To determine the best defense strategies to implement when defending against a sex crime allegation, you must thoroughly understand the Pennsylvania sex offender laws, the statute of limitations, technical defenses, and other defenses used to challenge the credibility of the government’s evidence and witnesses. Retaining an experienced sex crime lawyer can greatly increase your chances of successfully defending against the charges against you. Here is some information about potential defenses to sex crimes charges from DiCindio Law.
Examples Of Technical Defenses
Technical defenses are defenses based on issues with when the prosecutor filed the case or when the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence to prove all of the elements of the case.
- Defense Based On The Statute Of Limitations – Pennsylvania has established statutes of limitations for filing criminal charges under 42 Pa. C.S. § 5552. Under this law, most criminal charges must be filed within two years of the date of the offense.
However, there is a 12-year statute of limitations for the following sex crimes:
- Statutory sexual assault
- Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated indecent sexual assault
- Child sexual abuse
There is also a carve-out for people who were the victims of sex crimes as children. For cases involving them, the statute of limitations is tolled until the children turn age 18 and will not expire until the person reaches age 50, whichever occurs later.
While the statute of limitations is lengthy for major sex offenses, when the prosecutor tries to file a case after the limitations period has expired, a defense lawyer can raise the statute of limitations as a complete defense to the charge. If the court determines that it was filed after the limitations period, the case will be dismissed.
- Insufficient Evidence To Prove The Elements – Prosecutors must always be able to prove each of the elements of a sex crime allegation beyond a reasonable doubt. If a prosecutor cannot prove one of the elements of the charged offense, you cannot be found guilty of it. An experienced criminal defense attorney can carefully analyze the evidence and hold the prosecutor to the burden of proof when the evidence is insufficient to prove one or more of the elements.
In addition to the technical defenses, there are a number of other potential defenses that might apply to your case. Some of these defenses are described below.
- Challenging The Credibility Of The Victim Or Witness – In some cases, a victim or witness will make statements during the trial that are inconsistent with previous statements he or she has made in the past. A good defense attorney might use the past statements the victim or witness made to the police, during a civil proceeding, or during an earlier motion hearing to challenge the testimony he or she gives on the stand. This can help juries to weigh the victim’s or witness’s credibility and might make them more likely to discount the claims.
- Establishing The Motivation Of The Accuser To Lie – Unfortunately, some alleged victims falsely accuse others of committing sex offenses. A victim might do this to get revenge for a previous wrong or to try to gain the upper hand in a divorce or child custody proceeding. Engaging in a thorough pre-trial investigation of the background of the accuser can help to bring these types of facts to light.
Some of the types of reasons why someone might falsely accuse another person of committing a sex crime include the following:
- Shame or embarrassment following a consensual sex act because of the defendant’s marriage to someone else, reputation, or another factor
- Revenge for a prior real or imagined wrong
- Financial motive to extort money from the defendant
- Gain the upper hand in a divorce or child custody proceeding
While most sex offenses involve people known to the victims, some are committed by strangers. In these types of cases, the police might use eyewitness identification procedures to bring charges against defendants. Unfortunately, many identification procedures are flawed and result in false identifications. In this type of case, an attorney might file a motion to challenge the identification procedure used to identify the defendant. If successful, this can result in the dismissal of the charges against the defendant.
- Challenging Forensic Evidence With Experts – Some sex crimes cases involve the use of forensic evidence by the prosecution, including DNA, fingerprints, and others. When the prosecutor is relying on forensic evidence to try to secure a conviction, a defense lawyer might call expert witnesses to challenge the evidence. These types of challenges might include analyzing the DNA to check whether it was properly analyzed, looking at how fingerprint evidence was used to make a match or reviewing videotapes of child victims to identify when the interviewer has given suggestions to lead them to make accusations against the defendant.
- False Allegations Made By Children – While teens might falsely accuse others of sexual assault for many of the same reasons that adults falsely accuse others, younger children tend to make false allegations for different reasons. Children might falsely accuse an adult of sexual abuse when nothing inappropriate happened. A child might talk about an event that happened, and his or her parent might jump to conclusions and assume that the child was sexually abused. This can result in the parent asking leading questions that implant a false memory of abuse that never happened.
When a defense lawyer believes that a child’s accusation was based on a suggestive or biased interview, he or she can file a motion requesting a taint hearing. Parents, police, teachers, and therapists might all ask leading questions even when they are not consciously aware that they are doing so. In other cases, an adult might try to distort a child’s understanding of an event deliberately. Children normally want to please adults and are easily led. Working with a forensic psychologist to examine the pre-trial evidence and asking for a taint hearing can result in a dismissal of sex crimes allegations involving children.
Get Help From DiCindio Law
The Pennsylvania sex offender laws carry severe penalties if people are convicted. People who are convicted of sex offenses also face lifelong consequences in other areas of their lives. If you are facing sex crimes charges, you should immediately seek help from an experienced attorney. Call DiCindio Law today at (610) 430-3535 to schedule a confidential consultation.