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All sex crimes are not the same but may be treated that way

Child sexual abuse is not something to be taken lightly and the law in Virginia does not. If a sex crime is perpetrated, authorities are not shy about cracking down on suspects. However, the public outcry over child sex abuse, justifiable as it is, can lead to overzealous prosecutions.

Sometimes, youngsters not even into puberty can find themselves facing charges and caught up in the legal system. It is not unheard of for prosecutors to treat young offenders as adults if they think their alleged actions warrant it. If a conviction is obtained, what can happen then is that a child, unaware of even having done anything illegal, could wind up labeled a sex offender -- a condition that has life-long negative implications.

Any doubt about how much of an issue this may be can be put to rest by a read through a recent article in "The New Yorker" magazine.

The work offers up a whole string of cases in which young people have been accused of sex crimes and were convicted. Sometimes they pleaded guilty to the charges on the advice of their attorneys raising the question of who was watching out for their best interests. In more than one instance, the alleged perpetrator was all of 10 or 12 years old at the time of the offense.

For example, there is the case of a girl, 10, who pulled the pants of a male classmate down at school. Upon being convicted of indecency with a child she was put on probation and her name was put on the state's sex offender list for 10 years. Terms of probation required her to be in her mother's house after 6 p.m. every night. She could not leave the county. She could not live near any minor children.

As the article observes, it's not merely the loss of personal freedoms that is a problem in such cases. If a defendant is channeled into a treatment regimen, he or she could face regular lie detector or other tests to measure their potential deviancy and have to pay for them.

There are efforts being made to achieve reform of the registry system, at least where juveniles are concerned. How successful they will be remains to be seen. Meanwhile, anyone facing sex crime charges will best protect their rights by working with an experienced attorney.

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