Understanding the different phases in a Texas sex crime investigation
Texas takes sex crimes very seriously. This is good, considering that just being accused of a crime is enough to ruin a person’s reputation forever. Other potential consequences include lifetime imprisonment and having to register as a sex offender.
Given these and other severe penalties, it’s vital you consult with an experienced attorney as early as possible if you’re accused or charged with a sex crime. The investigation stage is the most critical time in sex crime prosecution. Knowing what to expect can help you or your loved ones handle themselves better.
Here’s a general overview of what typically goes on during a sex crime investigation in Texas.
An accusation is made
Sex crime investigations only begin once a complaint has been made. A “sex crime” is a broad term that covers several crimes including sexual assault, indecent exposure, child molestation, prostitution and rape. Sex crimes involving children carry the most severe punishment.
After a complaint is made, the relevant agencies begin the investigation. It’s common for more than 1 agency to be involved. In Texas, sex crimes may be investigated by the local police, Child Protective Services, Texas Ranger Division, the Attorney General Criminal Investigation Division and even the FBI.
It all depends on where the crime was committed and the nature of the crime.
Examination of the victim
Usually, the prosecution only presses charges when they feel they have enough evidence. Often, the primary source of evidence is obtained from the victim through a medical examination and taking their statement.
The crime scene may also be investigated for other evidence such as fingerprints and camera footage. All the physical evidence is taken to a crime lab for analysis. Potential suspects are often asked or compelled to provide DNA samples.
Although law enforcement often tries to conduct investigations discreetly, you can usually know if you are under investigation. This is the time to get an attorney in the picture. It’s common for investigators to seek your “cooperation” only to use your words against you. Law enforcement can be particularly aggressive during this phase of the sex crime investigation timeline.
To protect yourself from false allegations, don’t speak to the investigators without your attorney present. Asking for a lawyer doesn’t mean you confess to being guilty—it just makes you smart.
In addition to physical evidence and statements from the victim, witness testimonies are needed to corroborate the story. If the victim of the crime was a child, the Department of Child Protective Services (CPS) may question the family members. The child may also be asked to speak to a child psychologist to ensure the accusations are not false. In adult cases, any person who was at the crime scene will typically be questioned.
The good news is that witnesses work both ways. While the investigators line up their witnesses, your attorney can also find witnesses to corroborate your version of events. An experienced attorney may even be able to prevent the charges from being filed in the first place. Any attempt by the police to detain, question you or access your property without a warrant should be stopped.
There are 2 possible outcomes of an investigation.
First, the investigators may find nothing and pursue a different suspect or drop the case. The second outcome is that you or your loved one gets charged, and a warrant is issued. This only happens when the prosecution feels they have enough evidence to make the case against you.
While getting arrested might sound scary, it is not the end of the road. Sometimes an arrest is made before the investigators have enough to build a case.
You may be arrested even if no DNA evidence was found but lack of DNA evidence tilts things in your favor. Unless you were caught in the act, witness accounts could be debunked during cross-examination.
Exercising your rights
In the United States, an accused person is innocent until proven guilty and enjoys all the rights accorded to them in the Constitution. That means you have the right to deny investigators access to your property without a warrant. You can also decline a request to submit a DNA sample. The accused is also within their rights to decline to speak to investigators, CPS and all other agencies.
In addition, an arrested person has the right to request counsel. If you already have an attorney, don’t say anything to the arresting officers other than to request your attorney be present.
A probable cause hearing must take place within 48 hours of your arrest. A lawyer will ensure that your constitutional rights are protected. They will also keep law enforcement on their toes and ensure they don’t cut any corners during the investigation.
It is never a good idea to deal with the police directly, even if you are innocent. Don’t wait until you are arrested for getting legal representation. The best time to get a lawyer involved is when you are accused or charged. Having an experienced criminal attorney significantly improves your chances.
Speak to a Texas sex crime attorney immediately
Sex crimes are aggressively prosecuted in Texas. While this is commendable, law enforcement sometimes uses unlawful techniques to obtain confessions and evidence.
Hiring a knowledgeable sex crime defense attorney ensures that the rights of the accused are protected. Criminal defense attorney Mathew D. Sharp has more than 12 years of experience under his belt.