sex crimes are a big part of the news right now. From major stories covering producer Harvey Weinstein, to news anchors, directors, heads of major studios, and even those covering police officers — society is becoming more and more comfortable talking about criminal justice and defense issues that affect many sectors.
But what happens when innocent people are accused of or charged with sex crimes like these? There are repercussions that go beyond serving your time, and there may even be repercussions before you are charged with any crime at all. In some cases, your employment and your life can even be destroyed without a conviction.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent for Sex Crimes in South Carolina?
Take, for example, the recent scandal here in South Carolina involving a sheriff who acknowledged having sexual relations with his assistant, but for whom there is no criminal charge to bring against. South Carolina’s governor is still calling for his resignation, simply due to public pressure. Even if he did commit the act for which he was charged, it is the law that you cannot remove a sheriff who has been elected for a four-year term when he has not been charged with a crime.
Wrongful Convictions Frequently Occur in Southern States like South Carolina
A book recently released: Ghost of the Innocent Man: a Trust Story of Trial and Redemption describes the wrongful conviction of one African-American man, Willie Grimes, who was wrongfully accused of rape in the South, even though at his trial, six people confirmed his alibi.
This story is far too commonplace: According to the National Registry of Exonerations, there have been more than 2,100 people officially found to be wrongfully convicted. One of these includes the notorious “Central Park Five” story, which chronicled the exoneration of five teenagers wrongfully accused and convicted of beating and raping a woman in Central Park. The case was particularly notorious for the confessions that were extracted from the teens, which later revealed to be coerced.
There is also the story of Ronald Cotton, who was convicted based on being identified in a lineup, and exonerated via DNA evidence after serving 10 years in prison.
In Grimes’ case, the police destroyed most of the evidence after trial, creating barriers to exoneration via DNA evidence. His case appears to focus more on sloppy police work than racial inequality inherent in the criminal justice system. His story also highlights the crushing toll that wrongfully serving time for a crime you didn’t commit can take on one’s spirit and life, where one part of that story involves prison officials suggesting to him that if he wants to become eligible for parole, he must first enlist in a court for sex offenders (which is refused because, of course, he was never involved in raping someone and is not a sex offender).
Laws for Sex Crimes in South Carolina
In South Carolina, the following laws and penalties apply for sex crimes:
- Sexual battery: defined as vaginal, anal, and/or oral sexual intercourse and/or any intrusion (including touch) onto any part of someone’s body and/or inserting an object into any genital or anal openings of their body.
- Consent: Consent can be given at the legal age of 18 or, if a partner is 18 years or younger, at a minimum age of 14 years old. In other words, statutory rape consists of someone over the age of 18 having sexual relations with someone under the age of 15. Statutory rape does not require that a prosecutor first prove assault; in addition, you can also be charged for child molestation, enticement, and/or battery, and carries with it serving up to 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
- Consent does not cover submitting to coercion or aggravated coercion. This includes threatening to use force or violence, using force or violence, or leading the victim to believe (reasonably) that you have the ability to carry out the threat and there is compliance out of fear. It also cannot be provided by someone who is intoxicated, which includes not only alcohol, but also drugs, and can result in a 30-year sentence.
- If an assailant knows that the victim is mentally or physically disabled, and sexually assaults them, they can receive up to 10 years in prison.
- If convicted of coercion, you can serve up to 20 years in prison; and in the instance of forcing someone to submit to a sexual battery in the context of forcible confinement, kidnapping, robbery, burglary, extortion, or a similar criminal offense, you can serve up to 30 years in prison.
- It is important to remember that consent can never be assumed—including in the context of marriage—and if you are convicted of spousal sexual battery, you can serve up to 10 years in prison.
Sex Crimes Follow You in Greenville & Surrounding Areas of South Carolina
Even after you have served your time, a crime can follow you into the rest of your life. Just look at South Carolina: The state is now mandating that anyone charged with being a sex offender must stay in their homes while children are trick-or-treating on Halloween night. The curfew starts at 5:30 pm and ends at 9:00 pm, and applies to sex offenders on parole or probation. The state has also set various other related rules, such as a ban on sex offenders distributing candy to children.
Dedicated Criminal Defense Attorney Serving Greenville, South Carolina
If you or a loved one has been accused or arrested for sex crimes or any other criminal charge here in South Carolina, we can help. The very beginning of your case—including your interrogation by the police—is both crucial to your case and the rest of your life.
For more information and to schedule a consultation with our experienced Greenville, South Carolina criminal defense attorneys, contact our office today.
Chase Harbin is a Criminal Defense Lawyer who practices in Pickens and Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 17 years now. Chase Harbin believes in defending the accused. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.