A Jacksonville police officer is charged with capital sexual battery and six counts of lewd and lascivious molestation of two girls, The Florida Times-Union is reporting. The 47-year-old officer now faces up to life in prison if convicted of the charges. Next to homicide, Jacksonville sex crimes, especially those committed on a child, are the most difficult to defend because authorities bring down many resources on people accused of sex offenses. And the penalties are already extremely steep — a person can face up to life in prison, if convicted of many sex-based charges. According to the news story, the man was first investigated by the Florida Department of Children & Families after allegations surfaced involving the officer. Jacksonville Sheriff's Office investigators then began conducting their own investigation. Officials released few details about the incident, though documents don't indicate what the relationship was between the defendant and victims. Documents quoted by the newspaper indicate one is younger than 12 while another is 16 or younger. One report states the man forced one of the alleged victims inappropriately. The man invoked his right to remain silent and didn't provide a statement to authorities. Capital sexual battery is a first-degree felony that is punishable by life in prison. Lewd or lascivious molestation means touching someone in the genitals, breasts or buttocks on a person under 16. That, too, can be charged as a life felony if the offender is older than 18 and the victim is under 12. Otherwise, it's a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It's obvious from the possible penalties just how serious these sex crime allegations are. And while each case is determined by its own unique set of facts, the fact that the defendant here is a police officer likely won't help him. Prosecutors likely won't say they will treat this defendant differently than the garbageman, accountant or homeless person, but it's likely he will receive less-favorable plea offers and may face a tougher road at sentencing. Judges are human and they will take all things into consideration when they are determining sentencing in a case, if a person is convicted. While one might consider being a veteran police officer a mitigating, or favorable, factor for the defense, some may see crime by a police officer as a violation of trust. An aggressive Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can make a big difference, however. A lawyer will file motions to suppress evidence, examine the search warrants that police use and whether or not officers mislead a judge into signing them, as well as the qualifications of the detective who led the case. Witnesses and alleged victims must also be questioned aggressively. When there are child victims alleged, an experienced lawyer can toe the line between being aggressive and not furthering the impact to the child; while still getting information that can be helpful in defending the client. Prosecutors are sometimes loathe to go to trial when child victims are involved and an aggressive criminal defense lawyer can argue for a favorable plea agreement if the evidence is overwhelming against the defendant after thorough defense investigation. There are many aspects to a strong defense and they include exploring all options to benefit the defendant.
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