What to Do If You Face a Delayed Accusation of Rape

Being accused of any serious crime  is difficult and can have long-term effects on your life, even if you are found not guilty in court.

And, at least at first, there is the worry that you will be found guilty, even if you are innocent. You could go to prison. Your reputation would be badly damaged. A criminal record could follow you for the rest of your life. If the charge is rape or some other form of sexual misconduct, you could have to register as a sex offender

Anyone facing allegations of sexual assault has a lot on the line, even if the allegations are from months or even years ago. If it happens to you, it’s frightening. Your reputation, your assets, and yes, your freedom, are all on the line. It’s imperative that, you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately if you have been accused of rape in the state of Washington. This is true whether you’ve  been arrested on a sexual assault charge, have been contacted by law enforcement or a detective about a situation, or have merely heard rumors that someone is telling people that you sexually assaulted them,.

Rape allegations are often difficult to defend because the only direct evidence usually is the word of the accuser and the word of the accused—if the accused chooses to speak. (See below about whether to choose to speak.)  An attorney who is experienced in defending against rape allegations can fight for you. They can identify weaknesses in the case against you early on, can advise you on what steps to take, and may even be able to persuade the police or prosecutor not to move forward with the case.

The First Steps to Take If You Have Been Accused of Sexual Assault

It’s important to seek legal advice early. The Marshall Defense Firm has years of handling these types of cases. They can learn the circumstances of your case and can consider how to preserve evidence that might be helpful to your defense, such as text messages, social media posts, and smartphone application conversations. 

You can assist your legal defense in these ways:

  • Do not, under any circumstances, talk to the police without a lawyer present.
    • Law enforcement may make you feel like they are on your side and just want to help get to the bottom of a misunderstanding and that your talking to them may enable them quickly to clear you and end the nightmare of facing such an allegation. If you are contacted by law enforcement about accusations of sexual assault, you should only confirm that you are indeed the person whose name they have. You should answer no other questions.
  • Do not provide the police a DNA sample or any other requested physical evidence.
    • There is frequently no physical evidence (such as DNA) from a rape complainant who delays reporting a sexual assault. Sometimes, though, even long after the event, DNA evidence can be collected. Because of what they’ve seen on television shows, jurors can feel this type of evidence is important and may be less inclined to return a guilty verdict without it. Thus, the absence of this type of evidence can make prosecution more difficult. This is sometimes referred to as the “CSI effect.”
  • Do not contact your accuser.
    • It is natural to be frustrated or confused by false accusations of sexual assault and want to seek clarity by communicating with the accuser. However, trying to engage with them directly, or having an acquaintance do so on your behalf, usually makes the situation worse. The last thing you want after a delayed accusation of rape is an additional accusation of attempting to intimidate a witness.
  • Do not make discuss the incident in public.
    • Resist the urge  to tell your side of the story via social media, texts, phone calls, or elsewhere outside the confines of a law office. Unfortunately, any statements you make that are outside attorney-client privilege can be used by the prosecution in court.
  • Do make, for your attorney, a timeline of what you remember about the events leading up to the accusation.
    • Human memory fades with time. Details, specificity, and consistency in a complainant’s accounts of rape are usually important criteria that police, prosecutors, and juries use to assess the credibility of a complainant’s story. In cases where there isn’t any physical evidence, a complainant’s ability to consistently recount specific details becomes even more important. Your attorney may be able to use a lack of consistency or details in the complainant’s account to build a stronger case for you. (Put anything you write, such as this timeline and the witness list below, in the form of a message to your attorney, so that its confidentiality is protected by the attorney-client privilege.)
  • Do make a list of potential witnesses.
    • Try to recall who knows even a small part of what happened. Friends, servers, and other people you (and ideally the accuser) spoke to may be able to serve as witnesses in your defense; your attorney will be able to tell you which of them might help.

Fighting False Accusations

We can also help shed light to prosecutors or juries on what might lead someone to falsely accuse you of sexual assault. Over the several years following the start of the #MeToo movement, there have been many studies and much discussion regarding the reasons that women delay bringing accusations of sexual assault to law enforcement. Although many accusations are true, some are not.

A recent study proposed that “gain” is the predominant factor behind false allegations of rape. In the proposed list, complainants file false allegations out of hope for material gain, emotional gain, or a disturbed mental state. The list is subdivided into eight categories: material gain, alibi, revenge, sympathy, attention, a disturbed mental state, relabeling, or regret. 

Our attorneys understand that every case is unique. False allegations can arise for many reasons, including: 

  • The accuser is attempting to save a pre-existing relationship with another person.
  • The accuser has come to regret the sexual intercourse, despite consenting to it at the time.
  • The accuser is suffering from a mental illness.
  • The accuser is attempting to blackmail the accused for financial gain.
  • The accuser is attempting to gain leverage over the accused in a custody battle or other legal matter.

If the complainant is trying to gain an advantage in a child custody case, this is valuable information that usually can be brought before a jury. Likewise, if the complainant has a history of false accusations, or there is evidence that they were not actually assaulted (say, they have a mental illness that has led to false accusations after consensual intercourse before), this might be enough evidence to convince the prosecutor to drop the case against you. According to the study cited above, 20% of complainants said that they did not know why they filed a false allegation. Sometimes their motives are unclear, but other times seasoned counsel can identify their likely motives. This can be key to building the strongest defense for you. 

If you are accused of rape or any other sexual misconduct, the Marshall Defense Firm is here to help. Our experienced, skilled defense attorneys would be happy to discuss the matter with you. Please contact us at 206.826.1400 or solutions@marshalldefense.com to schedule a consultation.

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