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What to Expect if Charged with Sexual Assault

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If you or someone you know has been charged with sexual assault, it’s critical to take action immediately. These charges can lead to heavy consequences that can affect all areas of your life now and well into your future. While you may feel like you have no options, there are things you can do to help protect yourself and your rights. Below you’ll find some information that can guide you through this challenging time.

What are the sexual assault laws? 

Each state has its own sexual assault laws, so it’s important to understand how sexual assault is defined in the state in which you are charged. For instance, the first-degree sexual assault laws in Rhode Island are determined by the following:

A person is guilty of first-degree sexual assault if he or she engages in sexual penetration with another person, and if any of the following circumstances exist:

  • (1) The accused, not being the spouse, knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally incapacitated, mentally disabled, or physically helpless.
  • (2) The accused uses force or coercion.
  • (3) The accused, through concealment or by the element of surprise, is able to overcome the victim.
  • (4) The accused engages in the medical treatment or examination of the victim for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or stimulation.

What should I do if I’m accused of sexual assault?

If you are accused of sexual assault, but not yet arrested, the most important thing you can do is avoid speaking to the accuser and try to let emotions settle. Some individuals will hear of pending sexual assault charges and attempt to contact the alleged victim to clear the air. In the majority of cases, speaking to the accuser after an alleged sexual assault will only make things worse. Text messages, voicemails, or any form of communication can be misconstrued, even if your intentions are pure. It’s best to give the accuser the space and time to let the dust settle, which may prevent them from contacting the police.

What happens after a sexual assault arrest? 

Shortly after a sexual assault arrest takes place, you’ll be brought to a District Court for your first appearance. This initial appearance in front of a judge is called the arraignment hearing. You’ll officially be charged with sexual assault, and you will enter a plea of not guilty. A judge will decide on the terms of your bail and if a protective order should be set in place. It’s important to contact a sexual assault defense attorney immediately after an arrest or if you’ve heard of a criminal complaint before the arrest. The sooner you call a sexual assault defense attorney, the sooner your attorney can begin building your case.

At the time of your arrest, keep in mind that the police are not on your side, and you should not speak to them without a lawyer present. They may appear to want to “clear things up” or “get your side of the story.” However, anything you say to the police can be used against you in court. Even if you’re confident of your innocence, your words can be misinterpreted. Contact a sexual assault defense attorney as soon as possible, and don’t speak to anyone about the incident except your lawyer.

How do you fight sexual assault charges?

There are various ways to fight sexual assault charges. The line of defense that your attorney chooses will depend on the circumstances surrounding your case. For instance, you may be able to prove your innocence if you can provide evidence that you were in another location at the time of the assault or if you have an alibi. You may be able to fight your sexual assault charges by claiming that you had consent at the time of the interaction. In some cases, when an accuser has made false accusations in the past, your lawyer may be able to work towards getting a case dismissed. Overall, there are several paths your lawyer can take to create a powerful defense strategy.

What are the potential penalties for sexual assault? 

The penalties for sexual assault will depend on the specifics of your charges. For example, a second-degree sexual assault charge can lead to 3-15 years in jail. A first-degree sexual assault charge can lead to 10 years to life in prison.

How can a sexual assault defense lawyer help me? 

Your best chance at a positive outcome is to work with an experienced sexual assault defense lawyer. Do not attempt to go through this legal challenge alone. Your defense lawyer can advise you on what to say to the police, build an aggressive defense plan, and work towards minimal penalties or even a dismissal. Again, the sooner you call a sexual assault lawyer with experience in sexual assault charges, the sooner they can begin building your case and defending your rights.

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