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Arrested after Swiping Right? Sex Crime Charges in the Age of Dating Apps

Published: Jul 31, 2023 in Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

Online dating has never been more prevalent, but what happens if meeting IRL becomes a ” they-said, they-said” situation? Or worse, what if you’re accused of something that didn’t happen, or you thought was consensual?

A swipe to the right on apps like Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge holds the promise of meaningful connections, but these platforms also introduce a new challenge – a rise in sex crime allegations. Dating apps facilitate easy connections but lend themselves to misrepresentation, confusion around consent, and greater potential for unjust sex crime charges.

Sex Crimes Linked to Dating Apps

It’s hard to state precisely how many sexual assault arrests are made in connection with dating apps, given their prevalence, especially in younger demographics.

One study found that 14% of acquaintance rapes in Utah between 2017 and 2020 occurred after the victim and perpetrator met on a dating app. Another report showed a 25% increase in reports of sexual crimes following a first meeting after matching on dating apps between 2017 and 2021. The study also found most victims were women, and the age of both male and female victims was 20-29.

How to Avoid Sexual Assault Charges After a Match?

Nowadays, people mostly take precautions to avoid being the victim of sexual assault. But sadly, false claims happen, and anything that happens behind closed doors could get turned around and used against you.

So, trying to prevent confusion and being the victim of false accusations is advisable.

If you do not know the person you are meeting with, you cannot assume they have good intentions. When you meet someone on Tinder, you don’t have much to go on besides what you saw on their profile. So be observant. You can anticipate problems by looking out for red flags and avoid meetups under the following circumstances:

  • You or the other person are intoxicated.
  • The person displays signs of mental illness or emotional distress.
  • Potential for blackmail exists.

Another thing to be mindful of is if the other person indicated an on-again-off-again or turbulent previous relationship. Sometimes, damaging accusations arise when someone tries to cover up infidelity. Instead of owning up to cheating, they may claim they were sexually assaulted.

What to Do After False Accusations

Despite taking precautions, innocent people are falsely accused of sexual assault more than you suspect. If this happens to you after one or two dates with someone you met on Tinder, Bumble, Grinder, or any dating site, it will be a tremendous shock. However, try not to panic.

There are things you can do to improve your chances of avoiding criminal prosecution:

  • Do not contact the victim
  • Do not talk about the incident with anyone, including the police
  • Make a timeline of your interactions with the alleged victim
  • Gather any proof like movie, parking, and meal receipts
  • Save or otherwise document all communications from the victim and interested parties
  • Call an experienced defense lawyer as soon as possible

Don’t Try to Clear Things Up Alone

Houston law enforcement usually only moves forward with criminal cases when there is evidence of wrongdoing. But this isn’t always the case, and sometimes innocent people get saddled with sexual assault charges.

Avoid attempting to address these accusations independently. Your statements can inadvertently serve as evidence against you. Embrace your right to remain silent, which can significantly aid your defense.

You may think you can easily resolve false accusations by confronting the victim or explaining yourself to the police. In most cases, you will only inadvertently give the prosecutor more evidence against you.

Navigating False Accusations Post-Tinder Date

Although rare, false accusations of rape do occur. If you face such allegations after a first-time meeting from a dating site, it’s essential to understand the significance of experienced legal counsel.

First, don’t make any statements without an attorney present: This is paramount. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. Never speak to law enforcement or other investigators about your case without your attorney present.

Ways to Help Prove Your Version of the Date Happened

If you find yourself needing to substantiate your version of a date, prove consent was granted, or otherwise prove your innocence, here are some steps you can take:

  • Preserve All Possible Evidence: If you met the accuser on a dating app, there may be messages that could help your defense. This could include messages demonstrating that the encounter was consensual or that the accuser had a motive to accuse you falsely. Preserve any digital communication or physical evidence, like text messages, emails, app messages, photos, videos, etc.
  • Cooperate with Your Attorney: It’s important to be fully honest with your defense attorney. They are on your side, and the information you provide can help them build a robust defense.
  • Identify Witnesses: If other people witnessed your interactions with the accuser, it’s important to identify them. They might be able to provide statements or testify on your behalf.
  • Don’t Contact the Accuser: Break off contact, ghost them, whatever you call it, and while it might be tempting to try to discuss the situation with the person who has accused you, this will make things worse.
  • Understand the Process: Rape is a serious crime, and being accused can lead to significant legal consequences. Your attorney should help you understand the charges against you, the evidence the prosecution has, possible defense strategies, the likelihood of plea agreements, and potential sentences if you are convicted.
  • Be Patient: The legal process can be slow, and it may take time for your attorney to gather all necessary information and evidence, investigate, and for court proceedings to play out.
  • Consider the Narrative: Because sex crimes linked to a dating app make for an interesting story, accusations can attract media attention. Your attorney can help manage this, but you should be prepared for the possibility that your name will be in the news. Avoid talking to the press without consulting your attorney.
  • Stay Off Social Media: Don’t post anything related to your case on social media, and consider staying off social media altogether while your case is ongoing.

Accused After a Date? Call a Lawyer for Help

Online dating platforms such as Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge have transformed social interaction, particularly in Houston and the surrounding areas. But in our increasingly digital age, false accusations following an online date are an unfortunate reality. These can lead to devastating penalties, tarnishing your reputation, and causing irreversible harm to your personal and professional life. However, remember you have the right to defend yourself.

An experienced defense attorney will understand the nuances of your situation, strategize a robust defense, and navigate the legal system on your behalf. Houston defense attorney Ned Barnett has decades of experience fighting unfounded sexual assault allegations and knows what it takes to help.

If you have been charged with sexual assault after an online date, call (713) 222-6767, or reach out online to find out how we can help you beat the charges.