Accusations of sexual assault are taken very seriously by prosecutors. Fortunately, anyone who has been accused of sexual misconduct and faces possible prison time and sex offender registration has an absolute right to be represented by an attorney.
One recent case involving cadets at the United States Naval Academy who were attending a party in Maryland shows how a lawyer can help. Navy prosecutors had made allegations of abusive sexual conduct against a woman at the party by one of the cadets. According to the woman, the cadet and two others sexually assaulted her at the party after she had been drinking. These allegations were allegedly backed by statements made by the cadets.
However, the statements were made to investigators while the cadets were in custody. Because the statements were made without Miranda warnings being given, they would have been inadmissible. Under pressure from defense counsel, the prosecutors were forced to request that the charges be dropped because they would not have had sufficient evidence without these statements.
This outcome followed a general rule that evidence obtained in violation of a person’s constitutional rights is inadmissible. The law places such a high priority on protecting constitutional rights and avoiding wrongful convictions that it excludes this evidence even in cases where guilt is believed to be clearly shown. The goal is to deter prosecutors and investigators from improperly obtaining evidence. This presents a major opportunity for criminal defense attorneys to assist any client, regardless of how serious the charges may have been.
Source: Reuters, “U.S. Navy drops charges against cadet accused of sex crime,” Lacey Johnson, Jan. 10, 2014