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Sex Crimes Attorneys in Harrisburg

Protecting Your Rights, Freedom & Future

In the American justice system, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. When it comes to sex crimes, however, the public seems to forget this very basic right. Accusations often get carelessly thrown about, and the truth ends up distorted or exaggerated.

Defending Sexual Offenses, Book CoverRead Our Guide on Defending Sexual Offenses

Make no mistake: When it comes to investigating an alleged sex crime, the police are invested in finding someone to hold accountable. Swayed by public pressure, they may become too focused on a single lead. They might make assumptions, fail to investigate, and take the alleged victim's word for what happened without looking at the totality of the circumstances.

Ultimately, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the burden of proof — and that burden is fairly high. To avoid the numerous and very serious penalties associated with a sex crime conviction, you need an aggressive attorney on your side who has experience handling these challenging and sensitive cases.

Benefit from Our Experience Handling these Difficult Charges

At Shaffer & Engle, we have a well-earned reputation for success in this area of law. We work to separate fact and fiction and assumptions and evidence following sex crime accusations, and have successfully handled over 100 sex crime cases. Additionally, lawyer Jeff Engle is a former sex crime prosecutor and prosecuted 25 sex crime cases to jury trial as an assistant district attorney.

Our Harrisburg sex crimes lawyers can handle the following types of crimes, and more:

  • Lewd conduct
  • Statutory rape
  • Indecent assault
  • Child molestation
  • Indecent exposure
  • Enticement of a minor
  • Child pornography charges
  • Prostitution-related charges
  • Sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault

Our experience and proven track record in the courtroom reflect the skill, dedication, and knowledge we will bring to your case.

You are not alone. Our Harrisburg sex crimes attorneys will stand by you throughout this difficult situation.

What Constitutes Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse is a sexual act committed by one person on another. This includes the use of force or taking advantage of an individual, whether a child or vulnerable adult. This refers to any behavior that is mean to cause sexual stimulation. Sexual abuse on a child is referred to as "statutory rape". Typically sexual abuse takes place over a longer period of time and involves drawing the victim into a sexual relationship with secrecy. The act of sexual abuse does not need to include physical contact, but includes any unwanted sexual activity.

What is First-Degree Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse in the first degree includes sexual contact by force, sexual content with someone who is incapable of consent (age, physically helpless, mentally incapacitated, disability), subjecting a person under 16 to sexual contact, engaging in masturbation, or an individual being in authority commits sexual contact. First-degree sexual abuse is a Class D felony. It becomes a Class C felony if the victim is under 12.

Fighting Charges of Child Pornography

In recent decades, federal law enforcement officials have prioritized cracking down on child pornography and other online sex offenses. Advances in computer forensics have made it possible to easily and quickly track files and users online. However, this type of evidence does not always make for a watertight case.

If you have been arrested and are facing charged related to producing, sharing, or possessing child pornography, contact a criminal defense lawyer at Shaffer & Engle immediately.

When defending against these charges, it is important to address several key questions, including:

  • Who else had access to your computer?
  • Was that individual aware of the incriminating files?
  • Does the material in question amount to child porn?

The law itself is not rock-solid in this area. Multiple courts have cast doubt on the constitutionality of sweeping provisions that restrict freedom of expression.

Protecting Your Reputation & Minimizing the Media Fallout

When you're facing damaging allegations of sexual misconduct, much more than your freedom is at stake. Your reputation is also on the line. You may have to register as a sex offender, making it difficult to get a job or find a place to live. Unfounded or exaggerated accusations can ruin your life.

We understand how to handle sensitive, high-profile sex offense cases with care and discretion. Our lawyers will take proactive steps to manage the media and prevent the jury pool from becoming tainted. We will do everything in our power to make sure you get a truly fair trial.

Representation in SOAB Hearings

If you are convicted of a sex crime charge, you will face a hearing with the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board (SOAB) to determine whether you should be classified as a sexually violent predator. As you reach this point in the justice system process, you still have many rights which can be fully protected and advanced by an experienced defense attorney.

For instance:

  • You have the right to be represented by counsel
  • You have the right to be heard, call witnesses, and call expert witnesses
  • You have the right to a court-appointed psychological expert to counter the testimony of the Commonwealth's expert regardless of your economic circumstance

If you face sex crime charges, contact our office both for aggressive criminal defense and, if necessary, for legal representation before the SOAB. Your hearing before the SOAB is a crucial step—classification as a sexually violent predator will result in a mandatory life sentence.

Understanding Sexting Charges in Pennsylvania

On June 29, 2010, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed House Bill 2189, which created a new juvenile offense, Section 6321 "Sexting by Minors." The bill makes it a crime for juveniles to knowingly record, view, possess, or transmit sexually explicit images of persons over 13 but under 18 via cell phone, e-mail, or the Internet. The definition of "sexually explicit" can include semi-nude photos.

There are a few district attorneys in Pennsylvania who have charged teens with a felony offense for sexting, saying it falls under the child pornography statute. However, no Pennsylvania court has upheld a felony child pornography conviction for teen sexting.

