Phone: (202) 430-1900
Fax: (202) 430-1900
Office Location: 1101 17th Street NW Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20036
Hours: Monday - Friday | 8am - 5pm
Few crimes are more serious than sexual assault or rape, but what happens when the accused person is innocent? The consequences of even a charge of a rape case are serious. Media coverage can be devastating. If the wrongfully accused person is a college student, he may be suspended from classes and expelled from school. If the alleged rape or sex crime occurred at work or with a co-worker, the accused employee may be fired. Worse, the wrongfully accused may be arrested, and it may be difficult to obtain bail. There are no minor sex crimes; even if a client receives probation, he is still likely to be subject to lengthy, perhaps lifetime registration as a sex offender under either Megan’s Law or the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). Retaining the right attorney can make all the difference.
Sex crimes are different from other crimes. Most often, charges of rape, sexual assault or other sex offenses are “he said/she said” cases, meaning that an arrest may be based upon the unsubstantiated statements of a single witness, which will be assumed to be the “victim”. While one might assume the case against him is weak, these cases cannot be taken for granted. The state and federal government provides substantial emotional support to people it considers “victims”. Many jurisdictions have investigators and prosecutors who specialize in the prosecution of sex cases, referred to as “Special Victim’s Units”.
The wrongfully accused defendant needs aggressive defense counsel who understands both the investigation and defense of sex crimes at court. Although we are sometimes successful in having charges dismissed, the defendant needs to be prepared emotionally and financially for the trial.
Every case is different with different facts and evidence; however, the first thing the innocent suspect should do is retain experienced counsel. He should not talk to police, prosecutors or any other government officials. He should not contact the alleged victim or any of his or her friends. He should not consult the internet, friends or family members. Only an experienced defense counsel can provide correct advice as to how best to proceed.
Different types of sex crimes have different defenses. No two cases are the same. One common factor in all cases, however, is the need for an early, comprehensive investigation to determine the facts and find evidence.
Most sex crimes involve a single victim, and a single incident. Consent is the most common defense, and it is usually up to a jury to determine whether the state or government has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. In the hours, days and weeks after the incident, the accuser may have talked about the incident with friends or acquaintances, and, frequently, what he or she says just after the investigation may differ substantially from what the accuser says at trial. Alcohol or drugs may interfere with an accuser’s memory. Sometimes, counsellors or other “support” personnel will convince an accuser that an encounter was a rape or assault when the accuser was not certain about whether consent was given.
When an assault occurs with a co-worker, there are additional risks that the wrongfully accused person should take. See “Responding to False Allegations of Sexual Assault or Harassment at Work or in the Office”. The college environment, with its Title IX implications, presents other challenges. Accusations that arise in the military have other concerns. The most important thing the wrongfully accused can do is retain experienced and qualified defense counsel.
If a rape or sexual assault involves a child, consent is usually not a defense. An underage victim is not allowed to consent under any circumstance, but false allegations of abuse can and do occur. In these cases, it is important to understand the circumstances under which the accusation occurred: did the accusation arise in the course of a divorce? When and where did the alleged incident occur? What, if any, is the relationship between the accuser and the accused?
Child pornography cases have another set of defenses. See “Six Potentially Successful Defenses to Child Pornography Cases”. These cases are filed in both state and federal courts and are among the most serious of criminal cases. Sentences for these charges can put someone in prison for decades.
Unlike other offenses, sex offenses have significant collateral consequences. As with other felonies, one who pleads guilty loses the right to vote, the right to own a firearm, the right to certain federal benefits and other potential consequences. In addition to losing these rights, one convicted of a sex offense will usually have to register under Megan’s Law or SORNA sometimes for life. After completing a sentence, one convicted of a sex offense may be prevented from seeing minor children. A conviction may also expose a defendant to civil action by the victim. In fact, in the case of business owners or wealthy individuals, the potential for a significant monetary settlement is frequently a major motivating factor in the filing of a false accusation with the police.
In addition to the possibility of criminal prosecution, college students face potential administrative actions by their colleges and universities which may result in expulsion for sexual misconduct. This label can follow students to other colleges or universities affecting their ability to complete their education. It can even impact their ability to obtain employment. Unfortunately, students accused of sexual assault or sexual harassment on campus are assured that their due process rights will be respected.
Title IX itself provides that:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Sexual misconduct, including rape, sexual assault and harassment, has been determined to be discrimination under this section. Colleges and universities have responded to this section with the zealous prosecution of anyone accused of sexual misconduct. This prosecution frequently results in the denial of a fair hearing. Even a student who has not been charged by prosecutors can find himself facing an inquisitory college board.
These cases are therefore particularly serious. A student accused of rape or sexual assault on campus must therefore have counsel prepared not only for the criminal investigation but also for the college or university’s administrative actions. We are experienced with both.
Dennis Boyle defended his first rape case, and obtained his first acquittal in a rape case, in 1991. Since that time, he has tried over 30 jury trials involving allegations of rape or serious sexual assault. These cases are emotionally draining both for the person accused of the defense and for the defense counsel. Not all cases, proceed to trial. A dismissal of charges, or a decision by prosecutors not to bring charges in the first place, is preferable to a trial. These resolutions do not just happen. Mr. Boyle knows how to investigate these cases to achieve the best results for the client.
The quicker defense counsel becomes involved in a case, the greater the opportunity for a successful resolution to the case.