How Does a Defense Lawyer Build a Sexual Assault Defense Case?
A defense lawyer builds a case against a sexual assault charge using evidence. The more evidence they have of their client’s innocence, the stronger the case will be. Supporting information can include eyewitness testimony, forensic evidence, and phone records. A defense lawyer may also assess the laws that apply to their client’s case to seek the best possible outcome.
If you face sexual assault charges in Phoenix, Arizona, you likely don’t want to risk going to trial without legal representation. A criminal defense attorney can build a case that seeks to protect your future.
A Defense Lawyer May Use These Defenses to Combat a Sexual Assault Charge
Once a lawyer assesses your situation, they can devise a plan of action to secure a verdict of not guilty. They may also seek to have your charges dropped, reduced, or dismissed. Your lawyer may allege one of the following at trial:
You Didn’t Do It
Your lawyer may assert that the charges against you are completely unfounded. To accomplish this, they may pick apart the evidence the prosecution provides. For example, they may cross-examine unreliable witnesses or assert that you have an alibi.
How your lawyer defends your reputation depends largely on the charges against you. Their strategy may also depend on whether you have faced similar charges in the past.
The Other Party Gave Consent
Consent is at the core of most sexual assault cases. If possible, your lawyer may aim to prove that the other party consented to a certain sexual act. They may base their defense on implied consent, meaning that although the other person didn’t verbally consent to sexual activity, their actions did. This can understandably get tricky. Yet, your lawyer can use evidence to assert consent between both parties.
The Other Party Lied About Their Age
In the digital age, anyone can share misleading information online. You could face sexual assault charges if you engaged in sexual activity with a minor, and you legitimately did not know their actual age. This defense holds up in some cases, but fails in others. Your lawyer can assess your situation, learn how you met the other party, and determine whether any untruthfulness resulted in your criminal charges.
You Were Mentally Incapacitated When the Incident Happened
If you live with a serious mental illness, you may commit certain offenses without the normal use of your faculties. This is commonly known as the insanity defense. Your lawyer may use your medical records, psychiatric records, and other information to assert your altered mental state at the time of the alleged incident.
You Were a Minor When the Alleged Incident Occurred
Being under 18 when an alleged sexual assault occurred will not excuse the charges against you. However, it could lessen the jail time and other penalties you face. Juvenile sexual assault offenders generally face lesser sentences than their adult counterparts.
Your lawyer could assert that you didn’t comprehend the events because of your age. They could also aim for a reduction in the charges against you.
The Allegations Against You Are False
The other party may falsely accuse you of a crime because:
- They’re upset that your relationship ended.
- They want to use a conviction as leverage in a custodial dispute.
- They want to damage your reputation.
- They struggle with a mental illness that compels them to make false accusations.
- They intend to pursue damages through a civil action later and want a conviction to serve as the basis of their lawsuit.
- They have shame or embarrassment about consenting to a sexual act.
The state does not take false allegations of sexual assault lightly. If there’s enough evidence to show that the other party committed perjury or made a false accusation, they could face criminal charges.
There Isn’t Evidence to Support a Conviction
Every successful guilty verdict needs evidence. He said, she said allegations do not hold up in court. If the prosecution cannot supply compelling evidence, your lawyer can move for a dismissal.
How Your Lawyer Could Build a Sexual Assault Defense Case
As noted, your lawyer may use evidence to support a favorable outcome to your case. However, in addition to gathering evidence, they may also:
Consult With Field Professionals
Every successful defense strategy relies on testimony from field experts. For instance, your lawyer may consult with a psychologist to assert your lack of malintent. They may also consult with a healthcare professional if your physical condition comes into question.
Parse Through Witnesses’ Testimony
The prosecution may rely on witnesses’ testimony when pursuing a case against you. Your defense team may rely on conflicting information to discredit those witnesses.
While taking depositions or listening to witnesses testify, your lawyer may look for misinformation regarding:
- The times and dates of alleged events
- The people involved
- The alleged incident that took place
- The information witnesses rely on
If a conviction rests on a piece of improperly-collected evidence, your sexual assault charge lawyer can move to have that evidence disregarded. Then, without that evidence, the case may have no basis.
Apply the Law to Your Case
The prosecution may push for penalties that do not align with state law. For instance, they may push for more prison time than normal for someone convicted of a crime. Also, the crime itself may not align with the state’s definition of sexual assault. These things could push a sexual assault case toward a favorable outcome for the defendant.
What Constitutes Sexual Assault in Arizona?
Sexual assault constitutes any attempted, actual, or threatened sexual act, including penetration, fondling, and oral sex. You could also face charges for other sexual crimes beyond purely physical acts. This can include catfishing, written or verbal threats, and stalking, although these are different than sexual assault.
A Sexual Assault Conviction Can Carry Many Penalties
Being convicted of sexual assault in Arizona can have many consequences, some of which can last a lifetime.
