How to Spot Inconsistent Statements in Child Sex Crime CasesPublished: Apr 27, 2023 in Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes
Allegations surrounding child sex crimes can destroy your reputation and severely complicate your life. Guilt is supposed to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but unreliable evidence—including inconsistent statements from impressionable and often vulnerable child accusers—can result in wrongful sex crime convictions.
Why Children Make Unreliable Statements
It is more common than you might think for children to make false allegations and inconsistent statements in sex abuse and molestation cases. Pressure from adults, including parents, family members, and even law enforcement, will often influence children’s statements.
Adults who suspect abuse often ask a child if anything inappropriate happened. The child may initially say “no,” only to be rewarded and praised when they answer “yes” to the same question phrased differently.
Since children’s brains are still developing, they are susceptible to an adult’s suggestions and might say what they think an adult wants to hear. A child who did not suffer abuse may ultimately believe they did, which can be confusing and difficult to cope with as they grow up.
The Damage Caused By False Statements
Inconsistent and false statements in child sex crime cases can be devastating—not only for those wrongfully accused of a child sex crime but also for the children themselves. Such trauma can be emotionally taxing on a child. It can impact their ability to recount events and important details accurately and be considered credible witnesses.
Additionally, when someone has been accused of committing a sex crime against a child, they must take steps to clear their name. A sex crimes defense attorney is best suited to carefully evaluate the child’s allegations and testimony. Your lawyer can identify inconsistent statements that could lead to an unjust conviction. And, using independent experts, one can more delicately question a child’s credibility. This avoids the intense emotional impact that an accusation of inconsistent or false statements could have on a child.
Children most frequently make inconsistent statements when prompted by an adult. Sometimes, the adults try to protect the children from suspected abuse. But in others, the adults know the child was not abused but encourage the child to make such claims. This might be because the adult wants revenge or to increase their chances of winning custody.
Hopefully, a suspect could avoid the devastating effects of a conviction by introducing evidence that challenges the child’s credibility and ensuring the jury is aware of the blatant inconsistencies in a child’s testimony.
Examples of Inconsistent Statements in Sex Offense Cases
Inconsistent statements in children can be hard to identify. Doing so requires considerable experience analyzing testimony from children who have made unreliable accusations. With that in mind, here are a few common signs that a child’s sex abuse allegations may not be credible:
They May Change Specific Details
When a child recounts the alleged abuse, but the details change when police or attorneys continue questioning them, this may be a sign of inconsistent or false accusations.
They Might Be Unsure About Where / When Abuse Occurred
Children may not always know where or when a traumatic situation occurred. But suppose a child provides contradictory evidence regarding the time and place of the abuse. In that case, your criminal defense attorney will investigate whether these inconsistencies undermine the child’s credibility.
There May Be Contradictory Evidence or Witness Testimony
Suppose the evidence obtained throughout the investigation does not support the child’s statements and testimony. This could be a tell-tale sign that the statement is not credible.
For example, say you were accused of indecency with a child after a minor made inconsistent statements, but the child’s medical evaluation shows no sexual abuse. Your criminal defense lawyer can raise questions about the reliability of the child’s testimony, given the forensic evidence at hand.
They Previously Gave False Statements to Police
Children must be questioned multiple times when allegations of sexual abuse are raised. Suppose the child gave varying accounts of the abuse to the police, their parents, investigators, and other court officials. In that case, you can expect your attorney to challenge the credibility of these inconsistent statements.
Children who are actual victims of sexual abuse will often have inconsistent statements due to the trauma they experienced and their developmental and cognitive limitations. However, when numerous inconsistencies do not align with the evidence, the defense should reasonably cast doubt on their accusations.
You Need a Lawyer to Deal with Inconsistent Statements
Resolving inconsistent statements alone is rarely in a defendant’s best interests. It would be ideal if you had an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defender on your side. They should be experienced in identifying inconsistent statements and know how to articulate flaws to law enforcement and prosecution.
Your lawyer should also be prepared to ask tough questions. You need to handle child witnesses carefully, as we do not want to further traumatize a child who might already believe they are a victim of sexual abuse. And, if you do not act appropriately, you could be falsely convicted of a child sex crime.
You must first outline the inconsistencies you identified in their statements, ask non-leading questions, and elicit coherent and accurate responses from the child. That way, we can potentially avoid criminal charges being filed or prove to the jury that the child’s testimony is not credible.
This will be particularly important since prosecutors often present child statements as factual to further their goal of obtaining a conviction. Using proven cognitive interviewing techniques, your defense attorney can demonstrate to the court that the child’s statements are unreliable and should therefore be discredited or declared inadmissible at trial.
What To Do If You’re Accused & There are Discrepancies
If you have been accused by a minor who has provided inconsistent statements throughout their interviews, there are specific steps you can take to protect yourself. These steps include:
- Do not attempt to resolve the matter with police or law enforcement officials alone. You might make statements that could be considered self-incriminating.
- Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who will give your case the time and attention it deserves.
- Provide your attorney with as much evidence as possible to support your defense.
- Do not post about the charges against you or the child’s inconsistent statements on social media.
- Remain cooperative with law enforcement, but only with your sex crimes attorney present.
Contact a Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Now
The Law Offices of Ned Barnett have extensive experience handling child sexual assault and other related sex crimes across Houston, Texas. Our firm has spent years working to identify and challenge improper child sex crime accusations and inconsistent child witness statements.
When such disturbing allegations have been made against you, you must fight to clear your name, reduce potential negative consequences to the child, and protect your future. Do not hesitate to contact our office for a free and confidential case evaluation to learn more about how to proceed with your defense.