In the #MeToo era, sex crimes cases are harder than ever to resolve favorably. Many states are passing sweeping new laws. New York lawmakers just approved a measure that greatly extends the statute of limitations in sexual assault cases. Minnesota may soon follow suit.
Furthermore, when Ramsey County sex crime juries deliberate, the dynamics are different. Jurors who did not believe the alleged victim are quieter, jurors who believed the alleged victim are louder, and jurors who were on the fence are more likely to vote against the defendant.
Despite all this, an experienced St. Paul sex crimes attorney can still successfully defend these cases. These defenses can either defeat the prosecutor in court or force a favorable negotiated settlement. Either way, the defendant wins.
This defense often comes up when a defendant, who is nearly always a man, visits an online chat room and talks to a person he believes to be an underage girl. But that girl is, in reality, a law enforcement officer. A variety of very bad things can happen in this situation. The big one is production of child pornography, or asking for an illicit photograph. This act could trigger either state or federal charges.
Even if the “girl” approaches the defendant in the chat room and offers to send such an image, the entrapment defense may not apply. A St. Paul criminal defense attorney must prove that the defendant had no predisposition to commit the crime. The fact that the defendant was in the chat room and exchanged messages with the detective seems to derail that argument.
Apropos of nothing, police officers do not have to say “yes” if the defendant asks “are you a cop?” Lies like these affect the officer’s credibility and make defenses like entrapment easier to prove, but officers can commit immoral acts during the course of an investigation. They just cannot commit illegal acts. There’s a difference.
This defense is often quite effective in sexual assault cases, exposure cases, and other “live” sex crimes. For example, in assault cases, the light is often low and the alleged victim may have been drinking. Both of these factors affect the ability to make a positive identification. And, since the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, the alleged victim must be absolutely certain for the identification to hold up in court.
Exposure cases, on the other hand, rarely involve alcohol or dim lights. But many times, the alleged victim is a long way away from the defendant. Details like facial features are very hard to remember, especially if the person was under extreme stress at the time.
Certain people, such as children and mentally handicapped individuals, cannot provide consent as a matter of law. The same thing applies to physically incapacitated (e.g. drugged) individuals. It does not matter what these people say or don’t say.
Other situations involve abuse of authority, such as clergy and parishioner or doctor and patient. A St. Paul criminal defense attorney might be able to establish in some of these cases, but it’s a steep hill to climb.
Most sexual assault cases are acquaintance or date rape cases, and consent is often an issue in these situations. Section 609.341 defines “consent” as “words or overt actions by a person indicating a freely given present agreement to perform a particular sexual act with the actor.” That’s a very limited definition. Past consent is not the same thing as present consent. Additionally, if the encounter goes further than the alleged victim wants to go, prosecutors could bring rape charges.
Prior sexual history may be relevant in “overt action” consent cases. But a St. Paul criminal defense attorney must tread lightly. Such inquiries often antagonize jurors who were already somewhat hostile toward the defendant.
If abuse outcries occur in the context of a divorce or family law proceeding, that’s a big red flag. Prosecutors and police investigators are not child psychologists, so they often take these statements at face value.
Early intervention can be key. A St. Paul criminal defense attorney should have a psychologist or psychiatrist interview the child. These professionals know how to spot false allegations. Some clues include the same story repeated the same way and use of inappropriate language. For example, most 8-year-olds do not use three-syllable words or know the scientific names for certain body parts.
Many times, officers find pornographic images or other sex crimes evidence on a defendant’s cell phone. In 2014’s Riley v. California, the Supreme Court held that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy on anything other than a phone’s home screen. If the screen is password-protected, they may even have a privacy expectation at that point.
Regardless, under Riley, officers must have search warrants before they can search through a phone. Alternatively, they must secure the owner’s consent or another search warrant exception must apply.
A variety of sex crimes defense may be available in your case. For a free consultation with an experienced St. Paul criminal defense attorney, contact Capitol City Law Group, LLC. Go online now, call us at (651) 998-7634, or stop by 287 6th St E, Suite 20, St Paul, MN 55101.