Going in blind to sex crime allegations is a dangerous thing. You may know your charges are unfair or think what you are facing is too severe, but trust us, sex crime charges are some of the harshest you can face, and going at it alone makes it that much more difficult. Know, though, that there are ways you can fight these charges that are as simple as looking at the evidence presented in your case. Read on to learn more about:
What is evidence and the legal limitations of evidence;
Admissible Evidence in Sex Crime Cases according to Maryland Law; and
Possible Defenses to Sex Crime Prosecution.
What Can and Cannot Be Considered Evidence
In court, lawyers present evidence—facts, witnesses, objects, or documents that relate to the case at hand—in support of their side’s argument.
Where do they gather this evidence? A number of places. It usually occurs during a process known as “discovery,” which happens ahead of the actual courtroom proceedings.
There are a few necessary limits on what can and cannot be discovered for a trial. As mentioned, lawyers may contact and ask witnesses to the case for their testimony during trial or deposition. An attorney may call records of events happening before, around, or after the event in question (meetings, on-the-record conversations), information about a business and its day-to-day functions, documents or physical records, or even a witness’ background information for use in a trial.
As expected, there are limits related to confidentiality and privacy that protect both you and other witnesses. Courts give certain relationships protections on the premise of the exchanging of confidential information being central to each. The relationship types included are husband and wife, lawyer and client, doctor and patient, and religious advisor and advisee.
It is important you know you are not legally required to make any statements or disclose information discussed within one of these relationships.
The same can be said to any adjacent parties whose private information shouldn’t be a matter of public record.
All this being said, we will talk later about instances where a defense attorney might argue against the use of certain pieces of evidence. Just know that there are baseline standards for what types of evidence may not be allowed in a trial setting.
How Does Maryland Law Define Admissible Evidence in Sex Crimes?
When investigating sex crimes, attorneys go through the same process leading up to trial. Much of the evidence-gathering process involves collecting forensic evidence and statements from involved parties and witnesses.
In cases of rape and sexual offense, Maryland’s Criminal code sets only a few parameters regarding the admissibility of evidence.
As it may be presented in court, evidence related to a victim's chastity is not admissible evidence in sex crime cases, sexual abuse cases involving minors, or sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult.
The reasons for this are Rape Shield Statutes. Prior to these, courts admitted evidence regarding a person’s sexual history based on their sexual history, which led to courts proving the plaintiff consented to the sexual assault. In keeping with the privacy considerations mentioned above in evidence, the statutes protect against using a person’s sexual history against them in sex crime cases.
However, evidence of prior sexual conduct may be used if a judge allows it. This can happen legally under the following parameters:
The judge finds it relevant.
It’s material to the case;
The inflammatory use of such evidence (as noted in Shield Statutes) does not outweigh its importance to the case;
The evidence is of the plaintiff’s past sexual conduct with the defendant, demonstrates something found through other evidence or forensics, or relates to an ulterior motive claim against the defendant.
Finally, the court may exclude and reconsider excluding any evidence brought up in a case. Maryland law also allows courts to hold closed hearings should any new evidence or information come to their attention during the trial that necessitates making evidence admissible.
Defense Options and Hiring an Attorney
There is obviously much more to go off in a sex crime-related case than chastity. We have mentioned forensics, additional testimony and left the boundaries of what constitutes evidence relatively wide open.
Being accused of a sex crime is very serious and does not just exist inside the courtroom. It is common for people to assume people accused of a sex crime are guilty without having gone to trial. An accusation could affect your family, personal, and professional lives at a moment’s notice.
Hiring a lawyer gives you more options than you think. Rather than go at it alone, you have someone in your corner who knows and understands your side of the story. Arming yourself with legal help also gives you an attorney’s years of experience in handling case work similar to yours. Suddenly, defense strategies, your lawyer’s connections to prosecutors and court officials, and possible alternatives to a full sentence open up.
Depending on your case, a lawyer might look at a few aspects in order to help demonstrate your innocence.
Guess what they look at to do this? The evidence.
With forensics involved, your lawyer may look at all DNA evidence involved. They may raise questions about false negatives and positives, look into human error, or even attack the quality of the DNA sample if they suspect law enforcement made a heavy-handed claim.
Likewise, your lawyer will most likely look into law enforcement’s behavior and approach to your case. With sex crime cases, law enforcement officers will sometimes charge the accused without going through the process of gathering enough evidence. Instead, they will use the alleged victim’s testimony as to cause for arrest.
In knowing the boundaries of what is evidence and what is not, it’s important to be hyper-vigilant in the face of discrepancies in evidence. A lawyer can help tremendously in those regards.
If you find yourself in the cross hairs of sex crime charges, contact our offices for a free initial consultation. Our attorneys can provide all of the above and even more. Like we said, do not hesitate: these are serious charges that demand your full attention. Call us today to learn more about what that looks like for you.