Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Under our system of laws, a person is innocent until proven guilty. But, when a person stands accused of child sex abuse, sadly the rule has become, “guilty until proven innocent”. The burden feels as if it were placed solely on the accused.
Although fundamentally, being accused of a sex crime should not be worse than being accused of murder, it usually is. Because our society and court systems view these types of crimes, including child pornography, as being the most heinous of crimes, the penalties imposed on those who are found guilty are often equal to, or more severe than the penalties imposed for violent crimes like murder. Furthermore, once an individual has been accused of a sex crime, the social consequences may, in fact, be lifelong, regardless of whether the individual is exonerated. If an individual is convicted of a sex crime in Maryland, he or she will likely endure a lifetime of embarrassment and agony. If you are facing charges for a sex offense and hire us, we will use all of our resources and knowledge to assure this doesn’t happen to you.
Why Sex Crime Cases Require Specialized Knowledge
It is imperative to hire an attorney that has ample experience dealing with sex crimes cases. By comparison, one would not want to hire a divorce attorney to handle a murder case. Even an experienced criminal attorney who handles murder and drug cases would not be an appropriate person to hire for a sex crime case if he or she does NOT have a history of handling sex crime cases. There are numerous defense strategies that only a seasoned attorney with specialized experience in sex crimes would thoroughly understand and be able to successfully employ. Although sex crimes defense is a component of criminal defense, the cases involved are unique in many ways.
There are several reasons why sex crime cases are unique:
- Sex crimes cases are often handled by seasoned prosecutors (typically women), who have extensive specialized experience. Therefore, it is imperative to hire a criminal defense attorney that also has extensive specialized experience.
- Related to the above, there is often a gender imbalance that can possibly be favorable to the prosecution. That the prosecutors and the judge are most often female and therefore may hold more weight with female jurors. This is why Rebecca and I often try sex crimes cases together.
- The verdict of a sex crime case is often based almost entirely upon the statements of the alleged victim versus the statements of the defendant. There is often no physical evidence. This is why we meticulously review all statements, both in-court and out-of-court, of the alleged victim in order to find inconsistencies and discrepancies.
- Although hearsay is typically not inadmissible at trial, there are several hearsay exceptions that prosecutors often use in sexual abuse cases, such as the “excited utterance” exception. There are sometimes ways to prevent such statements from being admitted.
- Jurors instinctively want to believe alleged victims of sex crimes, especially when they are children. Therefore, we must instruct the jurors in a way that removes any inherent bias against the defendant. That is, we must make sure that the jurors understand that the defendant’s testimony is to be given no less weight than the testimony of the alleged victim.
- Two essential questions must be answered: 1) why would the child lie, and 2) how could the child be capable of fabricating such a detailed story. Addressing these two major issues is a case-specific issue.
As to part 1, if there is a motive for the child to lie, we will exploit it. If there is no motive, the defense will often encompass one or more of the following: a) children often give inaccurate statements due to their inadequate ability to communicate; b) statements from children are often misinterpreted, especially when the interviewer has a biased belief as to what may have occurred; and c) the statements AND ultimately recollections of children are often “tainted“, i.e., they are influenced and often change due to repeated interviews, biased interviews, and suggestibility. As with every case, facts must be gathered to give support to such defenses.
As to part 2, it is a major plus for the defense if we can disclose some type of interaction the child may have had that would explain his or her ability to have knowledge of sexual acts or language. Sometimes this interaction can come via the internet, via classmates, and sometimes it comes via leading conversations with adults.
- Defendants are sometimes tricked into making incriminating statements when police administer sting calls. Police will often convince the alleged victim to call the defendant, and methodically draw out facts that will be used against him or her. Sometimes these statements can be countered or explained, but most often they need to be prevented from being admitted into evidence.
What to Do if Accused of a Sex Crime
Time after time we defend clients that have made many mistakes after being accused. We, however, understand that many people have never been accused of a crime, and therefore are not aware of how they should respond, and how they should NOT respond. Unfortunately, sometimes the hardest evidence to overcome at trial is the evidence the defendant inadvertently provides to law enforcement. This in no way means that the evidence cannot be overcome – it only means that additional steps have to be taken in order to convince a panel of jurors of the client’s innocence. If you are being accused of rape, or any sex offense, take heed to the following advice.
- Do not agree to speak with any law enforcement agency without first hiring an attorney. You are under NO legal obligation to speak with anyone at any time. If you are contacted by law enforcement, state that you are outraged by the accusations, and that you are going to seek legal counsel. The same applies if you are contacted by a child services agency. Do not allow them to manipulate you into speaking with them.
- Do not attempt to contact the alleged victim by any means. Chances are that law enforcement have already interviewed him or her, and may be waiting to record your conversation or text messages. Also, do not accept any phone calls from him or her, and do not respond to any test messages. Police often employ sting calls to gather evidence against you. This is legal.
- Do not discuss the details of alleged events with friends or even family members. You can tell them that you have been falsely accused and are going to immediately hire counsel. If you have detailed conversations with friends and family, they may be subpoenaed to testify against you. If they refuse to testify or lie at trial, they could find themselves in legal trouble. Explain this to them.
Do not lose hope if you have already made mistakes – it’s not uncommon. Many mistakes can be undone or neutralized. The most important thing to do now, however, is to seek legal counsel and cease all communication regarding the allegations with friends and family.
Schedule a Free Consultation Today
Over the last 20+ years we have successfully handles numerous sex crimes cases, and our expertise and knowledge in this area is well recognized within the legal community. There are few areas of criminal law in which there are so many wrongfully convicted people. In addition to facing strong criminal sentences, sex crime charges can destroy reputations, affect personal relationships and harm job prospects.
If you or someone you know may be facing sex crime charges, please do not hesitate to call us, or contact us online.