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Sex Crimes

Any criminal accusation involving sex is a very serious one. Prison time and heavy fines are enough to worry about for any criminal charge. For sex offenses, however, the punishments seek to shame you and hinder you long after you complete your sentence — sometimes for the rest of your life. You are required to register in a public database, where anyone with internet access can see the details of your crime.

Sex crimes also carry a very negative stigma, and jurors may walk in with certain prejudices. However, sex offenses can often be based on false or exaggerated claims. A skilled attorney can overcome the prejudices of the jury and point out the weaknesses in the case.

Lawyer for “Sex Crime” in Des Moines, Iowa

At McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C., our criminal defense attorneys have nearly a half century’s worth of combined experience taking on some of the toughest cases. A capable Des Moines sex crime lawyer from McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. can fight for your rights. We will seek to expose every weakness, every false accusation, and every exaggerated claim in the case against you. We will challenge the evidence and seek to have your charges reduced or dismissed. Call us today at (515) 279-9700 for a free consultation.

We represent those accused of sex crimes across Polk and Dallas Counties, including in Des Moines, West Des Moines, Urbandale, Johnston, and Ankeny, and throughout the state of Iowa.

Iowa Sexual Offense Information Center

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Sexual Abuse Under Iowa Law

Iowa Code 709.1 defines sexual abuse. Accusations of rape or sexual assault fall under the Iowa crime of “Sexual Abuse.” Generally, sexual abuse refers to when a sexual act, including vaginal, oral, or anal sex, is alleged to have been performed by the accused, and the victim either did not consent, did not willingly consent, or could not give consent because he or she was a child, drugged, drunk, unconscious, mentally disabled or ill or physically incapable of giving consent.

Sexual abuse has three “degrees,” which depend on the circumstances of the alleged assault. First-degree sexual abuse involves a serious injury and is a Class A felony.

Second-degree sexual abuse involves a dangerous weapon, and threats to use force that would create a substantial risk of death or serious injury, when more than one person is accused of being involved (“gang rape”) or if the victim was young than 12. It is a Class B felony.

Third-degree sexual abuse covers any other instance of sexual abuse, including many acts of sexual abuse of a minor.  If the victim is 12 or 13 or is 14 or 15 and the accused is a member of the same household, related, in any position of authority over the victim, or is four or more years older than the victim.

Third-degree sexual abuse also covers acts where the accused is alleged to have drugged the victim. It is a Class C felony.

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Other Sexual Offenses in Polk County

Lascivious Acts With a Child (Iowa Code 709.8): It is illegal for a person older than 16 to engage in certain sexual acts with a child. If the accused is alleged to have fondled or touched a child’s genitals or pubic area or allowed a child to touch his or hers for the purpose of sexual gratification, it is a Class C felony. If the accused is alleged to have solicited a child for a sex act, or inflicted any pain or discomfort on a child, or had the child inflict pain or discomfort on him or her for sexual gratification, it is a Class D felony.

Touching other areas of the child for sexual gratification may result in charges of Indecent Contact With a Child, an aggravated misdemeanor.

Indecent Exposure (Iowa Code 709.9): It is a crime for a person to expose his or her genitals or pubic area to another person if done for sexual gratification and if the accused knew it would be offensive to the victim. It is a serious misdemeanor.

Child Pornography (Iowa Code 728.12): It is illegal to use minors to depict a sexual act, even a simulation of a sexual act knowing it will be photographed, filmed, or otherwise captured. The crime is called Sexual Exploitation of a Minor. It is a Class C felony and carries an additional fine of up to $50,000.

Promoting any such material is a Class D felony with a fine of up to $25,000. Knowingly purchasing or possessing it is an aggravated misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class D felony for any subsequent offense.

Prostitution (Iowa Code 725.1): It is an aggravated misdemeanor to sell sexual services or to purchase such services. It is a Class D felony to pimp (Iowa Code 725.2) or pander (Iowa Code 725.3), meaning to cause or persuade others to engage in prostitution. It is a Class C felony to cause or persuade a minor to engage in prostitution.

Forcible Fondling: In Iowa, the term “forcible fondling” includes the touching of the private body parts of another person for sexual gratification, forcibly and/or against that person’s will; or not forcibly or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent because of his/her youth or because of his/her temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity.

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Punishment, Including Sex Offender Registry, for Iowa Sex Crimes

The amount of jail time and fines depends on the classification of the offense:

  • Serious Misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in prison and a fine from $315 to $1,875
  • Aggravated Misdemeanor: Up to 2 years in prison and a fine from $625 to $6,250
  • Class D Felony: Up to 5 years in prison and a fine from $750 to $7,500
  • Class C Felony: Up to 10 years in prison and a fine from $1,000 to $10,000
  • Class B Felony: Up to 25 years in prison.
  • Class A Felony: Life imprisonment.

