Navigating Sexual Assault Allegations in Nebraska
Sexual assault allegations can cause confusion, anxiety, shame, fear and even panic. An experienced sexual assault attorney who has successfully navigated such cases (and who has specific knowledge of law enforcement officers and judges in the geographic area) can ensure rights are protected and outcomes are as fair as possible. For those accused, sexual assault allegations can be the most important fight of their lives; it’s important to hire a legal advocate with your best interests at heart.
All sexual assault allegations, even those that are obviously false, have the potential to create devastating consequences. What can initially seem like a minor issue can spiral out of control, resulting in serious, lifelong consequences. The accused not only faces prison time, but also sex offender registration. On top of this, his or her reputation may be damaged forever.
An allegation alone is enough for a sexual assault arrest. It’s one person’s word against another’s; witnesses and evidence are not required.
So where does one begin to fight for his or her rights? It may be helpful to begin with an understanding of three underlying ideas:
- The best time to hire a sexual assault attorney is as quickly as possible. A person of interest in any investigation should remember that anything they say to police can be used against them. For example, even admitting presence at a specific location when alleged sexual contact took place can be used by a prosecuting attorney. When officers ask questions, immediately exercising Miranda rights to stay silent and consult an attorney could avoid problems later. An attorney can maneuver meetings with law enforcement in a manner less likely to be damaging.
- Believing “the truth will prevail” with sexual assault allegations will not be enough. Many people facing a sexual assault charge believe the court and law enforcement will do whatever it takes to seek truth and support a fair outcome. Unfortunately, with the nation’s recent heightened focus on sexual assault and harassment, even the slightest accusation can have serious personal consequences. Law enforcement officers, judges, and juries are human, and some may have an automatic bias against the accused. An attorney’s priority is persuading decision-makers in a sexual assault case to leave personal feelings at the door and consider the facts.
- Consent can be a difficult issue. Many sex crime cases hinge on whether consent was given before sexual contact. The accused and the victim may have different ideas about what signifies consent. Sometimes, as with recent cases covered by media, consensual contact is being mischaracterized years later as sexual assault. A defense attorney must show that the defendant had reason to believe consent was given before sexual contact occurred.
Each case is different. The nuances of sexual assault defendant protection under the law are best left to attorneys experienced with trying sexual assault cases in local jurisdictions. However, there are instances when bringing in a sexual assault attorney from another jurisdiction can be useful. This is true when the case is being tried in a rural area where there is no local counsel who can provide effective legal representation.
What Is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault crimes in Nebraska can be placed in two categories: sexual assault and sexual assault of a minor. Each has its own set of penalties, as seen below. All sex crime convictions require registration in the Nebraska sex crimes registry.
Other consequences of a conviction can include the loss of a job or professional license, public embarrassment, damage to personal relationships, revocation of college admission, and many others. An attorney should know how to minimize these consequences when presenting a legal defense against sexual assault charges.
Levels of Charges
First degree: includes sexual penetration and assumption that the accused knew or should have known the victim was not consenting
Second degree: same as above, but without penetration and with serious personal injury (physical or mental)
Third degree: same assumptions as other two classifications, but without penetration or serious personal injury
First degree: Class II felony with 1 to 50 years in prison; sentencing must include consideration of serious personal injury; second conviction carries mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison
Second degree: Class III felony with up to 4 years in prison
Third degree: Class I misdemeanor with up to 1 year in jail
Sexual Assault of a Child
Levels of charges
First degree: includes sexual penetration of a person under age 12 when actor is at least 19; when actor is 25 or older, includes sexual penetration of a person aged 12 to 16
Second degree: includes sexual contact (without penetration) with a victim aged 14 or younger by an actor 19 or older, and includes serious personal injury to victim
Third degree: includes sexual contact, but no penetration or serious personal injury
First degree: Class IB felony with a potential sentence of 20 years to life including a mandatory sentence of at least 15 years in prison for first offense; with additional considerations or if there are previous convictions, a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison for a second offense.
Second degree: Class II felony for first offense with 1 to 50 years in prison; if there are previous offenses, it is a mandatory 25 years in prison.
Third degree: Class IIIA felony for first offense with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or $10,000 fine; subsequent offenses are Class IC felony with 5 to 50 years in prison
Sexual Assault Involving Electronic Communication Device
Classification: persuading a child 16 or younger (or police officer posing as such) by means of an electronic communication device to engage in an act violating laws governing sexual assault of a child (see above) – see Nebraska Revised Statute 28-320.02
Penalty: Class ID felony with 3 to 50 years in prison; with previous convictions, a Class IC felony with 5 to 50 years in prison
Other Sex Crimes
In Nebraska, other chargeable crimes related to sexual assault include possession or distribution of child pornography. Statutory rape takes place when an underage partner consents to sex. Lewd conduct, or conducting a sex act in a public place, is a Class II misdemeanor.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal civil rights law allowing victims on college campuses to file complaints without going through law enforcement. There are advantages to this, but there are also questions about whether the rights of both the accused and the victim are served effectively through Title IX interventions. Students and faculty charged with Title IX violations often face career-ending consequences with little due process of law. With so much at stake, hiring an attorney early in the process can make a big difference.
Next Steps for Those Accused of Sex Crimes in Nebraska
Anyone charged with one of the above crimes could consider the following:
- Contact an experienced sexual assault attorney as quickly as possible – Having an attorney present to handle questions from law enforcement can make a difference.
- Preserve electronic evidence from the alleged victim. These texts or social media messages can sometimes disprove false allegations.
If you or a loved one is facing sexual assault allegations in Nebraska, contact Berry Law Firm today.