While the DA's office seems to think this is a good way to address a problem behavior by teens, there are no sentencing guidelines for this misdemeanor under the Juvenile Act. A judge can impose any sentence up to 4 years, with jurisdiction lasting until the young person is 21.

A criminal charge of any kind can have a serious, negative effect on a young person's life. Whether a felony or misdemeanor, a charge under the Juvenile Act could result in time in a juvenile detention center and a juvenile record that could lead to problems finding a job or getting financial aid for school until the young person is able to get his or her record sealed or expunged.

Criminalizing an admittedly unwise behavior that 25 percent of teens engage in, consensually, is taking things too far.

About Prostitution Charges

Prostitution — that is, engaging in sexual activity for pay — is a crime in Pennsylvania.

The law also criminalizes prostitution-related activities, including:

  • Promoting prostitution (pimping and pandering)
  • Soliciting a prostitute, whether in person or online
  • Loitering with the purpose of getting hired for prostitution

These crimes range from misdemeanors to felonies. Depending on the circumstances, the penalties could include significant jail time and mandatory registration as a sex offender.

Even misdemeanor charges, however, can have a lasting impact on your reputation. It takes a skilled defense attorney to handle these charges with discretion. At Shaffer & Engle, we have the highest respect for your privacy as well as your rights, freedom, and reputation. Our lawyers are well-regarded for our experience handling sensitive sex offense cases. We know how to tactfully and effectively navigate this difficult area of law.

Finding Weaknesses in the State's Case

Prostitution-related charges often involve undercover sting operations. As a result, there may be significant problems with the state's case.

For example, perhaps:

  • The police officer crossed the line into entrapment.
  • The evidence is insufficient to support a conviction.
  • The state can't prove your involvement or intent.

What the Prosecution Needs to Prove its Case

Prosecutors must have solid proof of your wrongdoing to gain a conviction.

The following are key things needed in most cases to successfully prosecute someone for a sex crime:

  • Corroboration: Is there physical evidence that links the defendant to the crime. Tissue, blood, saliva, or DNA evidence found at the scene of the crime or on the victim of a rape case are crucial to establishing a good prosecution. Other evidence may be the physical appearance of abuse, as in the case of a child victim, if there is torn hymen of a female or other signs of traumatic injury to the victim's body. The evidence will corroborate the victim's testimony.
  • Confession: Has the defendant or suspect confessed to the crime(s)? If so, who, when, and why did they make the confession? What were the circumstances for the admission of liability or partial admission, such as being there, but not engaging in the activity alleged? A confession must be intelligently, voluntarily, and knowingly made.
  • Credibility: Can the victim accurately recall the events that comprise the allegation? Or, are there contradictions, inaccuracies, or omissions surrounding their statement? How many statements have they given? Have they been recorded? Does the victim have a sordid history and bad reputation for truthfulness? Remember, a victim's word alone is enough to convict a defendant of a crime, if believed by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Is the victim's story credible?
  • A victim's testimony: There is a fundamental evidentiary principle that says no witness gets a pass on credibility — at the top of the list is an accuser.
  • A thorough investigation: The lowest grade investigation and case development skill would require that the prosecution looks at anything the accuser has said and see if there is any independent way to confirm or refute their assertions.

Start Building Your Defense

Contact our office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, at (717) 268-4287 to discuss your case. We will take immediate steps to protect your rights from the outset. Call now and schedule your free consultation with our experienced sex crimes lawyers in Harrisburg. We serve clients throughout Dauphin County.

What Our
clients Have to Say

  • You believed in me and gave me the courage to tell the jury my side of the story

    “I can't thank you enough for giving me my life back! Everyone told me I should just plead guilty but I knew I didn't do what they said I did. You believed in me and gave me the courage to tell the jury my side of the story and explain why I signed a confession when I never committed that crime. I was very scared during the trial but I felt good knowing you believed in me. I am a free man today because of you. God bless you.”


  • Personal attention, effectiveness, and professionalism

    “When I called their phone number, I got an actual human who explained some preliminary things, and then I was transferred to Attorney Engle for further discussion. Who even does that these days? In a world of offshore phone centers and online forms, it was really nice to have the personal attention of people who took the time to actually help me through the process. After searching for legal representation and finding a hundred glitzy, showboating websites with cookie-cutter online contact forms, choosing Attorney Engle was a no-brainer. I found the rates to be incredibly affordable, and I certainly can't forget to mention the fast, positive outcome.”


  • She has my highest recommendation for her knowledge, analytical skills, and demeanor.

    “Attorney Collins represented me in the most professional manner. I had the best possible outcome. I am grateful for her insight, her promptness, and her support for me. She has my highest recommendation for her knowledge, analytical skills, and demeanor.”


  • Thank you for going above and beyond for the client I referred to you, but more importantly, thank you for the fantastic result.

    “Thank you for going above and beyond for the client I referred to you, but more importantly, thank you for the fantastic result. She was my most important client, and you really came through.”

    Attorney John D.

  • His knowledge and planning has delivered desired results.

    “Jeff's advice is accurate. His knowledge and planning has delivered desired results. His responses and communications are above expectations. Everyone at Shaffer and Engle law are very helpful. I am glad to have met Jeff and his team. Thanks for your Help.”