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Public opinion and sex crime charges

The consequences of a sex crime conviction may include jail time, fines and mandatory registration as a sex offender, depending on the particular incident. That registry not only presents a significant invasion of privacy, but may also hinder an individual's chances at reentering society.

All too often, there are reports of an accused facing consequences before his or her trial. In today's story, a jury compensated a victim of wrongful identification as a sex offender. 

According to the charges, condo association members may have deliberately misled other residents into believing a male resident was the same individual listed on a sex offender registry. The association members accomplished this by circulating a flyer containing the photograph of a registered sex offender with the same last name.

Notably, the association members persisted in their smearing campaign, even when friends of the man pointed out that two men were not the same. One board member even called up the man's loan officer at a local bank, possibly endangering the man's mortgage.

In sum, the false accusations happened repeatedly, and by several members on the condominium's governing board. That conduct may explain the high jury award of $550,000 in actual damages, plus a punitive damages award of $340,000.

Although this story has a happy ending, many other individuals wrongly accused of sexual assault or another sex crime do not fare as well. A false accusation can do damage well before the actual criminal trial even begins. A criminal defense attorney with experiencing in defending against sex crime charges might be able to minimize that impact.

Source: Herald Online, "SC man awarded $890K for false sex offender claim," John Monk, Dec. 13, 2013

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