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If you are reeling after an accusation and wondering what to do if falsely accused of sexual assault, you’re right to be concerned. A conviction for sexual assault will usually result in a lengthy jail term and have lifelong repercussions, including difficulty securing employment. You need a reliable and experienced sexual assault lawyer with whom you can discuss your rights immediately.
Making the mistake of speaking to anyone other than your lawyer first can have some disastrous results. However, that’s not the only misstep that you face right now. We’re going to tell you what to do if accused of sexual assault so that you stand the best chance of winning your case.
What to Do If Accused of Sexual Assault
When you are accused of sexual assault, it can be difficult to know what steps to take. Our experienced legal team suggests the following:
When falsely accused of a crime, it can feel like your life is spinning out of control. You are facing charges that can be life-altering; understandably, you are angry and confused. However, staying cool-headed is critical.
Becoming upset or attempting to defend yourself to the police or potential witnesses because you know you did nothing wrong can hurt you.
Your feelings of innocence may lead you to say or do the wrong thing. Your first move is to keep calm and find a reputable and highly experienced criminal lawyer who focuses on defending sexual assault cases. Do not speak to police, or other witnesses, before talking to a lawyer. A good criminal lawyer will always advise you to exercise your right to remain silent and not provide a statement to the police or answer any of their questions. You should also not discuss any aspect of your case with anyone else other than the lawyer you have retained.
Find a Reputable Sexual Assault Lawyer
You deserve a zealous and well-prepared defence, and as such, you need a great criminal lawyer to represent you. To find one that is right for you, first understand that defending a sexual assault matter is a complex undertaking and requires the right lawyer who understands the law and is a battle-tested criminal courtroom veteran. If you need to have heart surgery, you do not hire your family physician to do the same. Similarly, when you are charged with sexual assault, you should not hire a lawyer who has a general practice who occasionally dabbles in the criminal courts. Now is not the time to hire a jack of all trades and master of none.
Look for lawyers with years of experience, a track record of consistently winning cases at trial, and who restrict their practice to only criminal law and sexual assault matters. Taking a chance with your case is gambling with your life. You need to retain someone you trust and let them lead you through this complex and confusing time.
Determine the Level of Trouble You Are In
Underestimating the trouble that you are in is a common mistake made by the falsely accused. Most people go through a form of denial when charged, but thinking that being innocent is all you need to have spurious charges dismissed isn’t your friend right now.
You need to determine the level of trouble you are in, from a legal perspective. To do that, you must consult with a lawyer well-versed in the type of charge you have. The lawyer you choose should offer a free initial consultation, to help you effectively face these charges head-on.
Review Your Rights
You have various rights in Canadian criminal law and you need to talk to your lawyer to learn more about them. You can make mistakes that hurt you if you do not understand your rights throughout the entire process. Your lawyer will help you understand them and should walk you through the various stages of the criminal courtroom process and proven strategies to ultimately secure a dismissal of the charges against you.
Though we have said this before, it bears repeating: This conversation should happen before you make the mistake of speaking to anyone else, including police, investigators or potential witnesses to the alleged events.
Reviewing and understanding your rights is critical to effectively participating in your defence, so is knowing what’s in store.
Chances are, this is your first time facing such circumstances. Your lawyer, however, understands precisely the charge and procedures you are dealing with and has the experience you need to guide you through the court system.
Understanding the process of how to build your defence, and the steps your case will go through will help to give you peace of mind. Informing yourself properly means that you can help your lawyer better defend you.
Build Your Defence
While your lawyer will help you understand what to do if accused of sexual assault, you can help to build your defence, as well. Your help can improve your odds of successfully navigating your charge in partnership with your sexual assault lawyer.
There are several things you can do after your consultation with your lawyer that assist them in presenting a strong case or potentially having the charges overturned. These include immediately preserving any evidence you may have, developing a detailed timeline of the events in question, gathering a list of potential witnesses, and pursuing specific tests.
There are many examples of evidence that your lawyer will advise you is crucial to preserve such as relevant social media communications, correspondence such as emails, phone calls, cell phone data, and photographs, etc. Your lawyer will explain to you how to preserve this evidence so it is not lost before your trial.
Develop a Timeline
After you have retained your lawyer and your lawyer has carefully reviewed the disclosure (i.e. the police reports and witness statements), it’s time to sit down and create a timeline. To do this, write down everything you can remember having to do with the alleged events and respond to all the allegations set out in the disclosure Start at the beginning, day one. Then, go all the way through every chronological interaction and development from that point to today in as much detail as you can recall.
Doing this gives your lawyer the tools to build a defence on, recording what happened and when it occurred. Do not omit anything, even things that may seem to be irrelevant. Talk to your lawyer about the timeline and the best way for you to respond to the allegations against you in the disclosure. They will help assure that everything included is relevant to your case.
Put Together a Witness List
Your lawyer will need you to create a witness list. Don’t omit anyone that may have any information on the case, whether they are “on your side” or not. The lawyer on your case determines which witnesses are relevant and who may be helpful to testify at your trial.
Quite often, people that you think are irrelevant may end up being the key to proving your case.
There are a couple of ways to do this. You can use 3X5 or 5X7 cards, or create a spreadsheet if you have the computer skills to do so. You don’t need a lot of information on every person, just an outline. Include the following information for each person on your witness list:
- Their name
- Contact information, including their address, email, and telephone number
- Employment (what they do for a living)
- What testimony they could offer
- A brief bio on them, just a couple of sentences
After your lawyer has carefully reviewed the disclosure with you, they will be in a position to determine whether hiring a private investigator may be helpful to your case.
Scientific Testing and Expert Witnesses
There are some scientific tests in sexual crime matters that could help prove that you are innocent. These tests could potentially exclude you as a possible suspect, and you should talk to your lawyer about which tests might help you. Using the right scientific testing can help those falsely accused of sexual assault prove their innocence. Also, depending on the facts of your particular case, your lawyer may also advise you that you should retain an expert witness, such as a medical doctor to testify at trial.