Being accused of a sex crime, even if charges are never filed, can be absolutely devastating. The stigma of being accused of a sex crime can have great consequences even if you never have to go to court. If a claim against you has been made, it is critical that you understand your rights and what steps you should take to protect yourself.
Sex crimes can refer to a number of different crimes, ranging from misdemeanor indecent assault or prostitution cases to extremely serious charges like continuous sexual abuse of a child. The potential penalties of sex crimes can vary greatly in Texas and it is critical that you consult with an experienced sex crime attorney if you find yourself accused.
Although the severity of sex crimes can vary greatly, sex cases tend to have similarities. The first is that sex cases do not require more evidence than the word of an accuser. In Texas, a large percentage of sex crimes are essentially “he said-she said” cases without any objective proof or other witnesses. With less evidence to support an accusation, this makes a damaging statement from the suspect that much more valuable to law enforcement or prosecutors.
If you have been accused of a sex crime, very early in the investigation the police will try to contact you. There is no clear timeline for when this might happen but it will typically happen with the first few days or weeks. Most often, a detective will call and attempt to persuade you that he is just “trying to clear some things up” or doing you the courtesy of letting you “tell your side of the story.”
From the perspective of a defendant, it is almost always a bad idea to speak with the police. Essentially, if the police have enough evidence to charge you with a sex crime, it matters very little what you say. In other words, because very little evidence is required in sex cases anyway, a defendant denying that a sex crime took place will do nothing to dissuade the police from recommending the District Attorney file charges, if they already feel that they have enough evidence to go forward.
On the other hand, if the police lack enough evidence to charge you with a crime, by agreeing to speak with them, it is possible that your will give them the evidence that they lacked (for example, by placing you at a location where a sex crime allegedly took place). Even if you do not confess a crime, it is possible that your statement could get misinterpreted in a way that is possible to foresee. If your case goes to trial, you statement could get played in front of a jury and a jury could conclude that you are guilty because you seem nervous. In short, most experienced sex crimes attorneys advise their clients to never speak to the police for any reason. Period.
Similarly, it is important to remember that anything you say to your friends or family could be used against you in court. Unfortunately, if you are charged with a sex crime, it is likely that word will spread in your social circle and that your friends and family will confront you about what allegedly took place. Again, statements that you make (or even your demeanor when discussing the allegations) can all be used against you later on as evidence of your guilt. It is possible for prosecutors to subpoena witnesses who you have spoken with to come to court and testify against you. For that reason, an experienced sex crimes attorney will tell you to not speak with anyone regarding an allegation. After you consult with an attorney, you can simply tell acquaintances that you have been instructed to not speak about the alleged incident.
If there are any communications that might be relevant to your defense, such as emails, social media messages or text messages, it is very important to save them. At the time an allegation is made, it is impossible to predict exactly what communications will be most helpful so it is important to save as many as possible. For example, in sexual assault cases, it can frequently be helpful to show that an alleged victim did not avoid contact or communication with the abuser after the alleged incident.
Sex cases can go on for years and losing relevant text messages or electronic communications could be a big problem later on (frequently, clients in sex cases will say that helpful communications were lost on an old phone and no longer accessible). One way to save relevant messages is by taking screenshots and emailing them to yourself or saving them on to a flash drive.
Finally, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced sex crimes attorney as soon as possible. There are many sex crimes in Texas and an almost infinite number of factual scenarios so it is impossible to give individualized advice for every situation in an article like this. But an experience sex crimes attorney can let you know the steps that you can take to minimize your risk of being charged or convicted, and what you can expect during the investigation phase.
Attorney Jose Ceja and Abigail Anastasio are both former prosecutors with extensive experience in sex crimes cases. Ms. Anastasio is a former Harris County District Court Judge with a unique perspective on sex offenses. If you are under investigation for a sex offense anywhere in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm today.