Defenses To Prosecution Of Sex Crimes
A prosecution for an alleged sex crime requires proof of several elements, including an act mental state at the time of the offense, on the part of the defendant; and lack of consent on the part of the victim. “Consent,” as defined by law, depends in some cases on the age and condition of an alleged victim. An alleged victim’s lack of consent may manifest through statements or actions. In other cases, the prosecution must prove that an alleged victim could not give consent as a matter of law because of a lack of capacity. This could be due to incapacity, intoxication, mental disability, or age. An experienced Tacoma sex crimes attorney can help you understand the elements of the case against you, and can review the prosecution’s evidence, interview witnesses, and prepare a thorough defense against sex crime charges.
Prosecution of Alleged Sex Crimes
Defendants may defend against accusations of sex crimes by challenging the prosecution’s evidence, and state law allows specific, but limited, opportunities to counter the prosecution’s evidence of lack of consent. These defenses involve the defendant’s reasonable beliefs at the time of the alleged offense, and they depend almost entirely on communication between the defendant and the alleged victim. This is where a careful review of the prosecution’s evidence, particularly the statements they seek to introduce, is critical to a successful defense.
Capacity to Consent
Certain sex offenses, as defined by state law, involve a lack of consent based on an alleged victim’s physical inability to consent to sexual activity, based on mental disability, incapacity, or physical helplessness. State law allows a defendant in such a case to present evidence that, at the time of the alleged offense, the defendant reasonably believed that the alleged victim was not incapacitated or helpless.
Age of the Alleged Victim
State law defines some sex crimes based on the age of the alleged victim. Individuals under a certain age, by law, cannot consent to sexual activity. This is commonly known as the “age of consent.” Washington’s criminal code explicitly states that it is not a defense to prosecution for such an offense that the defendant either believed the alleged victim was older or did not know the alleged victim’s age, but it allows very narrowly-defined exceptions to that rule. The criminal code allows defenses to three specific offenses based on the alleged victim’s declarations regarding age: rape of a child, sexual misconduct with a minor, or child molestation.
The defendant may present evidence of a reasonable belief about the alleged victim’s age based specifically on the alleged victim’s statements to the defendant. The reasonable belief may pertain to the alleged victim’s age or the difference in ages between the alleged victim and the defendant. For example, a defendant may defend against a charge of rape of a child in the first degree by presenting evidence that the alleged victim declared him- or herself to be at least twelve years old or less than twenty-four months younger than the defendant. For the offense of sexual misconduct with a minor in the first degree, a defendant may present evidence that the alleged victim declared an age of eighteen years or older, or an age within sixty months of the defendant’s age.
If you have been charged with an alleged sex crime in Tacoma or elsewhere in western Washington, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help. I have defended people in criminal cases throughout the state of Washington and obtained significantly lesser sentences, acquittals after trial, and outright dismissals for our clients. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (888) 312-3093.