Being accused of a crime is serious, and if that crime is rape or sexual assault, in today’s environment, it can seem like everything is stacked up against the accused. Due to the intimate nature of rape, in which there typically are only two persons involved, proving nonconsensual sexual activity relies on one person’s word against the other’s, as well as the results of tests on the body of the victim. These statements and tests can appear to be irrefutable, but retaining the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney, with expertise in defending crimes of a sexual nature, can help to counter these statements and tests. One type of test is known as a rape kit, which, essentially, is a test used by medical personnel for gathering and preserving physical evidence on the victim following an allegation of sexual assault. Recently, however, evidence has emerged about the destruction of rape kits, which has caused a number of rape and sexual assault allegations to go unpunished. As a result, many jurisdictions, including California, are passing laws prohibiting the destruction of rape kits until the statute of limitations has passed, meaning some individuals may be charged well after any alleged sexual assault occurred. A discussion of the recently-passed California law regarding rape kits, as well as how to combat a rape or sexual assault charge, will follow below.
Sexual Assault Victims’ DNA Bill of Rights
In an attempt to ensure that rape kits are not destroyed before the statute of limitations has expired, the California Legislature passed the Sexual Assault Victims’ DNA Bill of Rights. This law is applicable to any facility that preserves rape kits, and requires them to conduct an audit of all untested kits in their possession and report the results to the California Department of Justice. Part of this report is an indication as to whether the assault was reported to a law enforcement agency. Presumably, this is to ensure that, if the statute of limitations has not expired on an allegation of sexual assault, one can still be made.
Defending Against Charges of Sexual Assault
As alluded to above, while it may seem that the deck is stacked against one accused of rape or sexual assault, there are some typical defenses that one may use to combat an accusation. Some of the more common defenses include:
- False accusation;
- Lack of sexual contact;
- Consensual sex, including an honest and reasonable belief that the accuser consented;
- Insufficient evidence; or
- Mistaken identity.
It is important to note that being too intoxicated, meaning the accused did not know what he/she was doing, is not a defense to a sex crime in California if the intoxication was voluntary.
Strategies in Defending Against Charges of Sexual Assault
Besides asserting the defenses listed above, some of the more typical ways in which an accused individual can defend against a charge of rape or sexual assault include:
- Given that sexual assault is a “he said, she said” situation, it can be fruitful to negotiate with law enforcement and explain the accused’s version of the events;
- Alternatively, conducting a private investigation into the event may help illustrate, for example, the defense of mistaken identity; and
- Although not typically admissible in court, polygraph results may sway the prosecutor into dropping the charges.
If the above strategies are not successful, a defendant, especially a first-time defendant, can potentially lessen the damages by pleading guilty in exchange for a more lenient sentence. Additionally, if found guilty, an accused individual can try to mitigate his/her sentence by presenting evidence such as a lack of prior convictions. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help devise an effective strategy in response to these allegations.
Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with rape or sexual assault, especially one in which a rape kit was involved, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Manshoory Law Group, APC as soon as possible. The attorneys at our office have an extensive knowledge base of and experience in criminal defense, including dealing with delayed charges as a result of delayed rape kit processing. We will work with you to prepare the most effective defense to counter the charges against you. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact us today for an initial consultation.