Top Ten Action Steps When You’ve Been Charged with a Sex Crime
You’ve been charged with a sex crime. You’re facing felony charges, prison, and sex offender registration. You’ve never been more scared or stressed in your lifetime. What do you do next?
Stop talking to anyone but your lawyer.
This is true at any point following the allegations. After someone makes an accusation of sexual assault or child molestation, you shouldn’t make any statements in response to the allegations – even a denial – to anyone. This includes the police, the accuser, family members, and friends. The only person you should discuss this with is your lawyer. Any statements you make, to anyone, can be later twisted and used against you.
Prepare to post your bond.
Criminal allegations of sexual assault are serious, and even for those with no criminal history whatsoever, the bond will likely be set fairly high. Fighting these types of cases from inside a jail cell is incredibly difficult. The ability to post bond can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. If your financial situation requires you to make a choice between retaining an attorney and posting bond, you may want to consider posting the bond and using a court-appointed attorney.
Determine a budget for hiring a lawyer.
Have an idea of what you can afford when looking to retain a lawyer to represent you. Crimes of this nature have serious, life-long consequences. Defending these cases the right way takes a tremendous amount of time and attention on the part of your attorney. You’ll need to look at every alternative to raise the funds necessary to pay for a defense – withdrawals from retirement accounts, home equity loans, borrowing from family members, or the sale of assets like vehicles.
Consult with as many lawyers as you need until you find one who makes you feel comfortable.
Meet with as many lawyers as it takes you to feel that you’ve found the one who is the right match for you. Your lawyer and you are going to be a team in defending your case. You need to hire someone who you feel comfortable working with. If that’s not the first attorney you meet with, move on and interview another lawyer. Repeat this process until you’ve found the perfect fit.
Hire a lawyer.
Once you’ve decided who is a good fit, hire a lawyer, if that is within your financial means. If it’s not, then you’ll need to complete paperwork at the District Court in order to have the court appoint a lawyer to represent you. If that’s the case, then make sure you reach out to the attorney who has been appointed as soon as you find out their information, and schedule an appointment so that you can discuss your case thoroughly.
Consider taking a private polygraph examination.
After you have hired a lawyer, you may want to consider whether you should take a private polygraph examination. You may have been offered a polygraph examination by the police; however, you shouldn’t take their examination. Police use polygraphs almost exclusively as tools of interrogation. On the other hand, with a private polygraph arranged by your lawyer, you can take the examination, and the results will be kept confidential unless you and your lawyer decide that it is beneficial to reveal them.
Obtain a psychosexual evaluation.
It may also be beneficial, depending on the facts of your case, to obtain a psychosexual evaluation, sometimes referred to as a sex offender risk assessment. In cases where negotiation of a plea is desirable, having a psychosexual evaluation that shows that you are low risk to commit a sexual offense can be an important negotiation tool.
Make a plan for self-care.
The experience of being accused of a sex crime and going through a jury trial will be the most trying, difficult experience of your life. If you are not deliberate in caring for your well-being, you will find yourself in a physical health crisis or mental health crisis, and unable assist in defending yourself. Make a plan to eat right, exercise, and to do the things you need to do in order to keep your stress level down.
Get a marriage counselor.
If you’re married, this situation is going to take a huge toll on your marriage. Our experience with clients is that typically, spouses and significant others will stand by you through the end of a jury trial, but after the experience is over, the stress of the event causes the relationship to come to an end. If you value your relationship, you need to be mindful of taking care of it throughout this process, and get some help through a counselor.
Lean on your support system.
This is a time when you’ll find out who your friends are – and the real friends are people who you are going to need to stick around. Even though you won’t be able to talk about the facts of the case, you’re going to need people you can trust to talk to about your feelings, and to provide you with love and support.