The range of criminal offenses involving sex spans a gamut from simple prostitution thru indecent exposure all the way to criminal sexual conduct involving a minor. For a person charged with such an offense, the stigma that attaches from the moment the allegation is made is very real and painful. Unlike any other charge, a person accused of a crime involving sex, faces an uphill battle in the eyes of the public. So much of our society’s training is built around protecting and bolstering any person who claims to be a victim of these crimes. Because of this, the accused person is often presumed guilty until proven innocent, contrary to all of the standards of our legal system. While the average person may extend the benefit of the doubt to people charged with drug crimes, thefts, or even assaults, that same person will assume that an accused person is guilty if the allegation involves sex.
One of the most difficult parts of representing individuals with these kinds of charges is how often flimsy and insubstantial evidence is used to bring these charges. It is not unusual for allegations to be made involving behavior that took place months or years before. It is not unusual for these reports to lack any corroboration such as forensic or scientific evidence. Yet time and time again, law enforcement officers fully endorse these claims, and time and time again juries, because of the nature of the allegations, are willing to convict innocent individuals. It is for this reason that one of the most common types of conviction to be overturned based on newly discovered scientific evidence are those involving these allegations. All too often, this reversal comes only after a falsely accused individual has spent years or decades behind bars.
These delayed accusations deny many defendants the means to properly defend themselves. Scientific or medical evidence, which is far more reliable than witness statements, is lost. Witnesses are lost or simply cannot remember details about uneventful times that took place months prior. In many cases, accusations are made that an incident happened in a general time frame, such as “one month last summer”, which makes it impossible to explore alibis or show that the events described were actually impossible due to the parties’ locations. All too often, law enforcement personnel are quick to exploit these problems by convincing individuals to give statements that reduce their ability to properly defend themselves.
An entire industry has arisen, often sponsored by prosecutors, to interview, support and give encouragement to individuals claiming to be victims, regardless of the merits of their claims. For anyone charged with these types of offenses, it is crucial to have an attorney who is familiar with a process referred to as “forensic interviewing” and the perils this technique poses to their case. It is crucial to have an attorney who understands the medical and physical issues resulting from a “Sexual Assault Nurse Examination.” It is crucial to have an attorney who has experience handling the intricacies of such a case, from managing the pretrial publicity to the painful realties of going to trial. Just as crucial, the attorney must understand the reality of what things like the Sex Offender Registry and GPS monitoring mean in our society. When battling the potentially overwhelming resources brought against a person charged with these, having an experienced attorney is the most powerful protection an individual can have.