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How Does a Defense Lawyer Handle a Sexual Assault or Rape Case?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5, 2021

Sexual assault cases are some of the most difficult, complex, and often emotionally charged cases that land in a courtroom. There’s a full host of procedural concerns — from ethical standards about which arguments are fair-play, to the good faith of both parties involved. Because of the sensitive and complicated nature of these cases, it’s important to hire legal counsel that specializes in sexual assault defense. 

Sexual Assault Charges in Texas 

Thanks to popular television shows like Law & Order: SVU, most people have at least a surface-level understanding of rape, sexual assault, and the legal rammifications therein. However, many people are unaware of the more nuanced legal definitions that make up sexual assault cases. This is in part because these definitions vary by state. 

 

While some states have separate qualifiers for the legal terms “rape” and “sexual assault,” Texas is not one of them. Instead, the Lone Star State categorizes sexual assault crimes in one of three ways: 

– Sexual Assault 

– Aggravated Sexual Assault 

– Statutory Rape 

 

Sexual Assault

The most common catch-all for rape and sexual assault cases, the charge of sexual assault applies when there is unwanted sexual contact such as touching, intercourse, or other kinds of penetration. While these cases sometimes involve physical violence, it’s not a prerequisite for the charge. 

 

Additionally, in some cases, sexual assault charges may be filed even if the victim has given verbal consent. In these cases, there is usually a form of power imbalance that precludes the victim from giving consent without coercion or the victim is not in a clear state of mind. For example: 

– The victim was intoxicated and unable to responsibly decide to consent or unable to understand the circumstances.

– The victim has an intellectual disability that impairs the ability to give consent. 

– The victim is a healthcare patient of the defendant. 

– The victim had reason to fear harm, injury, kidnapping, or death. 

 

Aggravated Sexual Assault 

In Texas, if a sexual assault includes “aggravating circumstances,” then the charge may be raised to “aggravated sexual assault” — essentially a higher-level sexual assault charge. It’s important to note that aggravated sexual assault is a separate charge from both “sexual assault” and “aggravated assault” though it includes defining characteristics from both. Aggravating circumstances include: 

– The victim suffers serious bodily injury.

– The accused accidentally or purposefully killed the victim or attempted to kill the victim. 

– The accused used threats of bodily injury, kidnapping, or death. 

– The accused used a deadly weapon in the assault. 

– The accused acted with another party. 

– The accused used a substance to impair the victim’s ability to understand the nature of or resist the act. 

– The victim is elderly or disabled. 

 

Statutory Rape 

Because a minor is too young to understand the implications necessary to responsibly consent to a sexual act, Texas law prohibits sexual activities with anyone 16-years-old or younger. While most states have statutory rape laws, Texas does not — instead classifying sex with a minor as “sexual assault with a child.”  

 

Additionally, because minors can’t legally consent, “sexual assault with a minor” charges may be filed regardless of verbal or written consent before the sexual act. This charge does not only apply to physical contact but also the exposure of a child to sexual content or imagery (including via the internet). 

The Consequences of a Sexual Assault Conviction in Texas

In Texas, sexual assault is a second-degree felony. Sentencing guidelines suggest two to twenty years in prison (the average sentence for sexual assault in the United States is 191 months). A $10,000 fine may be charged as well, and upon release, those convicted must register as sex offenders. 

Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree felony. Five to ninety-nine years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. 

What Does a Sexual Assault Legal Defense Look Like? 

Despite reactionary claims that false sexual assault allegations run rampant, the truth is they are very uncommon. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates that only around 2% of accusations are false — possibly even less because 63% of sexual assaults go unreported nationwide (in Texas, that number could be as high as 91%), and at times victims are intimidated into stepping down. 

 

But it’s important to remember that even if the victim was assaulted, the defendant isn’t necessarily guilty. Likewise, if the accusation is false, the victim isn’t necessarily making these accusations maliciously. 

 

This is why every defendant deserves a fair trial, no matter the severity of the charge. United States Federal Law guarantees citizens the absolute right to fairly make their case before a judge and a jury of their peers. A sexual assault defense lawyer has a duty not to discriminate and to act in good faith toward both the client and the courtroom. 

 

A sexual assault defense lawyer helps the defendant uphold these rights by assuring the defendant receives a fair and unbiased trial, that the law is carried out in a just manner, and that the prosecutor does not seek unfair sentencing.  

 

Notable defenses include: 

 

Mistaken Identity: Mistaken identification is the number one cause of wrongful conviction. If the victim was intoxicated or in a severe state of shock, memory lapses can occur. Intoxication or severe trauma can impair human memory. 

 

Defendant Unaware of Mental Capacity: If the defendant was unaware the victim had impaired mental capacity or lost consciousness during a sexual act, this may stand as a defense. For example, if two parties had been drinking.

 

Impotence: A defendant may use impotence as a defense, to prove they are medically unable to commit the accused act. However, if any penetration is possible (no matter how little) this defense is often thrown out. 

 

Victim’s Reliability: If the victim has a mental condition that results in delusions, etc. However, it should be noted that the presence of such a mental condition doesn’t determine guilt — even those with such conditions can be sexually assaulted. It does, however, bring the possibility of a mistaken narrative to light. 

 

There are, however, three particular arguments against victim reliability that defense attorneys are ethically precluded from using. The logic and reasoning behind this rule could fill an entire blog of its own (possibly even a book), so for the time being it’s simply worth noting that the following three arguments have been found legally baseless and irrelevant: 

– “If a victim is unchaste, their trustworthiness is called into question.” 

– “If a victim didn’t cry during the assault or yell for help, their trustworthiness is called into question.” 

– “Failure to physically fight or resist implies consent.” 

What a Sexual Assault Defense Lawyer Will Do

Even if you’re certain the charges levied against you don’t hold water, it’s important to take them seriously. A defense lawyer not only argues on your behalf but will also protect your rights and help you navigate the legal system. A sexual assault defense lawyer will help you: 

– Determine if you have a reliable alibi

– Find existing evidence that can help exonerate you

– Advise you on evidence that should be submitted to the police

– Advise you on voluntary DNA submission

– Help assess if the victim mistook you for someone else

– Help assess if the victim is intentionally filing false charges

– Assure that you are being treated fairly and given rightful representation

– Assure that your rights are protected and that the prosecutor is not seeking unreasonable charges or sentencing against you

 

If you need a sexual assault defense lawyer or are seeking more information on related charges, Mary Conn Law is here to help. Don’t wait. Every second counts. Visit our website or drop us a line on our “Contact Us” page right away! 

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