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West Virginia Court Records

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West Virginia Sex Offenses and Why They are Different

West Virginia views sexual offenses as crimes that endanger the safety of the community. Persons who commit sex offenses are deemed sex offenders and are legally required to register on a public platform. This platform allows community members to access the offender’s identifying information, including the convictions and penalties, which can be severe. Typically, the penalties for committing a sexual offense are social as well as structural, meaning that the conviction can heavily damage one’s reputation and social standing in a community. Many sexual offenders must register on a database that makes their information public for the community’s safety. Other penalties can include fines, prison or jail sentences, probation, supervision, and everyday life restrictions.

What is a West Virginia Sex Crime?

West Virginia defines sex crimes or sexual offenses as the act of a perpetrator subjecting a person to nonconsensual sexual contact. Sexual contact includes but is not limited to penetration, sodomy, inappropriate touching, and forced oral sex. The penalties vary depending on the severity of the act and the victim’s age compared to the perpetrator’s. West Virginia § 61–8B–2 extensively defines lack of consent as resulting from forcible compulsion or inability to consent. A person cannot consent if they are less than sixteen years old, physically helpless, mentally defective, or incapacitated. An individual can also not consent if they are the subject of confinement. If the perpetrator is responsible for the victim’s well-being and prohibited from having sexual contact with them, any sexual contact is considered assault. Sex crimes are categorized into three degrees: first degree, second degree, and third degree. First degree offenses carry more severe penalties than second or third degree offenses.

What are the Different Types of Sex Offenses?

West Virginia organizes sex offenses based on the violence and severity of the act and the age of both the victim and the perpetrator. The state categorizes different actions under the definition of a sexual offense. Sexual offenses against adults include rape, sexual assault, and marital rape. Sexual crimes against relatives are defined as incest. Sex crimes against children often include pornography, exploitation, molestation, abduction, and prostitution. State laws also name crimes against nature, which include indecent exposure, sodomy, and bestiality. Sexual offenses can also involve computers. A list of sexual offenses in West Virginia is as follows:

  • Luring a child: when an adult attempts to lure a child away from the child’s home.
  • Sexual misconduct: a sexual offense lesser than a felony.
  • Molestation: sexual abuse or assault of a person, particularly women and children.
  • Rape: intentional penetration of a vagina, mouth, or anus with a penis, without the opposite party’s consent to that action.
  • Sodomy: oral or anal sexual assault.
  • Forcible touching: making physical contact to sexual or intimate parts of a person to abuse them or fulfill sexual desires.
  • Persistent sexual abuse: consistent sexual abuse or molestation.
  • Aggravated sexual abuse: the use of force or violence in addition to sexual abuse.
  • Committing a sex offense with a controlled substance
  • Sexual assault against a child
  • Unlawful imprisonment: holding a person captive.
  • Kidnapping: the abduction of a person and keeping the person captive.
  • Patronizing a prostitute
  • Aggravated patronizing a minor for prostitution: patronizing a minor for sexual contact using force or deadly weapon.
  • Promoting or compelling prostitution
  • Sex trafficking: “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting a person for a commercial sex act,” often involving force or coercion.
  • Disseminating indecent material to minors
  • Unlawful surveillance
  • Incest: sexual intercourse with a family member related by blood.
  • Use of a child in a performance of a sexual nature
  • Promoting a sexual performance by a child
  • Possessing materials of a sexual performance by a child
  • Promoting a sexual performance by a child
  • Possessing a sexual performance by a child
  • Facilitating a sexual performance by a child with a controlled substance or alcohol

What are the Sex Offender Levels of Classification in West Virginia?

West Virginia adheres to a degree system when categorizing sexual offenses in the state. There are three categories: first degree, second degree, and third degree. There are also different types of sexual crimes that are also organized by degrees. The severity of penalties that an offender is assigned depends on the specific details of the charge. Definition and penalties of sexual offenses are as follows:

  • §61–8B–3: Sexual Assault in the First Degree

First-degree sexual assault occurs when the perpetrator engages in sexual acts and inflicts serious injury onto Zthe victim or uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon. The state also considers it first-degree sexual assault when the perpetrator is over 14 years of age and sexually assaults a person younger than 12 years of age. All first-degree sexual assault charges are legally considered felonies. A felony charge incurs a prison sentence of fifteen to thirty-five years and fines from $1,000 to $10,000. If the perpetrator is 18 years or older, and the victim is younger than 12, the prison sentence can be as long as 100 years, and fines can be up to $25,000.

  • § 61–8b–4 Sexual Assault in the Second Degree

Second-degree sexual assault can be defined as sexual intercourse without the victim’s consent or in the case that the victim is physically incapable of consenting. Perpetrators found guilty of sexual assault in the second degree will be charged with a felony. The penalty for this felony will be a prison sentence of ten to twenty-five years and fines of $1,000 to $10,000.

