- Talk to a Lawyer as Soon as Possible
The best advantage you could give your defense attorney if you’re facing sexual assault charges is to call your lawyer at the first sign of legal trouble. The sooner your lawyer gets to work on your side of the story, the better he can protect your rights.
Rape cases tend to be messy and complicated for prosecutors. If an experienced and aggressive defense attorney can persuade a state’s attorney that they’ve got a very tough road ahead, they may be inclined to offer reduced charges. They may even decide to decline to prosecute, dropping the case altogether. In fact, about half the sexual assault defendants in Florida plea bargain to a lesser charge and about a third of the cases get thrown out.
An experienced criminal defense attorney analyzes the case from a prosecutor’s point of view and attacks the weakest elements, leveraging for either dismissal or the best possible deal in a plea bargain. If a sexual battery case goes to trial, you know the state attorney feels confident about getting a conviction. That’s when you’d better have a lawyer who knows how to tackle a prosecutor’s case.
- Acquitted of All Charges
“There was sufficient doubt on every charge,” the juror said after acquitting a college student of sexual assault charges. The young man faced decades in prison after a booze-fueled campus encounter with another student who reported the incident to the school’s sexual assault support center the next day. The support center staff called the police. The man was arrested and charged with sexual assault in the first, second, third, and fourth degrees.
The trial – and speedy acquittal – came after more than two years of investigations, hearings, depositions, and court filings. The juror’s comment about “sufficient doubt” goes right to the heart of how criminal trials are decided in this country. The burden of proof is on the state. A prosecutor must be able to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, while the job of the defense is to raise as many doubts as possible.
While “he said, she said” conjures up the discouraging odds that sexual assault victims seem to face when trying to get justice, that’s really just the starting point. “A sex-crimes prosecutor’s very job is to go beyond the parties’ contradictory statements to find evidence suggesting whether ‘he’ or ‘she’ is telling the truth,” former Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Leotta told TIME magazine. “So-called ‘he said, she said’ cases can almost always reveal much more — if they are properly investigated.”
- Pre-Trial Investigation
One of the reasons that “he said, she said” is an outdated assessment is that in moving through the modern world of surveillance and social media, people leave a lot of tracks. There’s almost always a way to trace your movements and capture your messages and phone calls.
In the case of the college student, the prosecution portrayed the encounter as a rape, while the defense told a story of consensual sex. But defense investigators discovered exculpatory text messages, phone records, and video footage.
For example, in his closing argument, the lead defense attorney reminded jurors that “within a few hours after the alleged assault, the complainant texted the alleged perpetrator ‘LOL’ (laugh out loud.)” The defense also showed the jury security camera footage of the couple walking amicably together across campus. Combined with seeming contradictions in the accuser’s testimony, the defense introduced enough uncertainty to the prosecution’s version of events for jurors to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt.
An attorney conducting an aggressive defense against rape charges investigates every aspect of the case and explores every possible avenue of defense. Situations in which prosecutors may be persuaded to not file charges – or to offer reduced charges – include an unreliable accuser or witnesses, cases of mistaken identity, and contentions that the accuser consented and the encounter was voluntary.
The key is to consult with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. With an aggressive defense attorney experienced handling sexual battery cases, it may be possible, under certain circumstances, to avoid charges altogether. If charges have already been brought, an attorney may be able to get the charges reduced to something less drastic. And if your case does go to trial, the best chance for acquittal is when you’ve got a defense lawyer determined to protect your rights.