Some penalties include:
- Prison time. Someone convicted of sexual assault could face anywhere from a few months to several years in prison. This sentence could last decades if the sexual assault charges accompany another serious offense, like kidnapping.
- Fines. Fines go beyond paying the state; a conviction could also serve as the basis of a civil case. That means the survivor could sue the perpetrator for the cost of their various damages, such as pain and suffering. This can put one in dire financial straits.
- Being on a sex offender registry. The Arizona Department of Public Safety reports that a sexual assault conviction could land a defendant on a sex offender registry. Registration could prevent you from living in certain areas and limit what work you can do. It can also appear on a background check, preventing you from engaging in certain activities.
Each of these things can transform your quality of life. That makes it important to consider your legal options after the state charges you with sexual assault.
A Solid Sexual Assault Defense Needs Your Cooperation
A lawyer can only do so much when building a sexual assault defense case. Therefore, they also need you to avoid certain measures that could complicate matters further.
Some of these measures include:
- Contacting the accuser. You may want to reach out to your accuser to understand their side of the story. This does not benefit your case. Any attempts to communicate with the other party could paint you badly. For instance, they could allege that you tried to threaten them into dropping the case.
- Posting about the trial online. Anything you post online can become public record. That means it’s admissible as evidence. The prosecutor could use your own words to secure a conviction.
- Refraining from criminal activity. You must refrain from any activity that could compound the charges against you. This includes things like drunk driving, drug possession, and other offenses. You want to look like an upstanding member of society during all criminal proceedings.
Sexual assault cases are extremely sensitive matters. Your lawyer can provide more information about what you should and should not do while your case unfolds.
Myths About Sexual Assault Charges
Many misconceptions about sexual assault cases could affect how you make decisions. Some of those myths include:
Getting a Lawyer Is a Sign of Guilt
You have every right to secure legal representation when facing criminal charges. However, getting a lawyer does not signal an admission of guilt, and the court won’t see it that way throughout your case’s progression. By forgoing legal help, you risk jail time, fines, and other threats to your future.
The Other Party Is Infallible
The other party’s allegations alone do not warrant a conviction. They’re human, just like everyone else. They could misremember certain events, confuse dates, or misinterpret certain interactions. But, as noted, the prosecution needs evidence connecting you to the crime. The other party’s allegations weaken if they can’t furnish evidence showing you committed sexual assault.
Your Name Goes Straight to the Sex Offender Registry
Your name does not go on a sex offender registry unless the court finds you guilty of sexual assault. Even then, going on a registry isn’t automatic. The state requires you to self-report in the days following your conviction——and again, that’s only if you receive a conviction.
Your lawyer can clear up any misunderstandings you may have about sexual assault charges. This way, you can make informed decisions throughout your case’s progression.
Should I Work with a Public Defender?
The U.S. Constitution notes that everyone has the right to legal representation during all criminal proceedings. If you don’t hire a lawyer, it may assign a public defender to manage your case. At first, this may appeal to you because people think getting a public defender can prove cheaper than hiring a defense attorney. However, there is something behind the adage: You get what you pay for.
Public defenders can prove hard to come by following the Covid-19 lockdown. Some have tens of cases unfolding simultaneously, making it difficult to provide individualized attention to each one. Moreover, the sheer volume of cases may compel a public defender to push for a speedy resolution instead of a fair one.
Your criminal defense attorney should prioritize your future above everything else. However, they should also have the resources to dedicate their full attention to your case’s outcome.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sexual Assault Charges
You may have these questions as you consider legal representation:
Is There a Statute of Limitations on Criminal Sexual Assault Cases?
Arizona has a statute of limitations on various sex crimes. However, this could change over time. For instance, some lawmakers hope to pass the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act. This would extend how long survivors of childhood sexual assault have to initiate legal action.
How Long Does a Criminal Case Take?
How long a criminal case takes depends on many factors, including the availability of evidence and the seriousness of the charges against you. Most trials last a few days. However, when the jury deliberates, that could take anywhere from a few hours to several days. An attorney can offer more information about your case’s progression and other factors.
Could I Lose Custody of My Children?
Your former spouse could assert that you’re not a fit parent and shouldn’t have custody if a court convicts you of sexual assault. This makes it critical to consider your case’s outcome. In addition to possibly losing custody, you could also lose your job, have to move, and face other limitations.
When Should I Consider Legal Representation?
You should consider getting legal help immediately after learning about the sexual assault charges.
By securing representation early, you:
- Allow your lawyer to gather time-sensitive evidence
- Protect yourself from unfair legal proceedings
- Avoid making any mistakes that could hurt your case
- Assert your innocence or lack of culpability
- Put your future first
Many criminal defense firms offer free consultations where interested parties can explore their options. During this consultation, you can explore possible defenses to your sexual assault case.