  • § 61–8b–5 Sexual Assault in the Third Degree

Third-degree sexual assault happens when a perpetrator engages in sexual intercourse and other acts with someone mentally disabled or incapacitated. It also applies to a perpetrator over 16 years old having sexual intercourse with someone four years younger. Third-degree sexual assault is a felony, for which penalties are a prison sentence of one to five years and fines up to $10,000.

  • § 61–8B–7 Sexual Abuse in the First Degree

Sexual abuse differs from sexual assault. The state defines abuse as “sexual contact” rather than sexual penetration. First-degree sexual abuse is defined as sexual contact with a victim without the victim’s consent if the lack of consent results from coercion. It also includes sexual contact of a person who is legally physically helpless or younger than 12 years old when the perpetrator is over 14. First-degree sexual abuse is a felony, incurring a one to a five-year prison sentence and no more than $10,000 in fines. If the perpetrator is over 18 years of age, and the victim is younger than 12 years old, the prison sentence will be five to twenty-five years with fines from $1,000 to $5,000.

  • § 61–8b–8 Sexual Abuse in the Second Degree

Second-degree sexual abuse is when the perpetrator makes sexual contact with a party who is mentally incapacitated. This charge is considered a misdemeanor and carries a jail sentence of no more than one year and fines of up to $500.

  • § 61–8b–9 Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree

Third-degree sexual abuse is when a perpetrator subjects a victim to sexual acts without the victim’s consent due to the victim being less than 16 years of age. A common defense for this crime is the claim that the defendant was younger than 16 years old, and the defendant was less than four years older than the victim. This charge is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a jail sentence of fewer than 90 days and fines of less than $500.

How Do I Find A Sex Offender Near Me in West Virginia?

The West Virginia Sex Offender Registry is the statewide database containing information regarding sex offenders in the area. State Code §15–12, also known as the Sex Offender Registration Act, sets the registration qualifications. All information found on the sex offender registry is in the interest of public safety and to protect the community from sex offenders that may re-offend. The information contained within the registry is open for members of the public to access, but local law enforcement is responsible for managing investigations and check-ups if necessary. To use the registry, parties can search for an offender in the area by name, street name, city, or county. Parties can also limit the results only to include wanted offenders or sexually violent predators. It is also possible to search based on the email of a suspected offender.

West Virginia Sex Offender Registry

Parties who have pled guilty or have been found guilty or pled no-contest to select sex offenses may be required to provide their information to the sex offender registry. If the party is found not guilty because of mental illness, addiction, or mental retardation, the state may also require them to register. Typically, the court decides whether to enter an offender into the registry, but offenders who the court legally considers sexually violent predators will always be documented.

The charges that designate someone a sexually violent predator are first and second-degree sexual assault, first-degree sexual abuse, and spousal sexual assault. Depending on case specifics, parties must remain registered for at least ten years, and in some cases, for life. West Virginia law enforcement does not have the authority to dictate where a sex offender resides. Unless the court specifically assigned restrictions on where the offender may or may not live, offenders are free to live anywhere and with anyone.

Parties required by the court to register must submit the following information:

  • Social Security number
  • Full name
  • Nicknames or aliases
  • Details about all vehicles owned, if any
  • Online usernames and identities
  • Phone numbers
  • Driver’s license
  • Passport details
  • All professional and business licenses

The court requires offenders who are considered sexually violent predators to identify characteristics, including a photo, into the registry data. If a member of the public has information regarding an offender listed or an offender that is not listed but should be, they can contact the registry manager at registry@wvsp.gov. Parties can also contact the registry by telephone at (304) 746–2133.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What are the Sex Offender Restrictions in West Virginia?

The West Virginia Sex Offender Registration Act does not place restrictions on every offender listed in the registry. Sex offenders on the registry are allowed to live and move wherever they wish within the state’s jurisdiction. If the party moves out of state, there are processes that handle the updated information. Sexually violent predators, however, have specific restrictions based on that designation.

As per §15–12–2a, the court determines sexually violent predators by looking at the case’s specific details. The court does this by holding a hearing after the prosecuting attorney files a written plea to initiate it. The court may also order a psychological evaluation of the defendant before the hearing regarding the status of a violent sexual predator. At the hearing, the defendant must be present and has the right to a lawyer. Both the defense and the prosecution have the right to present evidence and introduce witness testimony, including their choice of medical and psychological professionals. Upon the hearing’s conclusion, the court will issue their opinion on whether to designate the defendant as a sexually violent predator. If the defendant is found to be a sexually violent predator, specific restrictions will then apply to them. The court will require the defendant to provide additional information to the registry, such as proof of physical appearance.

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