Teacher Sex Abuse of a Student

Tacoma Defense to Teacher Sex Abuse of a Student

Stories of sexual relationships between a teacher and a student seem to emerge on a regular basis in the news cycle, and the public never seems to tire of the sensational aspects of these cases. Washington state law maintains that a teacher who engages in sexual activity with a student commits the offense of sexual misconduct with a minor, a felony or gross misdemeanor. The teacher/student relationship presents a unique issue that the Washington Supreme Court only recently resolved: the statute may apply even if the student is otherwise legally an adult, up to the age of twenty-one. This makes the assistance of Washington sex crimes defense attorney critically important to anyone facing investigation for, or charges of, sexual misconduct with a minor. We can help you understand your rights, and can rigorously examine the evidence and challenge the state’s case against you.

Sexual Misconduct with a Minor

The offense of sexual misconduct with a minor includes the situation in a which a “school employee” has sexual intercourse or sexual contact with an enrolled student. The term “enrolled student” applies to students at public schools providing kindergarten through 12th-grade programs, equivalent private schools, and home-schooling programs at these grade levels. “School employee” applies to any employee, not just a teacher, of a K-12 public or private school who is not also enrolled as a student at that school.

Statute Applies to Students Who Are Otherwise Legally Adults

A “minor” in Washington is generally someone under the age of eighteen. The “school employee” provisions of the sexual misconduct with a minor statute differ from other criminal statutes, in that they do not require the alleged victim to be a “minor” in all cases. An offense occurs, according to the statute, when the school employee and student are not married to one another, the student is at least sixteen years old and no older than twenty-one, and the school employee is at least sixty months older than the student. An offense would therefore occur, for example, if the student is eighteen years old, and otherwise not a minor, and the employee is at least twenty-three.

Washington Supreme Court Has Affirmed Criminal Liability When Student is 18 to 21

Court decisions were in conflict for some time regarding whether “sexual misconduct with a minor” could apply to a non-minor. The Washington Supreme Court has held that the statute applies to teachers and students, and that the term “minor” is not ambiguous even though it includes people up to the age of 21. State v. Hirschfelder, 242 P.3d 876 (Wash. 2010). A defense to a charge under this statute therefore cannot include the alleged victim’s adult status. It must instead rely on defects in the state’s evidence, police errors or misconduct, credibility and reliability of witnesses, and procedural errors.

If you are a teacher who has been charged with alleged sexual misconduct with a minor in the Tacoma area, an experienced Washington criminal defense lawyer can help you prepare a defense and protect your rights. Since 1995, I have successfully represented clients in prosecutions for alleged sex crimes throughout Washington. We have obtained substantially reduced sentences for our clients, as well as acquittals, probation, other deferred dispositions, and even outright dismissals. Contact us today online or at (888) 312-3093 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.