Protecting Your Innocence when Facing Sex Crime Allegations in NJ
How to Handle a New Jersey Sex Crime Investigation to Protect Your Rights and Your Freedom
Although you may feel overwhelmed, here are some key points and steps to take to protect your rights and your innocence if you are being investigated for a sex crime in New Jersey.
Should I talk to the police?
If you are under investigation for a crime, you may find out the police want to speak to you. In fact, you may receive a visit or telephone call from law enforcement. For example, a police officer may come to your house to speak to you, or a detective may call you on your cell phone to set up a time to talk to you about a potential sex offense case. You may have no idea what the focus of the investigation is, or fear that someone made a false report, and you are now possibly under investigation or about to be charged with a sex crime. If the police contact you or you suspect that you may be in legal trouble, contact the criminal defense lawyers at The Tormey Law Firm immediately for help.
Do I need a lawyer?
You don’t have to have one, but you should if you’re interested in preserving your freedom and avoiding the many pitfalls of trying to handle such serious allegations on your own. To protect yourself, consult and hire a defense attorney before or if you speak to the police.
What if I didn’t do anything wrong?
Regardless of the truth or falsity of the potential charges against you, understand that you could sabotage your defense if you unintentionally incriminate yourself. Most likely, the police have already interviewed the alleged victim before attempting to speak to you. Thus, what they are looking for in speaking to you is corroboration of the facts that your accuser presented to them. For instance, if the alleged victim reported that on the night in question, you both went to her apartment for dinner and drank a bottle of wine before watching a movie, the police will ask you about that night, hoping to confirm the facts are accurate. But they will ask it in a non-threatening way to get you to agree that you did all those reported acts. And none of those acts are illegal, so you might feel encouraged to admit them. However, confirming those facts can lead to further probing about what happened next when the police already believe they know what happened next.
Even if you told the police that nothing happened sexually or you did have consensual sex, the information you provide could confirm just enough of the alleged victim’s story to satisfy the police that they are probably telling the truth. It could be enough corroboration to justify turning the case over to the county prosecutor’s office to press charges against you. The police have a specific motive, which is to solve a crime. They may suspect you just because someone came forth to charge you with a sex crime. Whatever you say can be construed as a lie to protect yourself or partial truth from hiding the whole truth. The police see numerous suspects lie to protect themselves and assume you are just another. The bottom line is that you could give the police reason to press charges without realizing it.
Should I talk to the person accusing me or anyone else about the allegations?
You also do not want to contact the alleged victim, as whatever you say to them can get back to the police. And avoid discussions about your situation, what happened the night of the alleged sex act, and your defense to the allegations with friends, family, or social media. The police not only look for statements from you and your accuser but any witnesses testifying to their observations and impressions of you and your accuser’s behavior or actions. For example, they could interview a family member you spoke to about the incident.
What’s the difference between being accused, arrested, charged, or indicted?
Criminal investigations and complaints begin with a report by an alleged victim or an incident report by the police who witnessed a crime. As such, when a possible victim reports a crime, the police investigate the crime to see if there is probable cause that an accused individual committed the crime. If they gather enough evidence of criminal behavior by a suspect, they may file a criminal complaint against the person accused. Ultimately, in the evidence-gathering phase, which could take months, they build a case for pinpointing a crime to a suspect. For example, with a warrant from a judge, they can search your residence for evidence to further support the allegations. This is common in cases involving child pornography related offenses, charged under the New Jersey child endangerment statute.
The more evidence the police have, the more likely the prosecutor will follow through with charging you with a sex crime. Once the prosecution files formal criminal charges, law enforcement typically comes to arrest you. This will then be followed by a bail review and possible detention hearing where a judge decides if you are to be released or kept in jail for the remainder of the case proceedings. You want a lawyer representing you during this, as your legal counsel can present reasons why you are not a flight risk or a danger to the public. There are some cases in which the charges themselves require mandatory detention, such as aggravated sexual assault. If your case is not resolved during the Pre-Indictment Conference or initial discussions with the prosecutor, they will make a decision and then attempt to convince a grand jury to indict you for the crime. An indictment confirms that you will need to defend yourself against the charges in Superior Court.
How can an attorney help me win and clear my name?
From the start of a sex crime investigation, you want to protect yourself by refraining from speaking to law enforcement without an attorney. Once contacted, speak with a criminal defense attorney who can assist you with how you should respond should the police want to talk to you or come to your residence. When you know your constitutional rights, you understand that you can choose not to talk to investigators. You have rights to an attorney who can represent you and advise you to remain silent when the state seeks criminal evidence from you that could lead to self-incrimination.
With experienced representation, you can investigate the sex crime allegations and evidence the state intends to use to prove their case if you are subsequently charged and prosecuted. Your attorney can contact the police to learn more about the allegations against you and their intentions in filing a complaint. Your attorney can also make sure that you do not say anything to the police that would hurt your defense if you go to trial to prove your innocence. They can speak to a prosecutor to discuss the charges, review the discovery package, and determine the strength or weakness of the prosecution’s evidence against you. They may even get the court to dismiss the charges if they can raise doubt as to the credibility of the evidence against you or the way it was obtained. At the end of the day, you need a vigorous defense that would create in the jury’s mind or lead certain critical evidence to be thrown out. This means the prosecutor can’t present it to the jury at all if the case goes to trial.
A prosecutor must convince a jury that you committed the sex crime for which you are facing charges, bearing the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. They must persuade a jury that you committed each element of a crime, often including the intent to commit a crime. If one of the elements is reasonably doubtful in the slightest, a jury is unlikely to convict you. Barring a dismissal at trial, there are numerous defense strategies and opportunities to reach a better resolution than the often devastating consequences of a sex offense conviction.
Being Investigated for a Sex Crime in New Jersey – What to do Next
You may be facing extensive prison time, sex offender registration under Megan’s Law, community supervision for life, a psychosexual evaluation, and permanent personal and reputational harm based on a sex crime investigation gone wrong. If you just found out you are being investigated or police simply want to talk to you about a possible sexual offense in New Jersey, contact The Tormey Law firm as soon as possible to talk to a highly experienced criminal defense lawyer who regularly handles sex crime cases in courts across the state. You will want protection from the start of an investigation and beyond. Contact (201)-556-1570 for a free consultation or request a free legal discussion online today.
We assist clients in Bergen County, Middlesex County, Hudson County, Union County, Ocean County, Essex County, Passaic County, and other counties throughout NJ. No matter what the allegations or pending charges, whether it be sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, luring, or another offense, trust our experience when you need to protect your innocence.