Top 5 big things to realize about Sex offense cases in Maryland

Top 5 big things to realize about Sex offense cases in Maryland

By James E. Crawford Jr.

A Baltimore, Maryland criminal defense lawyer

Finding out your being investigated or charged for a Sex offense is a scary thing…

Any time you’re charged with a crime of any sort it can be scary proposition. Most people have no idea how to handle and deal with the possibility of being charged with a crime or the reality that they have been charged.

It’s like anything else, a typical homeowner who tries to do plumbing or electrical work once-in-a-lifetime looks at the Internet, reads books and goes up to the hardware store to try to find out how to fix the problem. The reality is, that you might be able to fix minor issues but major problems need a professional. Someone who has dealt with those types of issues many times.

Most people don’t read about themselves being investigated in a newspaper or on TV. Sometimes that occurs with high profile media cases but they are few and far between. Most individuals learn suddenly from a phone call or a detective stopping by their home or place of business that someone has made an accusation against them.

Don’t try to "fix" the situation, call a good lawyer quickly

It is extremely important for anyone who suspects that they are under investigation or could potentially be charged with a crime that they contact a lawyer who understands the situations in detail. I have been practicing law in Maryland for 27 years and have handled countless sex offense matters. I always illustrate to clients that it is extremely improbable that they will be able to "outsmart" or "explain" themselves out of the situation with police or detectives. Detectives are some of the smartest people I know.

5 big things to realize about Sex offense cases

I’ve come up with this short list taken from countless sex offense cases of all types (Rape, 3rd degree, 4th degree, sex abuse of a minor, indecent exposure) in Maryland, showing what defendants should not have done when they realized they are being charged with a crime. Here is the list.

  • Don’t think you can outsmart the detective– You may be an extremely intelligent person and feel confident in talking to police or detectives because in your heart and mind you believe that no crime was committed. In other words you don’t think did anything wrong. This is your first mistake. Realize thatyour perception andyour belief in what you did or what occurred doesn’t necessarily rule the day. When the police, detectives and sometimes agents approach and want to talk the smartest thing you can do is say " I don’t want to discuss this with you, please contact my attorney". That sounds cliché but they really are magic words, because once you utter that sentence law enforcement must respect your request and not continue with the questions. Just say no! Don’t talk to them. Even little things that you say believing they can’t possibly affect the outcome of the case could have a devastating impact on how the case turns out. One of the first things police want to do is "put you at the scene or close to the person making the allegation". So, a simple answer saying, "yes I was here were there at that particular time and I know him or her", can have devastating effects.

  • Realize that the truth has many angles – let’s face it, your perception of what happened on the occasion or occasions sexually, intimately and otherwise may not be the victims perception. This is basically the crux of most sex offense cases. So, many times I’ve seen situations where the alleged perpetrator, meaning the defendant is and was totally convinced that the victim consented or acquiesced. Likewise, a victim may have a completely different mindset when the sexual act is occurring, before and afterwards.

  • Understand that "yes" doesn’t always mean "yes" – Alcohol, drugs and other emotional and mental issues may influence an alleged victim’s thought process about having sexual contact with the defendant. Many times a defendant will say to a judge or jury that the victim never said "no". and even said yes or encourage the act. The state or government may still elect to prosecute even if there was no resistance on behalf of the victim when they can prove that a reasonable person would not have believed the victim was sober or unable to comprehend what was happening. Thus, begins the tale of whether or not the victim was drunk, high on drugs or was "out of it" for some other reason such as a mental psychosis.

  • It is important to understand how the judicial system works – After a defendant is charged with an alleged sex offense quite often he or she will say to me, "Jim, it’s simply my word against the other person’s word and how can they prove anything?". Well, the answer is that most jurisdictions across the country and in the State of Maryland Prosecutors will not simply dismiss a case simply because they don’t have alot of evidence. Traditionally, many sex offense cases have preceded primarily on the evidence that the victim says it occurred. Most sex offense cases don’t have video, witnesses or any dramatic evidence of that can prove or dis-prove the sexual act/s occurred or did not occur. What is important however is incidental and other evidence such as text messages, email, naked photographs and other things that may influence a person’s state of mind. A detective who is working with the State’s attorney in any jurisdiction has to be cognizant of the fact that they cannot simply tell an alleged rape victim that they don’t believe them. It’s actually a very difficult position for a prosecutor to be in. They have a social duty and ethical duty to only bring cases forward where they believe a crime was committed. It’s a fine line between prosecution and non-prosecution. Believe me, the only way prosecutor will not go forward is if they have the absolute believe they cannot win the case. They then have the difficult task of telling the victim and sometimes the family that they are not going forward. That’s why it is extremely important for your lawyer to assist you in any investigation or early in a prosecution to bring succinct and all possible evidence to the prosecutor’s attention.From a strategy standpoint, yes there are times when a good defense attorney hold-back evidence to use at trial. However, most trials are won or lost before you ever step into a courtroom!

  • Hold down the Fort – What I mean is that it is extremely stressful and difficult for most defendants to stay the course when they are being investigated and or charged. That is why the majority of cases in this country as well as the State of Maryland are worked out via a plea bargain. Many times defendants simply can’t handle the pressure and the stress of possibly going to jail. Most would rather enter into a deal with the prosecution and admit to something they did not do to avoid possible jail time. That fear is the prosecutor’s friend, and the defendant’s enemy. That’s why you need to have an attorney to guide you through these issues and explain to you exactly what is happening.

A blog listing a few items about how to handle an extremely complex sex offense case will not fix any legal situation for anyone. Its not specific advice, just sound reasoning. However, the points and factors listed above play a major part in the psyche and thought process that goes on in the chess game leading up to the courtroom.

The most important thing to understand is that you don’t understand! You are playing in an arena where there are many moving parts and one or all moves could sink your ship. Take the points above as gospel but realize that every case is different. Obviously, a lawyer can’t give advice in a blog. However, the above factors are extremely important and should be discussed with any lawyer you retain to handle your situation.

James E. Crawford Jr.

If you would like to read more, request a free download of my book here , "There is only an opportunity for Justice"