The last few couple of years has seen an increase in reported on-campus sexual assault cases. These cases are often so hard to not only prove, but also to prosecute. Campuses are often unequipped to handle them, and often times victim’s are unsure on how to proceed.
College Campuses and Handling Sexual Assault Charges
College campuses are obviously known for not only education, but partying. When two college students have drunken sex, it’s always a recipe for potential regrets and lasting consequences. Was it actually consenting in the moment? How much is actually remembered as a result of drugs or alcohol? And clearly remembered? Were there witnesses? Are they reliable witnesses? And also, who should investigate when these encounters lead to allegations of sexual assault?
Sexual harassment and sexual violence are forms of sex discrimination that are covered under Title IX. This law protects students from sexual harassment and violence that occur on campus and as part of a school’s education programs and activities. Under Title IX, if a school is made aware of and knows of, or reasonably knows that a sexual assault has occurred on campus, it must promptly investigate the allegations and take the necessary steps to protect its students.
California Rape Laws
Rape charges in California are based on different factors including the age of the person you have allegedly assaulted and if they are blood related. The three main rape offenses include: date rape, spousal rape, and statutory rape.
Date rape: a sex crime when there is non-consensual sexual activity with a friend or acquaintance.
Spousal rape: when sexual penetration occurs with a spouse without his or her consent.
Statutory rape: when a person has consensual sex with a person under the age of 18. (In California there is a defense rule that investigates if the defendant and the alleged victim are less than three years apart. If they are close in age, the sex crime can be classified as a misdemeanor instead of a felony.)
A violent rape crime can result in a 3, 6, or 8 years sentence in a California state prison. Additionally, it counts as a strike against a defendant as part of California’s three-strike law. Those accused and convicted of committing a sex crime are also required to register as sex offenders. If you have been accused of any of these crimes, you will want to work with a criminal defense attorney that can build your defense.
False Rape Allegations
Let’s say a campus has done all they can to prevent sexual assaults. Even then, they are still not 100% preventable. Because of that, it’s important to know what steps you should take if you have been accused of committing sexual assault.
A commonly cited estimate is that false allegations account for 2 percent of all rape reports. According to Slate, official data for what law enforcement terms “unfounded” rape reports (ones that police determine to have not taken place) is unclear and conflicting as a result of differing local policies and procedures. On average though, based on the data that is available, 8 percent to 10 percent of all reported rapes are “unfounded.”
But not all reports that are classified as unfounded are actually false. In some of the cases, women who were actually victims of rape were either not believed, pressured into recanting statements, or charged with false reporting actually found vindication later on. This only furthers the debate.
Gray Area of Rape Allegations
There also appears to be a gray-area that is appearing in cases – one that hinges on mixed signals, alcohol-deluded memories, and misunderstandings of what constitutes sexual assault. Sometimes accusations can be cries for attention or attempts at covering up embarrassing moments.
The Impact of False Rape Accusations
While rape is not something to be taken lightly, neither should unfounded allegations. If you have been falsely accused of rape, beware, for the allegations can have tragic results.
Fighting False Rape Accusations
If you have been wrongly accused of committing rape, you need to treat the accusations seriously. Though they may seem ridiculous, they can have long-lasting consequences. You can lose your job, face fines, or be sent to prison. There are a number of things you need to do if you have been accused of rape.
Hire an Attorney
A criminal defense attorney will be able to respond to and defend you against the allegations you are facing. You should contact one as soon as you are informed of the charges. They will be able to provide you with guidance and next steps on how to proceed.
Stay Away Accuser
Stay away from the accuser until you have a chance to legally defend yourself. Chances are there will be an evidentiary hearing where you will be able to state your side of the case. Until then, avoid the accuser so that he or she will not be able to make further accusations.
If you must be near the accuser, due to employment or child custody arrangements, try to ensure a third party is always present so that he or she can act as a witness. Additionally, try to limit communication and try to ensure that all communication is in written form – via text or email. Any communication should state the facts. Do not contact the person via social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Remember that everything you say or write can be held against you in a court of law.
Being accused of rape is frustrating and angering. But you need to try to keep your emotions in line. This means being responsible about your next steps and how you protect yourself. Do not approach the accuser with attempts to defend yourself. Try to keep a calm head.
Working with your attorney, try to asses any motive your accuser may have for the false allegations. Often times a jealous ex will make attempts to get back at his or her partner. If you believe the sex was consensual, were there other circumstances involved, such as alcohol or drug use that might have caused you or your accuser to become hazy about the events? A criminal defense attorney might be able to help you uncover any motive that may exist. This motive can assist a defense attorney should the case go to trial, or during the process of negotiating.
If you can, provide your attorney with a detailed account of the events that led to the accusations. You should tell your lawyer everything, even details you think might not be pertinent. You never know what detail a lawyer may be able to use to help you win your case.
Do you have any witnesses that might have seen the interaction? Do you have an alibi? Are there character witnesses that can attest to both yours and your accuser’s potential motives?
A Note About California’s Rape Shield Law
Though you might have a witness, it should be noted that in California, a defendant is not legally able to introduce information about the alleged victim’s previous sexual conduct to prove the alleged rape was consensual. This means that a defendant is not able to bring evidence from past relationships or other previous sexual conduct to prove the accuser is making false accusations. This is part of California’s “rape shield laws” that are pursuant to Evidence Code Section 1103 and apply to the following offenses:
- Rape under Penal Code 261;
- Spousal/marital rape under Penal Code 262;
- Rape in concert under Penal Code 264.1;
- Sodomy under Penal Code 286;
- Oral copulation by force under Penal Code 288(a); and
- Forcible penetration with a foreign object under Penal Code 289
This can put defendants at a serious disadvantage when trying to prove the encounter was consensual. Circumstances do exist in which a defendant will be able to introduce evidence without breaking these laws.
A defendant will need to work with his or her defense lawyer to have such evidence admitted. “Habit evidence” about the alleged victim’s prior sexual conduct can show the accuser’s testimony is not trustworthy. “Habit” means information about the accuser’s regular ways of acting in particular situations. This form of evidence is admissible because it shows that the alleged victim acted in accordance with his/her habits on a particular occasion.
Working with a Defense Attorney
Once you and your attorney have discussed the specifics of the allegations that you are facing, you will be informed about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, including the risks of conviction and punishment that you face. A defense attorney will be able to negotiate a plea deal or decide to move forward with a trial, while constantly working to ensure your best interests.
The criminal defense lawyers at Daniel Perlman Law in Los Angeles will put our experience to work for you. We believe every defendant has the right to a zealous defense. We offer free initial consultations and will usually quote a flat fee that will cover all the services necessary for your case, including trial. To schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers, call 877-887-4541 or contact us by e-mail.