Even being accused of a sex crime can have devastating results. From being misidentified by a victim to being accused by someone with malicious intent, there are countless scenarios where someone may be falsely accused of committing a crime. Even the most experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers have yet to see every possible situation. Learning that you’ve been accused of something so despicable can be traumatic in itself so it’s crucial you know what to do and what not to do. But if you do find yourself in this position, know this: you’re not alone. By working with a sex offender attorney, you have the best chance for the best outcome.
Whether you’ve already been accused of a sex crime or fear that it could happen to you, here is what you need to know:
What to Expect Once You’re Accused of a Sex Crime
One of the best ways to know how to proceed after being accused of committing a sex crime is to understand what the process looks like. Of course, knowing the general process by no means gives you enough information to make complete decisions; your criminal defense lawyer will always be the best resource for advice on how to proceed.
Law Enforcement Gets an Incident Report
If someone believes they’ve been the victim of a sex crime, they have to file a report with the police before anything happens. As an adult, the person with the complaint can decide if they want to actually file a report or not. This decision should be taken seriously and those who have been victims of a sex crime should contact their local police department. Prosecutors will hesitate to pursue a case unless they believe the victim will fully cooperate and even testify in a trial if needed.
Laws regarding sex crimes against minors are stricter. In many cases, if someone hears that a child has possibly been sexually abused, they have no choice but to contact the authorities. People like teachers, doctors, counselors, and more are legally obligated to contact a social service agency or the police if they learn of or believe a sex crime has been committed. Even the victim’s parents do not have the option to not press charges. The decision on whether to press charges or not is entirely up to the prosecuting attorney’s office.
After law enforcement receives a complaint about a sex crime, their next job is to investigate and the initial investigation looks for evidence to support the claim. This initial assessment often happens without the alleged perpetrator’s knowledge, unless the victim makes their complaint known. Law enforcement will interview the victim, the parents of the minor victim, and any other witnesses.
At some point, law enforcement will contact the accused. They might stop by your place of residence, leave you a voicemail, or just leave a note at your door. They’ll often downplay the accusations in hopes that you’ll share your side of the story. Police officers are especially good at making you feel like they are on your side or that refusing to talk makes you appear guilty. In many cases, they won’t even tell you what the allegations are until you speak to them.
It’s crucial to note that you do not and should not talk to the police at this time. Even if you are innocent, you could say something that will raise a red flag. Police officers are skilled at getting people to lock themselves into inaccurate statements, go back on their previous words, or even to give a false confession. You have every right to have a sex crime defense lawyer present for every conversation with the police. There is nothing to gain by sharing your side of the story on your own, regardless of how intimidating the police are.
Friends and Family Will Ask
It’s only a matter of time before people in the community learn about the accusations against you. Whether it’s the accuser making their report known or people just hearing things through the grapevine, people will ask you questions. Most of these people just want to listen to your side and believe what you tell them. Unfortunately, you don’t know who you can trust. Mistakenly saying the wrong thing to the wrong person can have horrible consequences. The police might even fake calls to try to get you to hurt yourself by talking.
You Get Arrested and Charged for a Sex Crime
Once law enforcement believes they have enough evidence, they will submit their information to the prosecuting attorney. This office will decide whether or not to issue a warrant. Keep in mind that this process can take months after the initial complaint and investigation. Just because you haven’t heard anything for a while doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet.
If you’re wise enough to have contacted your Los Angeles sex crime defense attorney before the arrest happens, the police might contact your lawyer first. This is in hopes that you will surrender yourself. Otherwise, the police will issue a warrant and arrest you on site. As you can imagine, being arrested can be humiliating. You’ll experience fear and confusion about what happens next. At this time, you should absolutely not say anything to the police outside of asking to contact your lawyer. They will advise you about moving forward.
What Should You Do After Being Accused?
From the moment you suspect that you’re going to be accused of a sex crime, you need to take action to protect yourself. It’s easy to believe that you’ll be found innocent since you know you didn’t commit the crime, but prisons are full of people who thought something similar.
The first step is to consult with a sex crimes defense attorney. You can often get a free consultation to discuss your situation and talk about options. This should be the first and only person you talk to about the details of the accusation. You shouldn’t talk to anyone about the situation, especially the accuser. Many attempts to smooth things over or solve a misunderstanding result in making matters worse.
You’ll also want to write down everything you can remember from the incident in question. Create a list of potential witnesses and other encounters with the accuser. Your attorney is the only other person who will see this list, so keep it safe.
Being accused of a sex crime puts you in a severe situation. The good news is that you’re not alone in your fight. Contact an experienced team of sex crime defense lawyers and give yourself the best chance at building a strong defense.