When you’re charged with sexual assault, there’s more at risk than a jail sentence. Though direct penalties can be severe, a person convicted of sexual battery (the technical legal term for sexual assault in Florida) may also face lifelong complications and limitations due to sex offender registry requirements. A sex crime conviction can limit job opportunities, impact relationships, and even put restrictions on where a person can live.
In short, a sexual battery charge is serious business, and requires a strong defense.
Strategies for Fighting Sexual Battery Charges
Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Prosecutors face a heavy burden of proof in criminal cases: they are required to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. It is important for anyone accused of a sex crime to be aware that one of the elements the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the sex act occurred.
Unfortunately, many people accused of sexual battery make a serious mistake when approached by law enforcement. Since the accused generally hasn’t talked with a criminal defense attorney at that stage, he may think that he can “clear up” the issue by explaining that the sex was consensual. However, the police generally aren’t there to clear up a misunderstanding. They’re seeking evidence of a crime. When a defendant rushes to tell his side of the story, he often unwittingly provides evidence that will later be used against him, such as an admission that he engaged in sexual activity with the alleged victim.
The earlier in the process you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney, the more opportunity that lawyer will have to build a strong defense for you. If the prosecution is unable to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt, the case could be dismissed, or the judge or jury could return a not guilty verdict.
Consent as a Defense to Sexual Assault Charges
Consent is often a key issue in a sexual battery case. Simply proving that the sexual act took place is not sufficient; the prosecution must also establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the act took place without the alleged victim’s consent.
The evidence regarding consent is often one person’s word against the other’s. In that situation, the defense has a strong argument that the prosecution’s burden has not been met. The prosecutor will attempt to support the case with physical evidence and the testimony of experts, but an experienced criminal defense lawyer will have strategies for disputing that type of evidence, as well.
Disputing Physical Evidence and Medical Conclusions
Some of the most common physical evidence in sexual assault cases involves DNA evidence connecting the defendant to the crime and medical evidence supporting the claim that the alleged victim was assaulted. This evidence can be challenged in many ways, including:
• Questioning the reliability or accuracy of collection or testing procedures
• Showing a break in the chain of custody of samples or evidence
• Having a defense expert challenge the prosecution’s conclusions
• Moving to suppress the evidence
Suppression of Evidence
When evidence in a criminal case is suppressed, the prosecution is prevented from presenting that evidence to the jury. While there are many reasons evidence may be suppressed in a criminal case, one of the most common is that the evidence was illegally obtained. For example:
• Statements by the defendant may be excluded if the police were required to read Miranda warnings and did not do so
• An audio recording may be excluded if it was recorded without the defendant’s knowledge or consent
• Physical evidence may be excluded if it was collected without the defendant’s consent or a valid search warrant
Talk to an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Sexual assault cases can be difficult to prove—a charge does not necessarily mean a conviction. However, the most effective defenses to sexual assault charges are technical legal and scientific arguments. If you’ve been charged with sexual battery in Florida, give yourself the advantage of an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side every step of the way. It’s easy to get started. Just call 727-531-2926 today to schedule a consultation.