The term “sexual assault,” which used to be called “rape,” covers many different alleged crimes. The accuser could be a child or an adult. It could be a family member or a stranger. The alleged act may have occurred yesterday or decades ago. The charge could involve a sexual act of penetration or a particular type of touching. Consent may or may not be a defense. The consequences of conviction are extremely serious. Many people convicted of felony sexual assault go to state prison for a long time, and nearly all must register as a sexual offender.
If you are being accused of sexual assault, what should you know?
Be careful who you talk to. The police may want to interview you. So may child service workers. People you think are friends or supporters may ask you about the accusation. The alleged victim may even contact you and try to get you to text, email, or talk – maybe while working with the police to record you, in hopes that you inadvertently say something that may be useful to the prosecution. Anything you say to anyone else, even if you think it’s harmless, or helpful to you, might not be. The only person you can trust is a lawyer.
A lawyer can help in the early stages. If you are being accused, it may be in your interest to make a statement to law enforcement. Or it may be in your interest to provide information to the police that might stop a prosecution before you are formally charged. Only a lawyer can determine whether these things are to your benefit. If you can afford to consult with counsel at an early stage, spending a relatively small amount of time and money might save a lengthy trial process, a lot more money – and your liberty.
Choose a lawyer who has tried these cases. Sexual assault cases present complicated legal and factual issues. There are few things harder in the field of criminal defense than cross-examining an alleged sexual assault victim. Make sure the lawyer you hire has handled these cases before.
You have too much to lose.