If I Suspect I’m Under Investigation For A Sex Crime, Should I Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney Right Away, Or Would That Make Me Look Guilty?
Anyone who suspects they are under investigation for a sex crime should absolutely hire a criminal defense attorney immediately. Doing so will not make them look guilty, and even if it did, the risks associated with not hiring a lawyer are too high to be concerned about the potential of looking guilty. Good police officers expect for people to hire an attorney, especially if they are being investigated for something as serious as a sex crime.
It is incredibly important to hire an attorney right away, because the accused will need someone standing between them and the accusation. In these cases, the accusation itself really takes on a life of its own, like a living, breathing organism. It grows, and takes shape the longer it goes on. The natural reaction to being charged with these types of crimes is to lash out and be defensive in an attempt to show innocence, which can actually make people look even more guilty. It is important to have an attorney who can stop the accused from making emotional decisions that will actually harm their case. Decisions have to be made logically, analytically, and rationally, as well as with the guidance of an experienced attorney.
If Someone Is Being Investigated For A Sex Crime, Could Having An Attorney Early On Possibly Prevent An Arrest And Charge From Even Being Made?
There are all sorts of things a lawyer can do early on in a case to help someone avoid being arrested and charged with a sex crime. A lawyer can set up a private polygraph test so that it can be shown that the accused is telling the truth about not having committed the sex crime. The defense lawyer can launch a factual and legal investigation into the case before the suspect has even be charged, and the lawyer can present exculpatory information to the police and/or prosecutor that may prevent an arrest.
If the accused does not hire a lawyer, the prosecutor will take their cell phone, laptop, and even the clothes they were wearing at the time of the alleged sex crime. If the accused hires a lawyer, their lawyer can obtain copies of this material before the police seizes it, which gives the defense lawyer access to the same information the police will have. The accused can take a screenshot of the text exchange between him and the accuser, so that the lawyer can demonstrate exactly how the evening unfolded. This information can help the lawyer fashion a defense based on the facts of the investigation.
Finally, experts can be hired to help build a defense. For example, a forensic computer examiner could look at the iPad, cell phone, or other device to determine whether there is any helpful or exculpatory information on it. A forensic psychologist could complete a sex offender risk assessment or mitigation report to determine that the accused is not a pedophile nor a dangerous sex offender. In many of these child pornography/child sexually abusive material cases, the suspect is autistic, and can be evaluated by a forensic psychologist who can determine whether they are on the spectrum.
So many things can be done immediately after someone suspects they are being investigated for a sex crime, so long as they hire an attorney. Even if someone has already been arrested and charged with a sex crime, hiring an attorney as early on as possible can have a significant impact on the outcome of the case and the chances of success in court.
What Will Happen After Someone Has Been Identified As A Suspect In A Sex Crime Case?
First, the police are going to contact the suspect. No matter what the police say, they are not really interested in trying to get both sides of the story; their goal will be to solve the crime that they presuppose happened, and make an arrest.
Anything a person says to a police officer—even during the very first conversation—can be admissible against them. The law refers to this as an admission, which means that anything a person that is charged with a crime says can be used as evidence against that person. For this reason, it is important to have a lawyer acting as a buffer between the accused and the police, because the lawyer can speak for the suspect without it being usable against that person in court.
Controlled phone calls are becoming more and more common in sex crime investigations. Essentially, a controlled phone call is when the victim (or if the victim is a minor, then the victim’s guardian) will call the alleged perpetrator and say they want to talk about what happened. The natural reaction is for the accused to believe that they can explain their way out of it, even if they don’t believe they are guilty of the allegations against them. The accused might say something like, “Look, I know we were both drunk, I’m sorry if you thought things went too far,” or “I didn’t think I did anything wrong, but maybe I did.” What many people don’t know is that saying “maybe I did” is an admission. Even admitting to having touched someone “on accident” will be used as evidence of a crime.
A lawyer can act as a buffer between the accused and the detective, and ensure that the suspect does not inadvertently cause more trouble for themselves by falling for the controlled phone call. It is very easy to fall into the trap of being interviewed by the police prior to speaking to an attorney. The decision to speak to the detective should be made only after talking to a lawyer. For example, if the suspect is under 16, drunk, or otherwise incapacitated, admitting to even consensual sex can be the equivalent of convicting oneself of a sex offense.
The only person that someone can safely talk to is their lawyer, because there is attorney-client privilege. Everyone else—including a person’s mom, dad, brother, sister, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, children, neighbors, best friend, and cousins—can technically be forced to testify against the person.
The most important advice to give clients when they first come under suspicion for a crime is to not talk to anyone. This is impossible to do without a lawyer, because proving innocence requires talking, which should only be done by or under the direction of a lawyer. The strategy needs to be simple and to the point, which means keeping quiet and not talking to anyone except the lawyer. An accused individual needs to let their lawyer be their advocate.
The last thing in the world an accused individual should do is have a conversation with the accuser. First of all, there’s a very high chance that that person will be recording that call, and a significant chance that the person recording will be the police officer who is investigating the accusation. Everything that is said by the accused to the accuser is admissible against the accused, and their words will be twisted or taken out of context in order to be used against them.
There is a quote from the movie Michael Clayton, where a criminal defense lawyers says to his client, “I’m not a miracle worker. I am here to clean up a mess, and the earlier I’m hired, the smaller the mess, the easier my job is to clean it up and to keep it contained.” Similarly, the earlier someone hires a criminal defense lawyer, the more manageable and containable the problem, and in a sex crime case, that makes a huge difference.