There is no doubt that sexual assault is a heinous crime that leaves long-lasting emotional and physical scars on victims. But the sad reality is that it can ruin innocent lives if not properly investigated. For context, a study published by the National Registry of Exonerations found that sexual assault was the second most common crime associated with wrongful convictions. Homicide topped the list.
While evidence such as DNA, sketches, photographs, and witness testimony may help bring perpetrators to justice, it is important to note that each sexual assault case is unique. Therefore, what counts as evidence in one case may not be admissible in another.
Unfortunately, many innocent people have been wrongfully charged, convicted, and sentenced for sexual assault from evidence gathered during victim-centered investigations. This explains why it is crucial to contact and experienced sexual assault attorney to defend your rights and protect you or your loved one from a wrongful conviction.
How Victim-Centered Investigations Influence Sexual Assault Cases
“Victim-centered” investigations focus more on the alleged victim’s account of events rather than the general facts about the case. While this approach has its benefits, it can also lead to wrongful convictions for sexual assault by creating a bias in favor of the victim’s account.
Here is why.
Pressure to Believe Victims
Investigators may feel pressure to believe the victim’s story and disregard any evidence that conflicts with that account. This bias could lead to a wrongful conviction.
Pressure to Be Empathetic
Some investigations may also focus too much on the victim’s emotional state. They may feel pressure to offer empathy and support for the victim, which could have a negative impact on their ability to evaluate the evidence critically and objectively. For example, investigators may assign significant weight and credibility to a victim who appears upset or traumatized, even if there is little or no evidence to support their account.
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Victim-centered investigations may also lead to wrongful convictions by encouraging investigators to seek out evidence that supports the victim’s account, rather than evidence that contradicts it. For instance, an investigator may be more likely to believe a victim who is able to provide details about the alleged assault, even if there is no physical evidence to support their account.
Reluctance to Ask Critical Questions
Finally, these investigations may lead to wrongful convictions by creating an environment where investigators find it difficult to question the victim’s account of events. As a result, avoiding any questioning perceived as “victim-blaming” may result in a failure to consider alternative explanations for the evidence.
While victim-centered investigations surely help investigate sexual assault cases, if not carried out properly (not considering all of the available evidence), their use could lead to a wrongful convictions.
What Is Considered Sexual Assault in Omaha?
In Omaha and throughout Nebraska, sexual assault occurs when an individual subjects another person to sexual penetration without the victim’s consent or when they knew or should have known that the victim could not resist or understand the nature of the conduct. Additionally, sexual assault of a child is a separate crime from sexual assault and its applicability depends on the ages of the perpetrator and victim.
Sexual assault cases fall under three main categories or degrees:
First-Degree Sexual Assault
First-degree sexual assault occurs when sexual penetration is committed without the victim’s consent or when the perpetrator knew or should have known that the victim was mentally or physically unable to resist or understand the nature of their conduct. Additionally, first-degree sexual assault of a child occurs when there is sexual penetration between a perpetrator aged 19 or older and a victim under age 12 or a perpetrator aged 25 or older and a victim between ages 12 and 16.
In Omaha, first-degree sexual assault is a Class II felony with a possible penalty of incarceration up to 50 years. A second offense carries even more significant penalties, including a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years incarceration. First-degree sexual assault of a child is a Class IB felony punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years for a first offense.
Second-Degree Sexual Assault
Second-degree sexual assault occurs when an individual subjects another to sexual contact without their consent or when the perpetrator knew or should have known that the victim was mentally or physically unable to resist or understand the nature of the act.
Second-degree sexual assault is a Class IIA felony if the perpetrator caused the victim serious personal injury. The penalties for a Class IIA felony include a maximum of 20 years imprisonment.
Third-Degree Sexual Assault
Third-degree sexual assault is defined identically to second-degree sexual assault. However, an offense is classified as third-degree sexual assault when the perpetrator did not cause serious personal injury to the victim. Additionally, a person commits second-degree or third-degree sexual assault of a child if they are at least age 19 and subject a person age 14 or younger to sexual contact. Second-degree sexual assault of a child requires serious personal injury to the victim while third-degree sexual assault of a child does not.
