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Privacy helps both sides in a sexual assault investigation

When it comes to a sexual assault allegation, privacy is of the utmost concern — for both parties. In the event of a conviction, a criminal defendant may face a felony on his or her record and mandatory sex offender registration. In addition, there may be federal rules addressing sexual harassment.

Yet not all sex crime allegations may be founded in fact. Even DNA or other evidence obtained from the scene of the alleged crime can be tainted. For that reason, condemnation by public opinion should be avoided. The proper forum for the parties to present their case is a court of law.

In the case of a sexual assault allegation on a college campus, a recent story illustrates that school administrators may prefer to handle the matter internally, rather than involving local police officials. Yet even in that forum, it is important for an accused to be represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney.

For example, if alcohol was involved, a defense attorney may inquire about witness accounts of any interaction between the accused and the alleged victim. An attorney can investigate the context, possibly uncovering evidence that the incident was not reported truthfully. If there was a delay between the alleged incident and the time it was reported to authorities, an attorney may also investigate those circumstances.

With so much at stake, it is important for an attorney to ensure that proper investigative procedures were followed in the gathering of any forensic or testimonial evidence. An attorney can also hold prosecutors to their burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Source: The New York Times, “Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn’t,” Walt Bogdanich, July 12, 2014

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