You Should Never Speak to the Police Without an Attorney, Under Any Circumstances
If you are accused of sexual assault, the police will usually want to speak with you to hear your side of the story. While it is tempting to try to talk to the detective, by the time they contact you they already believe that you have likely committed a serious crime. You should NEVER, under any circumstances, talk to the police without an attorney present. An attorney will protect your rights and make sure that you do not incriminate yourself. Incriminating statements can come in many forms. A person can confess to committing a crime under questioning, but police interrogations can also elicit lies, conflicting details, or other inconsistent statements that the prosecutor will use to hammer away at their credibility.
If you have been contacted by a detective at all, your best move is to reach out to a lawyer BEFORE reaching out to the police. By the time you call the detective back to see what this is in reference to, they will already start questioning you without a lawyer to get as much evidence as they can. Your foremost concern when a detective leaves their card at your home or place of business should be to protect yourself, and our experienced attorneys can help you even before you are charged with a crime.
The Police Can Lie to you to Get a Confession
It is entirely legal in the United States for any law enforcement officer to tell outright lies during an interrogation to elicit a confession. What that means is the police can exaggerate evidence. A detective may claim to have an eyewitness, or video or photo evidence, or even a fingerprint or DNA test that does not exist. That means there is no reason to trust what the officers say during questioning. The goal of an interrogation is to get a confession, and officers will do whatever they can to get it. While an officer cannot threaten a suspect with physical harm or with incarceration, and they cannot coerce someone to confess by making promises or offering inducements, they can still bend the truth.
There is No Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault in North Carolina
Whether the alleged sexual assault occurred in 1993 or 2023, there is no time limit on when someone can be charged with a crime for it. That means that if you are being investigated for or charged with a sex offense, you need to be prepared that the incident date could be decades ago. That can make evidence gathering, finding alibi witnesses, taking statements, or other forms of building a defense in your case much more difficult. If you are accused of a sexual assault from a long time ago, it is essential to gather as much paperwork or notes from that time period to help in your defense.
All Cases of Sexual Assault Involve Registration as a Sex Offender as Punishment
All sexual related crimes result in registration as a sex offender upon conviction. That registration lasts for a period of 30 years or in some cases for life. The court comes to that conclusion based on the type of charge that is the basis of the conviction. More serious charges, like rape, result in a lifetime registration. Less serious cases, like Indecent Liberties with a Minor, result in a 30 year period of registration.
Being on the registry means that a person must register their address with the local sheriff. Registered Sex Offenders are visible online using a search tool. Any change of address requires the registrant to update the local sheriff about their new address within three business days or face new felony charges that could result in significant prison time. Other restrictions involve registrants not being able to live within 1000 feet of any school or daycare facility, not being allowed on the premises of any location used primarily for the use of minors such as schools or museums, and not being allowed within 300 feet of any childcare facility on a property like malls or shopping centers where those facilities are part of the complex.
After 10 years on the registry, a sex offender will have an opportunity to petition to be removed from the registry. But that requires a skillful attorney to help, since many people on the registry are not removed even after they petition for removal. If you find yourself accused of sexual assault, you need to be aware of the consequences.
Mistake of Age is Not a Defense to Sexual Assault
Under North Carolina law, claiming to have mistaken someone for being older is not a defense to committing a sexual assault. North Carolina has very strict and severe laws related to the age of the participants in a sexual encounter. If the child is 15 or under and the defendant is at least 6 years older than the child, that constitutes statutory rape. The penalty for this act can be more than 12 years in prison. Anyone who is 18 and has intercourse with a child under the age of 13 will receive an automatic prison sentence of 25 years in prison. That means if you find yourself in any sort of potential sexual contact with a younger person, taking their word that they are 16 or older is not good enough. Even if the encounter is entirely consensual, the law classifies it as a crime because of the differences in age. That is why you should be extremely careful in these situations.
You Can Be Accused of Sexual Assault When Your Partner is Impaired
If you thought you had a fun time after a night out, you might find yourself behind bars if you are not careful. Many cases of rape involve sexual encounters that occur after drug or alcohol use. One side may believe they had consent but if their partner is impaired to the point where they are mentally incapable or physically helpless, they cannot legally give consent. That person may sober up and realize that things went too far for them, which is when the police get involved. If someone has been vomiting, passed out, or has trouble moving or speaking, then it is essential to wait before engaging in sexual contact. The risks of being accused of assault can be life changing.
Forensic Evidence is Often Used in Sexual Assaults
If you are accused of a sexual assault, the crime scene technicians will collect evidence to be tested for the presence of saliva, semen, and other DNA. It is customary during a recent sexual assault for the police to collect clothing and underwear from the alleged victim, in addition to taking swabs from areas in which sexual contact occurred. The tests that the crime lab will run include detecting the presence of semen and DNA tests to match that material to its donor. An accused person does not have a right to protection from a DNA test. Officers can get a court order for your DNA (often called a “non-testimonial order”) and they can take a buccal swab (cheek swab) from you using that order or upon your arrest for sexual assault charges. If your genetic material is found in areas of sexual contact, your ability to defend your case depends on whether the alleged victim was capable of giving consent.
Bonds for Sexual Assault Charges are Very High
Short of Homicide and Attempted First Degree Murder, sexual assaults are almost all punished at the highest end of the sentencing guidelines in North Carolina. Most sex offenses and rapes are punished as Class B1 or Class C felonies. Even a first time offender convicted of one of these crimes will be sent to prison without a chance at probation. The bonds for these charges tend to be set at a very high amount, since judges are also aware of this. If you become aware there is a warrant for your arrest for sexual assault, you are going to want to consult with your attorney about turning yourself in and also set aside money for a bondsman. Judges do not like to let people accused of sexual assault out of jail without paying a bond, so be prepared to pay for your release.
Just Because Your Accuser Wants to Drop the Charges, Doesn’t Mean that Will Happen
Sometimes when people are accused of sexual assault, they believe for various reasons that their accuser will either not show up to court or they do not want to press charges. The basic principle in all criminal charges is that the alleged victim is not pressing the charges, it is the District Attorney’s Office. The prosecutor is the one who decides whether charges continue to be pressed, not the alleged victim. This principle is even more true for sexual assault cases, where the penalties are much higher. That means that even if your accuser tells the prosecutor that they do not want to go forward, the prosecutor may decide to disregard that and refuse to dismiss the cases.
Certainly, it is helpful for your defense if the prosecuting witness does not want to participate in court proceedings. But prosecutors can even proceed in some circumstances without an alleged victim being present in court. Regardless of whether you believe that the other party wants to move forward, you need to be prepared that the case will go to trial.
You Should Hire an Attorney, as Soon as Possible
Here at Jetton and Meredith, we have lawyers with decades of experience in representing people charged with sexual assault. We regularly consult with clients and represent them before the police even press charges. The fees that our clients pay “pre-charge” for that representation are applied to their case once they are arrested. We assist our clients “pre-charge” with valuable advice on how to handle the police investigation, contacting officers and speaking on behalf of our clients, arranging the best methods to turn themselves in, and even coordinating with bondsmen. We give our clients under investigation access to us day and night. We will be there arguing for a lower bond at your first appearance once you are arrested. Once the case begins, you will receive a thorough defense from skilled lawyers that care and are willing to help.
If you are under investigation for or have been charged with sexual assault, call (704) 931-5535 today and schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys so that we can start fighting for you!