However, those convicted of many sex crimes, including any crime against a minor, any crime of sexual exploitation, or any sexual offense that involves violence, are required to register as sex offenders. Anyone with internet access can log in and search for sex offenders near them, or by name.

The registry will have your photo, a description of you, your address, your birthdate, what you were convicted of, and the age of the victim. Your neighbors, potential employers, landlords, and people you hope to be in a relationship with will be able to see this.

People judge sex offenders very harshly — many consider it the worst type of crime. These draconian punishments make the importance of having a skilled Des Moines criminal defense attorney all the more important because there is so much at risk.

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Federal and Iowa Human Sex Trafficking Charges

Sex trafficking, often called human trafficking, accusations involve alleged acts of recruiting and transporting people, often from other countries, to work as sex workers in the United States by force, coercion, or when the people are younger than 18. Iowa has laws against human trafficking (Iowa Code 710A). Sex trafficking charges are frequently also prosecuted by the federal government under several statutes.

If facing federal sex trafficking charges, they will be heard in federal court. Your attorney must be licensed for that federal court. At McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C., our lawyers are not only licensed in the federal courts of Iowa but they are also experienced in taking on federal sex trafficking charges.

Statute of Limitations for Certain Sex Crimes in Iowa

In 2014, the Iowa Legislature created legislation to change the statute of limitations for certain sex crimes. The new legislation provided that information or indictment for the following offenses committed on or with a person who is under the age of 18 shall be found within 10 years after the person upon whom the offense is committed turns 18, or if the person against whom the information or indictment is sought is identified through the use of a DNA profile, an information or indictment shall be found within three years from the date the person is identified by the person’s DNA profile, whichever is later:

  1. Lascivious acts with a child in violation of Iowa Code section 709.8.
  2. Assault with intent to commit sexual abuse in violation of Iowa Code section 709.11.
  3. Indecent contact with a child in violation of Iowa Code section 709.12.
  4. Lascivious conduct with a minor in violation of Iowa Code section 709.14.
  5. Sexual misconduct with a juvenile in violation of Iowa Code section 709.16(2).
  6. Sexual exploitation of a minor in violation of Iowa Code section 728.12.

Before this new legislation, under the prior version of the statute of limitations in Iowa, information or indictment for the aforementioned offenses must be found within 3 years after the commission of the offense.

Sex Crimes Involving College Students in Iowa

Sex crimes involving college students are on the rise. Many local universities and colleges aggressively investigate allegations of sexual assault, including date and acquaintance rape. The local colleges and universities will cooperate fully with law enforcement officials when a crime is reported by the alleged victim.

Criminal incidents taking place on campus are referred to the local police who will conduct their investigation. Many of the local colleges and universities have a working relationship with the Des Moines Police Department and partner with the Mid-Iowa Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) to provide victim advocacy and support services to the alleged victims of sexual violence.

Sexual Exploitation in Iowa

Sexual exploitation can include any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially, or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.

Examples of sexual exploitation can include,

  • Causing or attempting to cause the incapacitation of another person to gain a sexual advantage over such other person;
  • Causing the prostitution of another person;
  • Recording, photographing, or transmitting images of private sexual activity and/or the intimate parts (including, but not limited to genitalia, groin, breasts, or buttocks) of another person without consent or beyond the consent given;
  • Allowing third parties to observe private sexual acts;
  • Engaging in voyeurism; or
  • Knowingly or recklessly exposing another person to a significant risk of sexually transmitted infection, including HIV.

Additional Resources

Mid-Iowa SART – This multidisciplinary team was created to provide quality, compassionate, consistent, and ongoing care to victims of sexual assault. The Des Moines Police Department and other area law enforcement agencies and the Polk County Attorney’s Office are SART team members contributing to the goal of restoring the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health of the victim. Victims are immediately connected with advocates from Polk County Crisis and Advocacy Services and, following the assault, may elect to be examined and treated by Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs). SANEs are registered nurses who have received specialized training in the collection of forensic evidence and loving care of survivors and are on call 24/7.

Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Violence – CASA has 28 members of sexual assault crisis centers serving survivors of sexual assault throughout Iowa. Staff members work on several initiatives including statewide sexual assault prevention; improving responses to sexual assault within communities of color; civil legal assistance for survivors of sexual assault, including immigration assistance; a national project providing peer-based assistance to other sexual assault coalitions. Although Iowa CASA does not provide crisis counseling services, it does provide referrals to local rape crisis centers.

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Finding Attorneys for Sex Offenses in Polk County, IA

If you face accusations of any kind of sex crime, an experienced Des Moines sex crime lawyer could make the difference between liberty and lifelong shame. Our skilled criminal defense attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. will take on the toughest sex offense cases, whether they be state or federal in Polk County and Dallas County. Call us today at (515) 279-9700 to set up a free consultation.