Experienced Wilmington Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys
Being accused of a sex crime is a terrifying experience. Not only are you facing serious criminal charges (or a stressful law enforcement investigation), but the stigma and shame of a conviction can follow you for the rest of your life. You need a law firm that knows the stakes and has a proven track record of success.
At Roberts Law Group, our decades of experience as defense attorneys are informed by a background in prosecution. This allows us to anticipate the other side’s strategy and potential mistakes as well. We have used our thorough knowledge of the law to help clients just like you maintain their dignity and their freedom.
When To Hire A Wilmington Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer
Contact an attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you contact an attorney, the better off you will be.
Even if formal charges have not yet been filed against you, having an attorney on your side during the investigation phase can still be beneficial. Many people will freely speak to police officers, not realizing that they are inadvertently incriminating themselves by the answers they give. Before you answer a single question at the police department or county sheriff’s office, you should always contact a law firm first. A robust sex crimes defense begins as soon as you learn that you’re under investigation or have your first contact with the police.
What Is The Bail Process And How Can A Lawyer Help?
Judges want to be sure that people show up for their court hearings. One way they ensure that happens is by requiring bail, which is money you agree to give the court in exchange for being released from jail until your court dates. If you attend, the bail money is returned. If not, the court keeps it. This is standard procedure across all North Carolina courts.
In addition to the money, posting bail typically has conditions associated with it. Some conditions may include:
- Restricting your ability to travel
- Submitting to tests for drugs and alcohol
- Attending counseling or substance abuse treatment
- Surrendering firearms
These conditions can sometimes severely restrict your ability to engage in your everyday life. Your attorney can negotiate with the court on your behalf. By presenting evidence and creating a persuasive case, bail terms can often be reduced or eliminated. Sometimes a judge will not want to offer bail at all, but an experienced attorney can change their mind.
How To Choose A Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer In Wilmington, North Carolina
When you stand accused of a sex crime, choosing your defense attorney is the single most important decision you will make. To find a good attorney, you should:
- Read online reviews from multiple sources (not just testimonials on a law firm’s website)
- Ask about the experience of friends and family who have used criminal defense attorneys
- Interview attorneys in person and ask difficult, direct questions
- Review their experience and past track record with cases like yours
- Look into their history with the North Carolina ethics board
Remember, this is the person who stands between you and the police department or prosecution. If they can’t handle a thorough vetting from you, how do you think they will perform in the courtroom?
What Makes An Attorney Good Or Bad?
When facing off against the county sheriff’s office, local investigators or prosecutors, you want the best possible sex crimes attorney on your side. But what characteristics should you look for? Here are a few.
A good attorney will:
- Communicate clearly with law enforcement, legal staff and with you
- Create new legal strategies tailored to your situation
- Interact with you as a person, not an accused criminal
- Always follow up, hit deadlines and stay organized
- Keep track of paperwork, such as arrest records and other documentation
A bad attorney will:
- Always be rushed, or even too busy to talk to you at all
- Have a history of disciplinary actions or serious ethics violations
- Treat you like a case number, not like a person
- Miss important deadlines that could land you in the county jail
- Be hazy on important statutes and legal nuances that affect your case
- Give up when there is a setback
There is a world of difference between these two attorneys. One will fight as hard as they can on your behalf, while the other will go through the motions and not take full advantage of everything that could clear your name.
Understanding The Legal Process For Sex Crimes In North Carolina
When defending against accusations of sex offenses, it’s important to know what you’re up against. The state government maintains a searchable database of all North Carolina laws, which you can use to read the exact text of the statutes in play. If you have any questions about the particular sex crime you have been charged with, we will be happy to clarify anything we can.
What Happens After You’re Charged With A Sex Crime?
This will depend on whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor sex offense or a felony, which you will learn at the beginning of the process. Here’s what to expect after you have been charged with a misdemeanor:
- Initial arrest: You will be booked and held until you have an opportunity to request bail.
- First court appearance: Your attorney will handle this appearance alongside you.
- Pre-trial negotiations: This is an opportunity for your attorney to negotiate with the prosecution. After reviewing evidence and speaking with witnesses, we may try to get the prosecution to drop the charges altogether or argue them down to lesser charges.
