Common Sex Crime Charges in Virginia
Virginia sex crimes attorney Thomas Soldan answers questions about common sex crime charges in Virginia and the severity of the penalties that correspond to such crimes.
What are the most common types of sex crimes that you handle?
Thomas Soldan: The most common sex offense is sexual assault, which is unwanted touching with some sort of sexual component, and that could involve males or females. With the modern proliferation of the Internet, different Internet sex crimes are abundant. That could include possession of illegal material, child pornography, or solicitation on the Internet. Those are common sex offenses that are seen at an increasing frequency. Other sex crimes would be the more serious sex offenses, such as more serious and egregious sexual assaults, object sexual penetration, rape, and sodomy. Crimes that are “particularly heinous,” which is actually the common law term in Virginia, are typically crimes that are committed against classes of people that cannot protect themselves as readily as others, such as the elderly or children, or crimes of force against women. Those are viewed by prosecutors as the most harsh and most egregious and most heinous because that is how society views them. Society has a strong view regarding force against women, or crimes involving children or older people.
What are some of the less egregious sex crimes that people may get involved in unknowingly?
Thomas Soldan: With the proliferation of the Internet, different types of solicitation are more popular than ever. Craigslist and other sites can be used for types of prostitution or what are sometimes referred to as “victimless crimes.” Those are sometimes cases in which people are surprised at how seriously the charges are taken. Solicitation is a possible misdemeanor in Virginia and the crime could require a jail sentence. That is a potential serious offense. Other offenses that people are often unknowingly caught up in are cases involving images, where they may or may not have known that the images were as illegal as they were.
What are some other Internet-related sex crimes besides child pornography?
Thomas Soldan: [Child pornography is] certainly the most serious one. Even within child pornography, there are different levels depending on whether or not someone is involved with production, distribution, or creation, or if they are part of an organization that is involved. Those are all more serious offenses than simply possessing images. There are a lot of different levels that come to play. Additionally, with the Internet, someone may be involved with things like unlawful videotaping or distributing images that involve privacy laws. There are certainly ways to be involved with Internet-related crimes that aren’t necessarily child pornography but are still very serious.
What are the different crimes related to prostitution?
Thomas Soldan: The most common prostitution-related crime is solicitation, the simple act of requesting services or engaging in the service as the prostitute. Those can both be solicitation. The more serious crimes involve prostitution through force, commonly known as “pimping,” where someone is forcing another person into prostitution against their will, through either the threat of violence or monetary coercion. That is more serious on the scale of prostitution crimes, as well as abduction for the purpose of prostitution. By someone either answering an ad or finding someone on the street, a simple solicitation is by far the most common type of prostitution offense. Finding someone on the street and engaging a prostitute for their services or finding someone on the Internet are the most common types of solicitations.
Which sex crimes require someone to register as a sex offender if they are convicted?
Thomas Soldan: That depends on the nature of the offense. Virginia has a very detailed and specific sex crimes registry law. Typically, any felony sex crime will involve the sex offender registry. Other offenses, such as possession of child pornography or exposure-type offenses could lead to the sex offender registry. What registering as a sex offender entails depends on the exact type of offense. There are different classifications on the chart under the sex offender statute. There is a violent sex offender registry and a nonviolent registry. Those depend on the nature of the offense, a violent offense versus a nonviolent offense. The different registries have different time periods that the person has to be on for and different requirements such as how soon someone must check in, what type of notices they must comply with, and whether they must seek treatment.
What makes a sex offense a federal charge?
Thomas Soldan: A sex offense could become a federal crime if it occurred across state lines or over the Internet. For example, an Internet child pornography case could be federal, depending on what jurisdiction the offenses occurred in and whether it was a federal or state investigation. The size and scope of the alleged conduct could lead to it becoming a federal offense. It could also be that the offense occurred on federal property.
How are the penalties different for a federal sex crime conviction?
Thomas Soldan: The federal penalties are more severe, and the federal action typically occurs within a shorter time period than a state prosecution would. It changes the way that the attorney would approach the defense. A federal attorney would want to get involved with the federal law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s office as soon as possible, whereas in a state case they may have additional time to find out the details. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, the attorney will be experienced and know what to do.
What factors are involved with sex crimes involving college students?
Thomas Soldan: When a case deals with a university student, there may be different levels of enforcement involved. [The offense] could be a violation of the student code of conduct within the university, especially if it’s a private university. The school may have their own disciplinary procedures, depending on the school and what is been charged at the school level. There could be hearings that attorneys may be allowed to attend, or it may be all-student led. It is very case-specific. If it’s a serious sex crime, then it is likely that the city or county is also going to prosecute the accused student. Then the case becomes the same as a case for any other person who’s been charged with a sex crime. There most likely will be some additional coverage of the case and an attorney will have to be sensitive to that. Knowing how to gather evidence, having experienced investigators working with you, as well as knowing the ins and outs of dealing with local law enforcement entities in the university town, up to and including university police forces, which may have full police powers, is always helpful.