Third-degree sexual assault is a Class I misdemeanor, subject to imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.Second-degree sexual assault of a child is a Class II felony punishable by up to 50 years imprisonment for a first offense. Third-degree sexual assault of a child is a Class IIIA felony punishable by up to three years imprisonment, two years post-release supervision, or a $10,000 fine for a first offense.
What Are Some Possible Defenses In a Sexual Assault Case?
A skilled sexual assault defense attorney can utilize effective strategies to defend you against such allegations. Remember that the right defense will depend on the unique details of your case. In most cases, your attorney will consider when, how, and where the incident occurred. Witness statements or testimony, the alleged victim’s conduct, and available evidence will also help determine the right defense for your case.
Here are some common defenses that could apply to your case.
Suppression of evidence: Your attorney may be able to suppress any evidence collected in violation of your Fourth Amendment right not to be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures. Suppressed evidence is inadmissible and cannot be used against you.
Actual innocence: Backed with evidence, a criminal defense lawyer can argue that you did not commit the crime. This is because everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a U.S. court of law, and you are not an exception.
Consent: Your attorney can help prove that the alleged victim consented to the activity. If they consented to the activity, the State may not be able to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Insanity: A skilled sexual defense attorney could argue that your mental illness hindered your moral judgment, preventing you from realizing your actions were against the law. However, to put forth such a defense, your attorney must prove that you had a mental illness when the incident occurred that made it impossible for you to distinguish between right and wrong.
The bottom line is that the right defense will depend on the unique circumstances of your case. That is why it is always advisable to contact Berry Law firm for a consultation. Our attorneys will review the details of your case and help establish the best defense in court.
How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help If You Have Been Charged With Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is a serious crime in Omaha. Here is how a sexual assault defense attorney from Berry Law can help.
Our sexual assault defense lawyer will analyze the evidence against you and look for any weaknesses or inconsistencies that could help defend you in court. They can also use their legal knowledge to identify any potential violations of your constitutional rights, such as improper search and seizure by law enforcement, which is a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.
In addition, you can count on our award-winning attorneys to prepare a strong defense strategy. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
Identifying potential witnesses who can testify on your behalf.
Gathering evidence to support your case.
Crafting your testimony.
Preparing you for cross-examination.
A sexual assault defense lawyer from Berry Law can also negotiate with the prosecution on your behalf. Depending on the details of your case, they will attempt to reach a plea bargain or reduce the charges against you, resulting in a more favorable outcome for your case.
What Evidence Can Be Used To Fight Sexual Assault Charges in Nebraska?
Earlier, we mentioned that our attorneys may be able to help you fight sexual assault charges by collecting critical evidence that supports your story. So, what exactly will they need to prove your innocence? Here’s an overview of different forms of evidence that could apply to your case.
As a general rule, each case is unique, which is why you should consult with a sexual assault defense attorney in Omaha, NE about your case. Only after the thoroughly discussing your case and the allegations will your attorney be able to determine what potential evidence may be available and how that evidence may be used to your benefit.
Some examples of admissible evidence in a sexual assault case include:
Proof of consent: Your attorney can prove consent through testimony from the alleged victim, prior communication between the two parties, or witnesses present during the sexual encounter.
False accusations: This may include testimony from witnesses questioning the alleged victim’s credibility or lack thereof.
Inconsistencies in the alleged victim’s story: Inconsistencies in the alleged victim’s account may include, but are not limited to time, location, and specific details of the incident.
Alibi or lack of opportunity: Your attorney could help prove that you were somewhere else when the alleged assault occurred or that you did not have the opportunity to commit the assault. Examples of evidence that could support this claim include alibis, GPS records, receipts, etc.
Forensic evidence: Forensic evidence, such as DNA analysis or medical examinations, can challenge the prosecution’s case or support your defense.
Character evidence: Evidence of your good character, such as testimony from friends, family members, or colleagues, might help challenge the credibility of the allegations against you.
Charged With Sexual Assault? Contact Our Award-Winning Defense Lawyers
At Berry Law, we believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. We strive to hold the government to their burden to prove our clients guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Even in circumstances where defending a case at trial may not be practical, we can help negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutors, ensuring that our client’s rights and best interests are protected.
This has been an overview of how our award-winning attorneys can help if you or your loved one has been charged with sexual assault in Omaha or elsewhere in Nebraska. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.