- Trial: If negotiations don’t result in a plea bargain that’s favorable to you, a full courtroom trial will eventually take place.
Felonies are far more complex, since the penalties are more severe, including potential sex-offender registration. Some felony examples would be rape, statutory rape, sex trafficking and others.
You can visit this link for a more thorough discussion of the felony process, but the basic steps involve:
- Initial arrest
- First court appearance
- Preliminary settings
- Pre-trial negotiations
- Probable cause hearing
- Grand jury
- Motions and settlement conferences
In general, there is far more evidence-gathering and negotiation in a felony case because the stakes are so high. Different phases can be spaced out by several months, but we will always keep you updated on what comes next and what resolution seems likely.
What Are The Penalties Associated With Being A Sex Offender?
Both state and federal laws make sex-offender registration mandatory for certain convictions. Federal law has a three-tier system for imposing penalties on sex offenders after release, depending on the kind of sexual contact they are convicted of:
- Tier three: This is reserved for the most serious sexual crimes and requires a lifetime on the sex-offender registry. This tier includes aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual conduct.
- Tier two: These individuals must register as sex offenders for 25 years. These charges include soliciting a minor or use of a minor in pornography.
- Tier one: This a larger group of individuals who are not explicitly assigned to a higher tier. They are typically required to register for 10-15 years.
Being a registered sex offender carries many restrictions, including not being able to work around children, not being able to be present in locations that children frequent, possible satellite monitoring and needing to report all changes in address to law enforcement.
Court-Appointed Versus Private Attorneys In Sex Crimes Defense
Being informed about your attorney choices is always a good idea, especially when dealing with something as potentially damaging as a sex crime conviction. Most people use a formally-trained attorney, such as a public defender (if they qualify) or private criminal defense lawyer. However, some people also choose to represent themselves in court, which they have a legal right to do. These options are discussed in greater detail below.
The Pluses And Minuses Of A Public Defender
A foundational principle of our legal system is that everyone has a right to an attorney, whether they can afford one or not. If the court determines that you can’t, a court-appointed lawyer will take up your cause. These attorneys have the same qualifications as other attorneys: they have passed the bar and are legally licensed to practice law. They typically know the legal landscape and are up-to-date on all the latest changes.
However, they are also overworked to the point of exhaustion. A single public defender could be managing more than 100 cases at the same time. How much effort can they really give your case when they have literally dozens of other people to worry about? You’re just one defendant, and their time is painfully limited.
Additionally, you can’t choose which public defender gets assigned to your case. This means you could end up with someone inexperienced – or someone who doesn’t mesh well with your personality.
Hiring Your Own Criminal Defense Attorney
This is what most people do for one simple reason: it works. Good ones will have experience with the specific type of sex-offense charge you’re facing, and they will also have the time required to do a great job. They will be responsive and communicative, able to sit down with you and really understand what happened and where the weaknesses lie in the prosecution’s case.
They also generally have more resources than public defenders, which means they can enlist outside experts to help build a strong defense. They can bring in expert testimony if required, or even send evidence off to another lab to cross-check the techniques and conclusions of the prosecutors.
This kind of legal counsel may cost more than other options, but you will reap the benefits many times over. When it comes to criminal sex crime charges, a private attorney will give you the greatest chance of success.
Representing Yourself: Don’t Do It
This might work in TV and movies, but it never works out in real life. While everyone has the right to act as their own defense counsel, the reality is that lacking a legal background will doom your case. A seasoned prosecutor will run circles around you in ways that won’t even be apparent until your case collapses and you suffer an unnecessary conviction. Technical mistakes you have no way of anticipating will mount and mount, cutting off potentially exculpatory evidence and testimony.
The penalties and stigma associated with sex crimes are remarkably high, which means that representing yourself in court is even riskier than normal. Do not do this. Ever.
Get Help Crafting Your Defense Today: FREE Consultation
At Roberts Law Group, we take your freedom, rights and reputation just as seriously as you do. If you are facing sex crime charges, our attorneys will do everything in our power to fight for the best outcome possible. Contact us as soon as you can so that we can begin building your defense.