You thought an encounter you had in the past was a consensual encounter, but then you are contacted by law enforcement and told that the person on the other end of the encounter is now accusing you of sexual assault. What steps should you take?
Don’t Give “Your Side of the Story” to Law Enforcement
A Detective may contact you and just ask for “your side of the story.” Do not sit down and discuss anything with law enforcement without first consulting with an attorney who is experienced in handling sexual assault cases. You may believe that it will help you to tell your side of the story, but law enforcement is trained to find inconsistencies and problems with an account that suggests that the person being interrogated is not being honest. Law enforcement is also allowed to use subterfuge to try to obtain an incriminating statement. It is not uncommon for law enforcement to claim they have physical, medical or DNA evidence that they actually do not have.
Don’t Agree to Make a Written Statement to Law Enforcement
Once you make a written statement to law enforcement and sign it, you are stuck with that statement. Do not give any written statement to law enforcement without first consulting with an attorney who is qualified to handle sexual assault cases. Written statements can come back to haunt someone under investigation for a sexual assault allegation.
Do Not Agree to Take a Polygraph Test to “Clear You”
Law enforcement sometimes suggests that you take a polygraph test to “clear” someone of accusations made against them. The problem is that polygraph tests are highly subjective and can be influenced by the questions asked, the polygrapher, the environment of the test, medications and other factors. If you believe a polygraph test may clear you, then retain a qualified attorney who regularly handles sexual assault cases. That person will have a relationship with a polygrapher who is not an employee of law enforcement and who can do an independent polygraph test that does not have to be shared with anyone unless it is helpful to you.
Save Pictures, Emails, Cards, Texts and Videos that May Be Relevant
Often when an accuser says that something happened without their consent, other communications suggest the opposite. When an accusation of this nature is made, it is important to save all communications with the accuser which can show that they continued to have contact with you and were not afraid of you. Sometimes, the accusation follows on the heels of a breakup or revelation that the dating relationship is over and the accuser actually engages in stalking of the accused before making the accusation. This kind of documentation can be critical information in building a defense.
Do Not Attempt to Contact the Accuser
It can be tempting to reach out to the accuser and try to understand why they are making the accusation against you. You should not have any direct contact with the person making the accusation after you become aware of it. It is important not to provide any basis for any additional accusations, such as harassing the accuser or tampering with them as a witness.
Retain An Attorney Experienced in Handling Sexual Assault Cases
An experienced attorney may be able to take steps to head off charges before any are filed or convince law enforcement that no crime actually occurred. It is also possible that the person making the accusation to law enforcement will seek a SAPO (sexual assault protection order) and it will be very important, if there is an ongoing investigation into possible criminal charges, that you get qualified counsel on board to assist you in responding to the request for a SAPO. Your attorney will help you decide how to respond to the request for a protection order without compromising your right to remain silent while a criminal investigation is pending.
DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights and some general information on various aspects of domestic violence cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.