What techniques are used by law enforcement in a sex assault investigation?
Rape is one of the most egregious of all crimes. A person investigated for rape will likely find his or her life turned upside down, even if the charged is ultimately dropped or dismissed. Due to the serious nature of such crimes, investigators are particularly strident in the manner in which they undertake an investigation of sexual assault.
With this in mind, understanding how rape charges are investigated and “proven” by Texas law enforcement is vital information to know if you or a loved are facing such a charge. After reading this article, your next step should be to contact experienced Houston defense lawyer Matt Sharp immediately to begin preparing your defense and learn about your legal rights during the investigation process.
How is rape defined in Texas
Before diving deeper into a discussion of how rape charges are established via a criminal investigation, it’s important to understand the definition of rape according to Texas law. Rape is defined as a type of sexual assault involving unwanted sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual activity carried out under certain circumstances.
These circumstances include sexual activity involving:
- Lack of consent
- Abuse of authority
- Inability to consent
Probable cause: the standard to arrest an alleged rape perpetrator
A great deal of attention is paid to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard because this is the level of proof required to convict a person of a crime. Crime dramas on television and in films routinely include dramatic trial sequences in which the concept of beyond a reasonable doubt is bandied about.
Simply put, the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” establishes a very high standard to convict a person of a crime.
Having this high standard is a good thing to avoid wrongly imprisoning innocent individuals.
However, you must understand that the standard to arrest a person suspected of committing a rape is far, far lower. An arrest warrant is issued when those involved in the sexual assault investigation process establish what legally is known as “probable cause.”
Probable cause is a 2-pronged standard.
- Investigators must demonstrate that a crime has been committed, AND
- Investigators must demonstrate that it is more likely than not that the individual targeted for arrest actually perpetrated a rape, or some other type of sexual assault.
This is the same standard that is used to return an indictment during grand jury proceedings.
High-pressure sexual assault investigation techniques
Sex assault law enforcement investigators are notorious for using what’s often described as high-pressure investigation techniques. Examples of what rape investigators will do in their efforts to arrest a person they believe responsible for the crime include:
- Intense interrogation of a suspect
- Make false representations to a suspect
- Secretly record conversations between a suspect and the alleged victim
- Text a suspect from the alleged victim’s phone to elicit an incriminating response
What happens when a suspect learns of a rape investigation?
Often, a suspect is unaware that he or she is being targeted by law enforcement investigators until much later into the investigation. After spending a good amount of time gathering evidence, a rape or sexual assault investigator will typically approach a suspect seeking an interview.
The request (or threat) to get an interview is commonly peppered with statements like “talking to the police will make things go better for you in the long run.” But the reality is that a law enforcement investigator has no authority in Texas to make any type of promise or commitment to a suspect in a criminal case. Only the prosecuting attorney has that authority, and even that is limited. In the end, a Texas criminal court judge has the ultimate power, including the discretion to ignore a plea agreement reached in a criminal case.
In some cases, law enforcement may attempt to obtain a statement from a suspect early in the investigatory process. Seeking an interview with a suspect earlier in the investigation can be a sign that investigators are having a hard time gathering sufficient evidence to support an arrest warrant request.
Protect your legal rights with a rape defense lawyer
Proactively seeking legal assistance is vital if you or a loved one learns of a pending rape investigation.
You should never submit to a law enforcement interview or make a statement until you have consulted with a defense lawyer.
You are never obligated to sit for a police interview or make a statement. An experienced defense attorney can determine whether doing so is advisable. Even otherwise innocent statements made during a police interrogation can be misconstrued. Thus, because of the hazards and risks associated with a law enforcement interview, your lawyer very well may recommend not speaking to the police.
Contact experienced Houston, Texas rape defense lawyer Matt Sharp to schedule your free initial consultation and case evaluation.