Adult Sex Offenses
(Offenses Involving Child Victims)

Sexual Assault of a Child

Abuse or neglect of a child means sexual assault, sexual exploitation, or injury to a child by any person under circumstances which cause harm to the child’s health, welfare, or safety, or the negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child. There are many types of conduct that can be classified as sexual assault from touching a child to photographing a child in obscene depictions to discussing sexual topics with a child.

Suggestibility of Children

Children are highly suggestible and may make a claim of sexual assault where none has occurred. This may happen because they hear about the abuse elsewhere, they make a comment they do not understand, someone else believes the child was sexually assaulted, or another person has abused the child. Understanding how children's brains work and how they are affected by interview techniques can be the key to defeating an allegation of child sexual assault. Michele is experienced with working with experts trained to identify red flags in a child’s interview that may indicate the child was not sexually assaulted or was assaulted by someone else. In many cases there is no physical evidence, just the child's allegation. Refuting these allegations and providing credible alternative explanations is the crux of most child sexual assault cases

Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
(Formally Child Pornography)

Sexual exploitation of a minor includes a wide range of conduct in which children are engaged in sexually explicit acts.

"Sexual exploitation" includes: (a) Allowing, permitting, or encouraging a child to engage in prostitution by any person; or (b) allowing, permitting, encouraging, or engaging in the obscene or pornographic photographing, filming, or depicting of a child by any person.

Age of Consent

Washington has a complex hierarchy of consent rules regarding individuals under the age of eighteen and sexual contact. In most circumstances, the age of consent is determined by the age of both the victim and the perpetrator. Depending on how much older the perpetrator is than the victim, the crime can be more severe.

  • Rape of a Child in the First Degree - Victim is less than twelve years old and not married to the perpetrator and the perpetrator is at least twenty-four months older than the victim. Rape of a Child in the First Degree is a Class A felony.
  • Rape of a Child in the Second Degree - Victim is at least twelve years old but less than fourteen years old and not married to the perpetrator and the perpetrator is at least thirty-six months older than the victim. Rape of a Child in the Second Degree is a Class A felony.
  • Rape of a Child in the Third Degree - Victim is at least fourteen years old but less than sixteen years old and not married to the perpetrator and the perpetrator is at least forty-eight months older than the victim. Rape of a Child in the Third Degree is a Class C felony.
  • Child Molestation in the First Degree - Victim is less than twelve years old and not married to the perpetrator and the perpetrator is at least thirty-six months older than the victim. Child molestation in the first degree is a Class A felony.
  • Child Molestation in the Second Degree - Victim is at least twelve years old but less than fourteen years old and not married to the perpetrator and the perpetrator is at least thirty-six months older than the victim. Child Molestation in the second degree is a Class B felony.
  • Child Molestation in the Third Degree - Victim is at least fourteen years old but less than sixteen years old and not married to the perpetrator and the perpetrator is at least forty-eight months older than the victim. Child molestation in the third degree is a Class C felony.

Child Molestation

Having sexual contact with a child or causing another person to have sexual contact with a child is one of the most serious crimes in our state. "Sexual contact" means any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person done for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire of either party or a third party. There are three degrees of child molestation, first, second, and third. All are felony offenses and have serious consequences. The degree of the charge will be determined by the age of the child. In all circumstances, the perpetrator must be at least thirty-six months older than the victim.

Communicating with a Minor for Immoral Purposes (CMIP)

It is illegal for a person to communicate with a minor for immoral purposes. A minor is anyone under the age of eighteen. Immoral purposes are essentially communications of a sexual or obscene nature. CMIP is a gross misdemeanor unless the communication takes the form of an electronic communication or the person charged has previously been convicted of CMIP or a felony sex offense. In those cases, the crime is a Class C felony. Both the gross misdemeanor and felony version of CMIP require registration as a sex offender.

Possession of Child Pornography/Sexual Exploitation of Children

Child pornography crimes encompass a wide range of conduct including viewing depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, possessing depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, or transmitting depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Most child pornography charges occur when someone has received images of child pornography through a web device. In some instances, individuals receive child pornography in "batches" of pornography when they have not actually sought child pornography. It may be possible to defend these charges with mistake or unintentionally viewing child pornography. The transmission of these images can also be the basis for a Federal Investigation.

Rape of a Child

Rape of a child occurs when someone has sexual intercourse with another person who is too young to consent to sexual intercourse. It most often occurs where a child alleges an adult has touched their genitals. Sexual intercourse includes any penetration, no matter how slight. Sexual intercourse includes a wide range of conduct and is not limited to genital sexual intercourse. This is often an area where false allegations are made, particularly when adults hear children talking about sexual touching and begin asking questions. Adults not trained in child interview techniques can easily place ideas in children’s heads that they then adopt as their own version of events. Michele is experienced with the appropriate standards of child interview techniques and identifying when alleged child victims may have been subjected to suggestibility.

Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

It is a crime for an adult to compel a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct knowing that such conduct will be photographed or part of a live performance. The crime also applies to anyone who aids, invites, employs, authorizes, or causes a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct knowing that such conduct will be photographed or part of a live performance or is a parent or guardian who permits the minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct, knowing the conduct will be photographed or part of a live performance. Sexual exploitation of a minor is a Class B felony.

Sexual Misconduct with a Minor

It is a crime, in Washington, to have sexual intercourse with a person between the ages of sixteen and eighteen if the perpetrator is at least sixty months older than the victim, and abuses a supervisory position in a relationship between the victim and perpetrator in order to engage the victim to engage in sexual intercourse. It is also a crime if a school employee engages in sexual intercourse with an enrolled student who is between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. The most common instances of this type of charge occur where a student alleges that he or she is engaged in a sexual relationship with a teacher or other employee of their school. In many instances these relationships may be "consensual" for other purposes but the behavior is still criminal if it fits the criteria outlined in the statute.

Age of Consent

In Washington, there is no single "age of consent" at which an individual can consent to sexual activity or communications. For crimes against minors (those under the age of eighteen), the age of consent varies depending on the age difference between the parties. However, at the age of sixteen, in most circumstances, a juvenile can consent to sexual activity with someone of any age. The exception to this is Sexual Misconduct with a Minor which prohibits an adult from having sexual contact with anyone under the age eighteen if the adult is at least sixty months older than the victim, and certain role of authority over the victim such as a teacher. Even seventeen year-olds, however, can be victims of the crime of Communicating with a Minor for Immoral purposes.

Perception of the Age of the Victim

In any prosecution under this chapter in which the offense or degree of the offense depends on the victim's age, it is not a defense that the perpetrator did not know the victim's age, or that the perpetrator believed the victim to be older. However, it is a defense which the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that at the time of the offense the defendant reasonably believed the alleged victim to be the age of legal consent based upon declarations as to age by the alleged victim.