Potential clients contact our firm every week and ask the same question: Can I be charged with sexual assault just because someone said I did it?
The answer is yes. For the most part, you can be charged with sexual assault based just on what someone said. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted. Our sexual assault defense attorneys all confidently defend sexual assault cases. Often, when defending sex assault cases, we’re able to point out inconsistencies in the alleged-victim’s statement. Things such as alibi defenses are often relevant. And obviously the government can’t rely on any physical evidence. In conclusion, if you’re facing sexual assault, rape, or any criminal allegation, hiring a top criminal defense attorney is crucial.
But there isn’t any physical evidence. How can I be charged?
Explaining this by example is easiest. Fourth degree sexual assault requires that the government prove two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant had sexual contact with the victim; and
- The victim did not consent to the sexual contact.
Which one of these elements requires physical evidence? The first doesn’t. And the second doesn’t. The victim’s statement is sufficient to satisfy both elements. The victim can say you grabbed her genitals. She can say she did not consent to the contact. Although fourth degree sexual assault is a Class A misdemeanor, the same scenario can occur with more serious charges.
A felony example:
First degree sexual assault of a child: sexual intercourse with a person who has not attained the age of 12 years is a Class B felony. The maximum penalty for this offense is 60 years in prison. The elements are:
- The defendant had sexual intercourse with the victim; and
- The victim was under the age of 12 years at the time of the alleged sexual intercourse.
Again, both of these elements can be proven by the statement of the victim herself. Physical evidence isn’t needed if the prosecutor believes the victim is credible. But obviously the lack of physical evidence makes your case stronger. If there isn’t any DNA recovered, a rape kit isn’t utilized, and if there weren’t any witnesses to the incident, the accused no longer has to overcome those obstacles.
But still, no physical evidence?
This matters more for certain offenses and less for others. For example – a fourth degree sexual assault case could be simply grabbing someone inappropriately. The cops probably aren’t going to try to lift DNA off the victim’s skin. A rape kit wouldn’t be relevant. So they’ll proceed with what they can: the victim’s statement. In a case involving intercourse (without delayed reporting) a rape kit may be more important. And when it’s missing, your sexual assault defense attorney may be able to argue about it.
What evidence do police rely on?
Sexual assault cases tend to be extremely circumstantial. There’s a lot of “he said she said” in cases like this. Police tend to rely on certain types of evidence in sexual assault cases:
- Law enforcement will speak with witnesses. Those witnesses could have been individuals who observed the accused and the victim together earlier that day. Witnesses could include friends, family, co-workers, or roommates of the victim/accused. The police will use those statements to determine whether or not they believe the victim has any credibility, and whether they believe the accused should be charged.
- Again, DNA evidence may be relevant in certain types of cases and not in others. DNA evidence is likely going to be collected from the body and clothes of both the victim and accused. If the criminal conduct is alleged to have occurred on a bed, couch, or chair, DNA evidence could be obtained from those sources.
Statement of the accused
- This is usually a crucial piece of evidence for the prosecution. Your statement can ruin your entire case. Do not assume you’re smarter than investigators. Even if you’re completely innocent, the way you explain something may look suspicious. If you don’t remember certain facts correctly, the police will likely exaggerate the situation and make you look like a liar.
- Important: Our defense attorneys firmly believe that you should never speak to police without an attorney present. Protect your rights. Maintain your silence. Call us at (414) 270-0202 if the police have asked to interview you.
Statement of the victim
- Obviously police are going to interview the victim. This is another crucial piece of evidence. The victim’s statements are written down and locked in. If they don’t make sense, your criminal defense attorney may be able to argue that the victim isn’t credible.
I’m innocent. The victim is lying. Sexual assault?
Sometimes the victim is lying. It’s my opinion that this happens most frequently in domestic violence and sexual assault cases. Alleged-victims are aware that an allegation could result in the accused being arrested, placed in jail, charged, and potentially convicted. Through our investigation, ideally we can dig out defenses, inconsistencies, and other ways to defend you. Why does this happen? We’ve encountered a few consistent themes in the thousands of criminal cases we’ve defended:
- Buyer’s remorse. You went out on a Friday night, bought an extra large pizza, and ate the whole thing. You’re mad at yourself for spending all that money and wasting all those calories. Unfortunately, the same thing happens in sexual assault cases. The victim has a boyfriend at home, but after a few drinks and after some flirting, she decides to sleep with you. How does the victim save face? She makes up a story and claims you raped her.
- How we deal with this: First our investigator figures out is whether the victim was in a relationship at the time of the offense. Let’s make contact with the spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend of the victim. How was the relationship at the time of the allegation? Was there an ongoing fight between victim and spouse? Is there a reason for the victim to lie?
- Personal vendetta. Sexual assault allegations sometimes surface after the conclusion of a romantic relationship. False allegations may arise after the conclusion of a friendship, or any other relationship.
- How we deal with this: During our initial consultation we’ll discuss the status of the relationship. You should keep text messages, social media messages, voicemails, and other evidence showing the status of the relationship. Did you receive a positive message after the allegation occurred? Great. That helps us attack the credibility of the victim.
Hire a top sexual assault defense attorney
The criminal defense attorneys are Van Severen Law Office successfully defend sexual assault cases. In fact, we’ve handled hundreds of cases involving rape allegations, sexual contact allegations, and sexual intercourse allegations.
Hiring a great criminal defense attorney is important in any criminal case. But it’s even more important for a sexual assault case. In any event, contact Van Severen Law Office at (414) 270-0202 to speak with a criminal defense attorney. Phone calls are answered 24/7.