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Physical evidence and sex crimes

Sex crimes in the current prosecutorial environment may never involve physical evidence.

For example, undercover officers may initiate online conversations with unsuspecting individuals, perhaps paving the way for charges for an Internet Sex crime. In the case of child pornography, the alleged illegal content may exist only in electronic form, perhaps only an accused’s hard drive. 

Building a strong defense to such sex crime charges often involves a thorough investigation of the procedures that officers used in obtaining the electronic evidence. However, there are other sex crimes where old-fashioned physical evidence might still play a role.

In the case of sexual assault, for example, DNA evidence and medical records will likely be examined. A recent article reminds us that such physical evidence can be used both to indict and to exonerate criminal defendants.                                                                    

Specifically, a report published by the Center on Wrongful Convictions puts the total of exonerations of wrongly convicted individuals in 2013 at 87. Many of those wrongly convicted were defending against violent crimes, such as sexual assault. According to commentators, one source of the error may have been perjury or false witness testimony against the accused.

Notably, 17 percent of those exonerated in 2013 had actually pleaded guilty at trial. An attorney that specializes in sex crimes knows that there may sometimes be strategic advantages to this behavior, such as a plea agreement involving a lesser charge. However, the report serves as an important reminder that those facing sex crime charges must build a strong defense, as there is no guarantee that a fair outcome will occur. An attorney can help that process by holding prosecutors to applicable procedural protections and their burden of proof.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Criminal Exonerations at All-Time High," Jacob Gershman, Feb. 4, 2014

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