A Virginia Sex Crime Lawyer Fairfax, Va on Defending Serious Sex Cases
Defending sex crimes is a very specialized field and a top sex crime lawyer Fairfax, Va will know to work with expert witnesses, such as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, be familiar with scientific evidence, and understand the limitations of the Rape Shield law in Virginia. Sex offenses are awful crimes and the punishment can be severe. However, since there are documented cases of an alleged sexual assault victim who lied about the defendant, a leading sex crime lawyer Fairfax, Va is necessary in all cases.
Note: Our lawyers practice in Fairfax, and all other counties of Virginia. We have offices in Fairfax, Arlington, and Staunton. We repeatedly reference Fairfax, Va. in this article because it is the largest jurisdiction in Virginia with the most rigid procedures. Work done to Fairfax standards meets or exceeds the standards in every other jurisdiction in the Commonwealth, so it is common to use it as a benchmark
Most sex offense cases begin with a medical examination performed by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. These nurses are referred by the acronym “SANE.” The nurse will examine a person claiming to be a victim and will look for indicia of non-consensual sexual contact. Indicators include cuts (even microscopic ones), tears, bleeding, and bruising in the intimate areas of the body. They will also comb for hair and seek samples of bodily fluids, such as saliva, semen, and blood in order to have a DNA test.
A skilled sex crime lawyer Fairfax, Va will engage a SANE to represent the defendant’s interests. In this field, there is a lot of judgment calls that may or may not be appropriate. For example, microscopic tears in the vagina of a complaining witness could be evidence of non-consensual sex – or it could be a lack of natural lubrication. Scientific studies have shown that such tears occur in bona fide consensual sex acts – so it should be improper to say that such cuts prove lack of consent.
Since evidence from the SANE exam usually leads to a DNA test, the sex crime lawyer Fairfax, Va needs to investigate the veracity of the test in appropriate cases. (It is important to know that in most sex crime allegations, the identity of the accused it not really at issue. So, it doesn’t really matter if one’s DNA is present or not). As with the SANE, the sex crime lawyer Fairfax, Va may engage a DNA expert to help ensure the accuracy of the test used by the police.
In addition to unique scientific evidence in these case, a sex crime lawyer Fairfax, Va needs to navigate a law unique to sex crimes – the rape shield statute. The salutary intent of this statute, located in Virginia Code § 18.2-67.7, is to protect a complaining witness from having her reputation destroyed after being a victim. It is possible for a person to have an extensive sexual history, but still be raped or abused on any one occasion. Virginia’s law mandates that an accused cannot use the complaining witnesses’ reputation of unchaste character or prior sexual conduct unless it is relevant to the alleged rape.
This law can cause big problems for a sex crime lawyer Fairfax, Va because the most common defense to sex offenses is that the alleged victim had consented to the sex acts. Most defendants want to use as evidence that person’s tendency to sleep around with strangers to try to prove that there was consent in the act that led to the criminal charges. The exceptions to the Rape Shield law include the following:
- Evidence offered to show an alternate explanation for physical evidence. (For example, if a complaining witness had rough sex with her husband the day of the alleged rape by the defendant, evidence of trauma to the genitals could have been caused by the rough consensual sex).
- Evidence of sexual conduct between the complaining witness and the accused offered to support the argument that the alleged offense was not accomplished by force, threat, or intimidation – but only if the prior sexual conduct was in the time period of the alleged crime.
- Evidence offered to rebut evidence that the prosecutor introduces of the complaining witnesses prior sexual conduct.
- Evidence offered to show that the complaining witness had a motive to fabricate the accusation.
Another unique aspect of the law that a sex crime lawyer Fairfax, Va faces is the fact that many serious crimes are manufactured by the police and couldn’t have possibly been committed. Many jurisdictions set up “stings” to catch online child predators. A police officer, pretending to be a child online, corresponds with an adult and arranges for a meeting. When the adult arrives at the meeting, he is arrested. The crime is Computer Solicitation under Virginia Code § 18.2-374.3. Even though the crime couldn’t have been committed, because there was no minor involved, the penalties are severe. If the police officer pretends to be a 14 year old child, for example, as opposed to a 15 year old child, the mandatory minimum punishment is 5 years in prison (the maximum is 30 years in prison).
As one can see, a sex crime lawyer Fairfax, Va must navigate laws, evidence, and procedure different from other criminal cases.