Can Defense Lawyers Contact a Sex Crime Victim?Published: Feb 22, 2018 in Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes
In criminal cases, victims are essentially witnesses. The state presses charges on behalf of victims, usually using their testimony as evidence of a crime. Despite their practical role, crime victims also have rights throughout the criminal justice process. Sex crime victims deservedly get special treatment because of the traumatic nature of their experiences.
Nonetheless, there is no law prohibiting your lawyer from contacting a sex crime victim. In fact, a lawyer or investigator working for the defense should attempt to independently interview the alleged victim and all other material witnesses. Victims do not have to cooperate with the defense’s investigation, and sex crimes victims may even request the defense team to stop contacting them altogether.
Your Defense Lawyer Can Contact All Relevant Witnesses, Including a Sex Crime Victim
The prosecution will generally build their case from evidence obtained by law enforcement investigators. Your defense lawyer’s job is to discredit this evidence or to have it removed from the case. Additionally, your defense team can attempt to introduce its own evidence into the case.
For example, the prosecutor may be charging you with sexual assault on the basis of statements the victim made to the police on the evening of the alleged incident. However, when your lawyer contacts the victim, they make several comments that contradict essential portions of their earlier story. These statements can be used to discredit the prosecution’s case.
You might be wondering how your lawyer can get the victim’s statements introduced into evidence. After all, judges don’t allow “he said, she said” evidence to be presented in their courts. Under Texas law, defense investigators and lawyers are allowed to record conversations with witnesses, even without their knowledge or consent.
However, members of the defense team must identify themselves to the victims when initiating these conversations. This gives the victim the opportunity to decide whether they want to cooperate or refer the investigator to the prosecutor’s office. And of course, sex crime victims can tell the defense team they do not wish to be contacted at all.
How a Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Can Help
In some cases, contacting a sex crime victim can change the course of a criminal case, especially when the alleged victim is the defendant’s romantic partner. Sometimes, false allegations of sexual misconduct are made to punish a significant other, or to affect the outcome of a child custody case. Such victims may in some cases stop cooperating with the prosecution or even recant their earlier statements after a conference with the defense team.
Allegations of sex crimes are extremely serious, and victims of these offenses should be treated with dignity. However, a defense lawyer’s duty is to explore every possible avenue of resolving the client’s case in a beneficial manner. Attorney Ned Barnett has decades of experience dealing with these delicate situations.