Facing a sex crime accusation is devastating. Even if the sex crime allegation is shown to be false, the damage done can last a lifetime. Often, when someone finds out that there is some type of sex crime accusation against them, they feel completely overwhelmed and shut down. They do nothing in their defense while the investigation by law enforcement proceeds against them. This can be a terrible mistake.
Many think that if they are innocent the truth will become clear. This is not the case. There have been many instances of innocent people ending up in prison. Remember, law enforcement is not trained to find anyone innocent. This is not television. Law enforcement investigations are based on an allegation, and then a collection of information TO SUPPORT THE ALLEGATION. Law enforcement never begins with a presumption of innocence. It begins with a presumption that the allegation of a sex crime is true and then an attempt to collect information to support the allegation.
- Understanding. A defense attorney can help you understand what you are charged with, explain the law and the legal processes involved with the local courts. “Why have I been charged with sexual assault?”, “I didn’t know their age, I thought they were over 18!”, or “That was consensual!” can all be discussed with your attorney as it pertains to the facts of your case.
Additionally, your attorney is going to be able to explain the bureaucratic process of the legal system in the court in which you are charged. I often tell clients that the county must follow the state’s law but how they follow it is up to them. The courts, especially within a county courthouse, are like their own kingdoms and their local rules can, and will, impact your case.
- Protecting your rights. This is one of the most important aspects of hiring defense counsel. How often do I speak with someone AFTER they have already been interviewed by the police? Too often. Remember, ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU. Nowhere in that warning does it state that what you say will be used FOR you. We, your defense team, are there to protect you. You should never interview with law enforcement without an attorney.
- Time is of the essence. Know that once the state has begun an investigation into an allegation of a sex crime, they aren’t waiting to start building their case against you. Many law enforcement agencies have specialized divisions that focus on sex crime cases. They are experts at building cases. Waiting to start your defense puts you behind in the investigative process. Are there witnesses or physical evidence that need to be secured to assist in your defense? Give your defense team the most amount of time possible to protect you.
- Before indictment. In sex crime cases, it is sometimes possible to prevent a case from moving forward past the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury is more of a Quality Control aspect of the legal system for serious charges. If your defense team is able to provide a strong defense against the charge and present information before the Grand Jury, sometimes charges are reduced or even ‘No Billed’ which prevents the case from moving forward. In a sex crime allegation, grand jury preparation can mean the difference between having this label for the rest of your life or being able to overcome a false allegation.
Additionally, in the case where a plea agreement is the most advantageous, negotiation before a case goes before the Grand Jury often leads to a better resolution.
- Collateral issues. Often there are significant collateral issues. For example, registration as a sex offender by itself is a serious consequence that needs to be explained and reviewed in detail. If you were formally charged, even if the case was later dismissed, you may have to wait to have the record expunged.
Ultimately, by securing effective defense counsel in a sex crime case at the earliest opportunity, you will help protect yourself and reduce the stress of the unknown. This may save you an immense amount of time and money. Give yourself the best defense against a sex crime allegation by giving your defense team as much time as possible.