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As Seen On:

Building a Defense For Sex Abuse Charges in DC

The following is taken from an interview with a DC sex abuse lawyer as they discuss some of the aspects of building a strong defense including a defense side investigation, and the evidence used by the prosecution. For information regarding your case, call and schedule a consultation today.

Does The Defense Conduct An Investigation of Their Own?

A criminal defense lawyer will certainly conduct their own investigation. Many law firms employ investigators on staff to locate and talk to witnesses, get statements, and find any kind of evidence that either the government plans to use or that the defense team can use. The overall goal being to find the universe of evidence that is involved in the situation. This can include witnesses and what they are saying, whether good or bad, and any other evidence that the government may have against you.

Specifically in a sex abuse case, the investigation is going to find out if there are any witnesses before and/or after the alleged crime occurred. The defense will want to have those witnesses, because in a sexual abuse case, oftentimes it’s alleged that one person took advantage of another person usually because of an impairment.

Importance of Gathering Evidence

It can be critical to find out what evidence can show if this person was in fact impaired going into the situation. If people were out at a restaurant or bar, the investigation might look for video and/or witnesses to establish that the complainant didn’t have anything to drink or this complainant only had half a glass of wine. If the complainant then makes an allegation that a sexual conduct occurred such that the next morning she gets up calls the police and says she was taken advantage of because she was too drunk to consent, that will be critical information to attack the credibility of the complainant and his or her story.

This is the type of situation where the defense attorney will want to make sure they gather all the evidence. For example, after a sexual conduct allegedly occurs, the criminal attorney will want to know what happens with the complainant—did the complainant immediately go to the police or did the complainant go have breakfast and coffee with the defendant the next day, then have a few more dates, then break up, and after that make the allegation that some sexual abuse occurred. That’s critical information that goes against the credibility of that complainant. So the defense wants to get any kind of evidence they can of the complainant’s conduct after the alleged sexual abuse occurred, and will send out their investigators to search high and low to find out any evidence they can that could be useful for the case.

Does The Government Give You All of Their Information or Evidence in Sex Abuse Cases?

They do not. Under the rules, they have to give us access to certain information, but, in a felony sex abuse case, they’re not going to have to give us very much information upfront. We will be given certain information, but it will be fairly bare compared to the whole range of information that the government will collect during the course of their investigation.

Over the course of the case, we’ll get the vast majority of the information. It’s called discovery, and we will certainly receive the police reports or any kind of records with regards to physical examinations or scientific testing, such as a DNA test. We’ll receive all of that information, but there is some information that the government will not have to give us—for example, the name and contact information of a witness that is helpful to the government, but not helpful to the defense. They won’t have to give us that information until that person is on the witness stand.

If the person has testified before a grand jury, typically the day before trial at the earliest, the government will give over a copy of the grand jury transcripts. One judge in this jurisdiction describes the discovery process here as “trial by ambush,” because the government doesn’t have to give over everything to the defense and particularly not right away. However, the government will have to disclose the majority of the information against the defendant as far as their investigation is concerned.

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