When Your Teenager is Charged with a Sex Crime.

Q & A with Jan Olson, Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyer

What should I do when my teenager has been charged with a sex crime?

I’ve been a criminal defense attorney, and representing juveniles, for nearly 40 years.  I have learned that when a juvenile is charged with a sex crime, his or her parents should immediately employ the best criminal defense lawyer they can afford. Without question, their child will be exposed to an overwhelming judicial system that is weighed in favor of finding the juvenile guilty of their charged offense. Going into that traumatic experience without the assistance of an experienced defense attorney is tantamount to throwing gasoline on a roaring fire.

What are the most common situations where juveniles are charged with a sex crime? 

When it comes to learning that their child is charged with a sex offense, most likely, the parent is going to be subjected to one of two scenarios.

Scenario #1: Their child was intoxicated at a party and didn’t respect a peer’s lack of consent. 

Scenario #2: Their teenager is alleged to have taken liberties with a much younger child.

In both scenarios, the parents need the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. They shouldn’t wait. If they do, the police may complete their investigation, get their case to a local prosecutor, and have that prosecutor make a charging decision.  That charge which will likely not be in favor of the juvenile because he or she did not have an experienced lawyer actively working to help influence a more favorable outcome.

For example, a defense attorney could help show a prosecutor that there is not enough evidence to go forward with the criminal charge, or not enough evidence to sustain a conviction to a more serious offense.

There is no upside for the parent and their child to simply walk into a detective’s office and give a statement about what he or she is alleged to have done. Without securing an attorney, the juvenile could face excessive charges and endure more distress than necessary.

Can juveniles be placed on probation prior to trial?

Parents should understand every juvenile charged with a sex offense in the State of Washington is automatically placed within the probationary system. 

That process is based upon the State of Washington’s concept that a juvenile offender is a rehabilitatable person. They aren’t hardened, and if they get social services sooner, it is much more likely that they will not be in the adult system.

Unfortunately, there are probation officers who possess a law enforcement mentality and a charged juvenile can face a heightened degree of punitive, rather than supportive, scrutiny.

If a defense lawyer is onboard the juvenile’s case, parents have someone who will make sure their child’s probation officer is there to help the juvenile, not work against your case. Without ever discussing the facts of the case, a defense attorney can work with a probation officer to make sure it is documented that the juvenile is going to school, following his or her guardian’s rules, adhering to a curfew, and so forth, helping the parent to cast their child in the most positive light possible to their judge. 

Who determines the guilt of a teenager charged with a sex crime?

Many parents in the State of Washington do not realize that there is no right to a jury trial for juvenile offenses. A single judge will determine the guilt or innocence of their child. This precedence has been challenged on three separate occasions, but it holds today.

As I mentioned earlier, the juvenile system in the State of Washington is a more rehabilitative system that is weighed in favor of getting the juvenile services, which often places the juvenile in a position where he or she may admit to some criminal behavior. Such an admission can place the juvenile in a very precarious position when facing their judge.

Getting a defense attorney is vital for juveniles charged with a sex crime.

An experienced lawyer with understanding of the legal system, specifically the workings of the juvenile system, places parents and their child charged with a sex crime in the position to achieve the best results possible, results that will undoubtedly impact the juvenile for the rest of his or her life.

Do you have further questions regarding your juvenile’s criminal defense? Consult with an attorney immediately.

If you have a criminal matter and would like to consult with a lawyer, contact Jan Olson at Ellis, Li & McKinstry, PLLC. You can reach Jan by calling (206) 682-0565 or by e-mail at jolson@elmlaw.com.