Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

When prosecutors bring forward DNA evidence, they typically argue that these tests are extremely accurate. They often claim, although there is some debate over this, that it would be a one in a billion chance for someone to have identical DNA test results to those of the accused. They push back on defense questioning about possible errors in the collection or testing of the evidence.

All in all, it’s very hard to argue against DNA. When you can tie a suspect’s chromosomes to a crime scene, it’s extremely difficult to claim he wasn’t there. But is that enough?

A Denver man was recently accused of a sex crime based on DNA evidence. Along with several friends he had been to a Fourth of July rooftop party at a woman’s residence. Tragically, the woman apparently passed out at that party. When she awoke the next day, she realized something was terribly wrong. Her panties had been removed, she had vaginal pain, and she did not know what had happened.

Many people strongly believed that legislative changes would follow in the wake of the massively reported sex crimes case of an ex-Stanford student athlete that recently culminated in his release from custody after a three-month incarceration period.

The sentencing judge in the case was roundly excoriated in the media and ultimately removed from criminal cases.

The court’s ruling “was unjustifiable and morally wrong, however, under current state law it was within his discretion,” stated one California Assembly member recently.

The following account of a sex-crimes investigation and trial might unnerve some readers, but not for reasons they might immediately assume.

And, in reading today’s post, many of our readers might be surprised and dismayed by some of its material facts.

Those facts are fundamentally sad, because they point to injustice in what is termed the criminal “justice” sphere and also to the slippery slope that prevails when the public loses confidence in the integrity of law enforcement and criminal investigations.

To simply acknowledge that it is a challenging matter for any individual to be accused of or criminally charged with a sex crime is sheer understatement.

Indeed, it can be an overwhelming and flatly life-altering experience.

We note on our criminal law website at the Bay Area Law Offices of John W. Noonan “how serious an accusation, investigation, arrest or criminal charge involving any type of sex crime can be.”

How understandably harrowing it would be to be a victim of sexual assault or any other sex-based crime. Waves of empathy and, equally, sadness, flow out from any sane and reasonable person to every individual who is harmed by the predatory act of another.

Conversely, though, and in closely reciprocal fashion, doesn’t — and shouldn’t — a tremendous amount of empathy arise for any person who is unjustly accused of a sex crime such as assault or rape?

In either case, an element of “there but for the grace of God” is writ large. A sex crime could happen to you; indeed, victims are sometimes targeted indiscriminately. Likewise, and for some people, a false assertion that they perpetrated a sexual crime is made, to their nearly incomprehensible detriment. Understanding and compassion would seemingly — and in a logically compelling fashion — flow both ways.

Do you think it’s possible for unfortunate — read unfair and even unlawful — things to happen during a criminal interrogation when, as noted in a recent article on that subject, a suspect is “vulnerable and unassisted by a lawyer?”

Of course, it is. Readers know that such can certainly be the case and a foreseeable outcome when select factors play into an interrogation proceeding.

We spotlight false criminal confessions in today’s blog post, noting immediately that the repercussions befalling an individual who confesses to a crime that he or she simply did not commit can be extreme, indeed. In fact, it is no exaggeration at all to state that life-and-death considerations can attach — and routinely do — to falsely uttered statements.

Being accused of a crime — any crime — is obviously a harrowing and even extremely frightening experience. The criminal justice system in California is formidable, with the nearly incalculable resources of authorities — police departments and investigators, forensic teams, prosecutors, judges and other parties — being on ready display in virtually every case.

And the potential consequences that attend to a criminal allegation and conviction can be dire, if not severe and flatly life-altering. Heavy fines and other penalty exactions are doled out in select cases. Jail time can be mandated, with lengthy prison terms facing some defendants.

Sex crime charges and prosecutions can be a singular realm unto themselves, given their often stigmatizing nature. Many persons facing the justice system in connection with an alleged sex crime are adjudged guilty by justice officials and the public even before the evidence is introduced and carefully evaluated.

Was there consent?

That is a central and fundamental query asked by criminal investigators in any matter alleging sexual assault, and issues surrounding it can become ambiguous and complex, indeed.

And, of course, an ultimate and definitive determination regarding that question — as made by a California court or jury — can have dramatic and life-altering implications for an accuser and a criminal suspect, respectively.

When new technology is created, new terms and phrases are sure to follow. From tweeting to texting to surfing the Internet, these new words and phrases help define activities that did not exist prior to the development of certain technology. Though foreign at first, these words and phrases eventually become part of our societal lexicon, giving us a better understanding of the world around us.

Take for example the term sexting. Unheard of 20 years ago, sexting has become popular among teenagers and often refers to the action of sending a nude photograph via a cellphone to someone else. But while this might seem innocent enough to teens — albeit subversive and a little naughty to others — sexting can actually constitute criminal activity in some cases. Knowing when this is the case however can mean the difference between staying in accordance with the law and facing criminal charges.

According to California and federal law, it is unlawful to produce and distribute images that are sexual in nature if the subject of the image is under the age of 18. That’s because doing so constitutes child pornography, which is illegal in the United States. Though teens may not realize it, sending naked pictures of themselves to their boyfriend or girlfriend could constitute a crime if the teen receiving the image was 18 or older and the sender was still a minor.

As loath as parents here in Dublin may be to admit this, they know that when their teens get into a relationship with a member of the opposite sex, they will be faced with the decision of whether to engage in sexual intercourse or not. While most conversations about teens and sex typically focus on unplanned pregnancies as a consequence, we’d like today’s readers to be aware of another — perhaps more serious — consequence: the possibility of criminal charges.

Here in California, as is the case in other states as well, it is illegal for an adult — a person 18 years of age or older — to engage in sexual intercourse with a minor, which is defined as anyone under the age of 18 years old, according to § 261.5(a) of the California Penal Code. Considered to be rape in these circumstances, the law is not forgiving to individuals accused of this crime. Steep penalties, including fines and the possibility of imprisonment, are assessed along with sex offender registration.

The reason this is important for teens in Dublin to know is that this law is applicable even if both parties are consenting. Considered statutory rape, a couple which engages in intercourse is considered to be breaking the law if one of the partners is a minor and the other is an adult. Depending on the discrepancy in age between partners, penalties can escalate, making the situation more serious in nature.

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