When law enforcement investigate crimes, they don’t presume innocence.
It’s not their job. When the police are asked to investigate a crime,
they intend to solve it. When law enforcement receive information about
a possible sexual or domestic assault, they will often speak with witnesses
who are friendly to the alleged victim and eventually get around to questioning
the accused once they feel they have enough information to conduct a successful
interrogation of their target.
Many of us grew up being told that police officers protect our rights.
This is true to a point. Police officers protect our communities. They
protect our rights. However, once a person becomes the target of an investigation,
all of that changes. Most of the people we represent accused of sexual
assault are shocked by police conduct during their investigations.
Often, after the suspect has been arrested, he or she learns that police
surreptitiously recorded conversations between him or her and the alleged
victim; police lied during the interrogation; or police were sending text
messages on the alleged victim’s phone to try and elicit an apology
or an incriminating response.
People who walk into our office often ask, “Well, what about equal
protection under the law?” or “What about my rights?”
or “What about investigating my innocence?” or “What
about the presumption of innocence?” We answer: This is why defense
attorneys exist. Our job is to protect your constitutional rights, to
ensure your case has been investigated, and to raise reasonable doubt
about the allegations.
The accused, who in many instances have no prior criminal history or contact
with law enforcement, are amazed at how one-sided the investigation process
can be. For example, police are allowed to lie during an interview or
interrogation. But if the accused citizen lies, several bad things might happen:
1. The accused will be charged with a separate crime: Providing false information
to law enforcement.
2. The information will be used against the accused at trial to paint the
accused as a liar and destroy his credibility.
The bottom line: Sexual assault investigators aggressively pursue their suspect.
Often when a suspect tries to tell the truth during an investigation, it
is possible that his statements will be misconstrued, misinterpreted,
and later used against him, especially if there are any inconsistencies
in his statements. The accused might unknowingly corroborate a victim’s
story by providing what at first glance appear to be mundane details.
Relentless investigators tie the small details into a larger picture to
Sexual assault investigations are scary. The accused rarely knows he or
she is being investigated until the investigation is near completion.
By the time investigators talk to the accused they have usually decided
whether they intend to make an arrest. However, there are times when the
investigator, hoping to produce enough information to make an arrest,
will contact and interrogate the accused. Worried about his reputation
and his future, the accused may decide that if he just tells police what
they want to hear this will all go away. The decisions the accused makes
at this point are critical; a bad decision could result in a felony conviction
or lifetime on the sex-offender registry.
Fortunately, the accused has a right to hire a criminal defense attorney
at any point in the process. Some people hire criminal defense attorneys
as soon as they learn of the allegation, some wait until they’ve
been contacted by law enforcement, and others wait until they’ve
been arrested. The earlier criminal defense attorneys get involved in
a case, the more likely they can minimize damage and obtain a favorable outcome.
Criminal defense attorneys hired early in the investigation can advise
clients about their rights and how to assert and protect those rights.
Timely advice is critical in assisting the accused in determining what
he or she should and should not do.
People who are the target of an investigation often feel helpless and overwhelmed.
They want to know what will happen and when it will happen. Fortunately,
criminal defense attorneys can advise the accused about the potential
outcomes and which actions and non-actions will put the accused in the
best position possible for the best result.
If you or a loved one has been accused of a sexual or domestic assault
and need legal counsel, call
402-466-8444 to speak with a member of our team.