The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
Seven Sex Crime Defenses that Buffalo, MN Felony Lawyers Use in Court
November 30, 2019
Juror sympathy is often an effective defense in criminal cases. If jurors sympathize with defendants, they often look for ways to acquit them. But appeals to sympathy almost always fall on deaf ears in sex crime cases. Furthermore, alternative approaches, like attacking the alleged victim, often backfire.
So, most attorneys rely on the presumption of innocence. This presumption is very difficult to overcome. To set things up, Buffalo, MN felony lawyers often ask jurors to consider a fictional headline, such as “Easter Bunny Accused of Child Abuse.” There is no way anyone would believe that, and until the state proves otherwise, the allegations against the defendant are similarly meritless.
To drive home the presumption of innocence in specific instances, there are a number of defenses available. At least one of them is almost sure to fit the facts of any given sex crimes case.
Sex crimes allegations are almost never completely false. That’s especially true in most criminal sexual conduct matters. Sometimes, however, these allegations do not hold up under scrutiny. That’s especially true in child sexual abuse cases.
Sometimes, parents use such allegations to gain leverage in a family law proceeding. Many jurors raise an eyebrow if there is an ongoing divorce proceeding. They really raise an eyebrow if the defendant is involved in a child custody dispute and the other party to that dispute was involved in the complaint. Future family law disputes may have a similar effect. If the marriage is on shaky ground, some adults will use the criminal justice system to smear the other parent’s reputation.
Identification issues are often present either during the alleged incident or during a subsequent lineup. In both situations, Buffalo, MN felony lawyers may successfully challenge the identification.
In many assault cases, alleged victims only get partial glimpses of suspects. Additionally, the area is usually dark. Finally, there is a good chance that the alleged victim was drinking.
Lineups are often biased. That’s especially true if the lineup was not double-blind. Neither the administering officer nor the witness should know the suspect’s identity. Otherwise, the lineup may be tainted. Perhaps officers place the suspect in the middle of the lineup or they linger just a moment when putting the suspect’s picture on the table.
Lineup instructions may matter too. If the administrator said the suspect “may or may not be” in this lineup, the results are usually reliable. But very few Wright County law enforcement officers use such language.
Consent and Buffalo, MN Felony Lawyers
Subdivision 4 of Section 609.341 is often an effective defense in criminal sexual conduct cases. Essentially, consent is “words or overt actions by a person indicating a freely given present agreement to perform a particular sexual act with the actor.”
This defense is hard to establish because there is usually no corroborating evidence either way. Circumstantially, the longer the alleged victim waited to report the incident, the more likely it is that the alleged victim consented. Generally, the defendant’s subjective, reasonable interpretation is enough. The alleged victim must be relatively clear, but the alleged victim need not have signed a waiver.
Lack of Intent
Buffalo, MN felony lawyers often use this defense in non-contact sex crimes, like exposure cases. Typically, defendants must either intend to sexually gratify themselves or be reckless (extremely indifferent) as to whether the alleged victim may be offended.
If there is no physical, biological evidence, sexual gratification is not easy to prove. A supposition is not enough. Wright County prosecutors must establish intent beyond any reasonable doubt. Recklessness is not easy to prove either. Being naked next to an uncovered window is not reckless, but being naked in a public park at noon is probably reckless.
Chain of Custody
The physical evidence in a criminal sexual conduct case moves a lot. At a minimum, it usually goes from a clinic to a police laboratory to an evidence room to the courtroom. The evidence may make many additional stops along the way.
A gap in the chain of custody does not invalidate the evidence as a matter of law. But it does create doubt as to the evidence’s authenticity. That doubt is all a Buffalo, MN felony lawyer needs to obtain an acquittal.
Failure to Mirandize
Police officers must read defendants their Miranda rights, such as “you have the right to remain silent,” prior to custodial interrogation. If officers ask any questions, no matter how innocent they seem, and the defendant does not feel free to leave, custodial interrogation has begun. If the suspect was not Mirandized, any statements or physical evidence officers obtained may be inadmissible at trial.
Generally, officers must have valid warrants before they enter dwellings, vehicles, or any other nonpublic places. An exception, such as an invitation to enter a building, often applies.
Evidence seizure is a different matter. Search warrants cannot simply give blanket permission to search a building. They must be specific as to the locations to be searched and the evidence to be seized. Common search warrant exceptions include consent searches, plain view seizures, and exigent circumstances (emergency safety) searches.