If you find yourself in the dreadful position of being falsely accused of committing a sex crime against a child or adult, knowing what to expect can be highly beneficial. The below information explores situations that you might encounter as the allegations unfold into legal action, but is offered only for your consideration. Any decisions you intend to make should be discussed directly with your attorney.
Incident Report to Law Enforcement
If the alleged victim (complainant) is an adult, he or she can decide whether to report the incident to police. Most often, prosecuting attorneys will not move forward with charges unless they know that the adult complainant will be cooperative throughout the process and will testify at trial, should one be required.
If the complainant is a minor there is a high likelihood that the allegations will result, minimally, in a police investigation. Because most states have an expansive definition of what constitutes a mandated reporter, most individuals who learn that a child might have been sexually abused are required by law to report such conduct to a social service agency or to law enforcement.
Law Enforcement Investigation
Upon receiving a complaint of an alleged sexual assault, police will conduct an initial investigation before filing charges and making an arrest. This investigation is conducted in order to find evidence as to whether the claims are legitimate. However, it might be conducted in a one-sided fashion in order to prevent the alleged perpetrator from knowing about it. Typically, the alleged perpetrator is contacted by law enforcement after they have concluded the initial investigation.
During the initial investigation, law enforcement will interview the complainant and document what he or she says. If the complainant is a child, police will contact their local child social services unit and arrange for a “forensic interview.” As testified to by social workers involved in a few of our cases, the purpose of such an interview is “information gathering” – the interviews are not meant to be probative. Therefore, the statements given by the child will usually remain uncontested until at trial.
Being Contacted by Law Enforcement
At some point in the investigation you will likely be contacted by local or federal law enforcement. They might come to your home, leave a voicemail for you, or just leave their business card at your front door. If they come to your residence, it’s common for them to downplay the accusations in an attempt to get you to discuss “your side of the story.” You might be told, “well, if you’re innocent then why not talk to us?,” or “things will go better for you if you speak with us.”
They might not even tell you what the allegations are unless you agree to speak with them. Remember, you don’t have any Miranda Rights because you haven’t been arrested yet (see detained versus arrested). Until you have been arrested, you have no rights against self-incrimination. Anything that you say and do, or don’t say and don’t do can be used against you at trial.
Being Asked About the Allegations by Friends and Family
Once friends and family members learn of the accusations they will likely ask you questions, and there will be a strong desire to try to explain your side of the story. Remember, you never really know who will ultimately help you, or hurt you. We have seen the serious consequences suffered by innocent people who were lured into saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. Regardless of how innocent you are, such statements can be misunderstood, misinterpreted, and inaccurately relayed to law enforcement. Be aware that any 3rd-party with whom you discuss the allegations can be subpoenaed to testify by the prosecution.
Also be aware that police may employ sting calls, whereby the complainant is asked to elicit “incriminating” evidence. You might receive a call from the complainant unexpectedly. These conversations are recorded and can be used as evidence. Although some states require that both parties consent to such recordings, some have exceptions to this law for conversations involving alleged sexual crimes.
Being Charged and/or Arrested For a Sex Crime
Once local or federal law enforcement believes they have enough evidence to justify an arrest warrant, they will submit this information to the prosecuting attorney’s office who will then decide whether to issue a warrant. It is not uncommon for many months to go by after the investigation before an arrest is made. If you have previously been contacted by law enforcement and subsequently contacted a defense attorney, chances are that your attorney will have reached out to law enforcement to assess the accusations. If so, police will sometimes contact your attorney and ask him or her to arrange for your surrender. If not, you will be arrested on site.
Facing an arrest for a sex crime that you did not commit is a shocking and emotionally devastating experience, especially when the complainant is a child. There is the humiliation of being taken into custody followed by the fear and confusion over what will happen to you next. It is in this distressed state that you are required to make some of the most important decisions of your life.
Until you have an attorney present, remember that you have a Constitutional right to remain silent. Inundated with fear and emotions, many defendants try to prove their innocence to the arresting officer. They feel that if they are friendly to law enforcement and cooperate with the investigation, the case will go away. Please realize that if you speak with the police, you might lock yourself into statements that are inaccurate due to the stress of the situation.
Final Thoughts for the Accused:
Remember, anyone can falsely accuse anyone of anything. The time to give your side of the story will come, but for now you should consult with an attorney. You do not want to make mistakes that can only make proving your innocence more difficult.
Premier Defense Group vehemently believes that a person is innocent unless proven guilty. You can reach us 24/7 at 800-993-0632.