Sexual crimes can be tricky to identify and confirm. Sex that may seem consensual to one person – that is, both people are voluntarily participating – may not seem so to the other. And even when both people agree sex is consensual, the act might not be legally considered consensual due to the age of the participants or the ability to consent. In other instances, there can be conflicting stories about whether any sexual activity actually occurred. Often there are no witnesses, and if drugs or alcohol are involved, the facts can become even more murky. It is extremely unfortunate when a person who thinks they engaged in consensual sex or no sex at all, suddenly finds themselves charged with sexual battery or rape.
Jury Returns Not Guilty Verdict for a Simple Rape Charge
Recently our law firm represented a client who had a pending charge of simple rape. Simple rape in Lafayette Parish carries a possible sentence of 25 years. There are varied definitions of simple rape, but under the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, simple rape is when a person does not consent to vaginal or anal penetration but is unable to resist or defend themselves against the perpetrator. This can be because of an “intoxicating agent” or for other reasons.
In this particular case, the victim alleged that our client had come into her bedroom and committed a sexual assault after an evening of partying and drinking. Our client denied it, and the evidence at court, while somewhat limited, centered primarily around the victim’s testimony. The victim waited several days after the incident to report the rape, so there was no rape kit. Since there was not any medical evidence or any independent witnesses to confirm her story, the victim’s testimony was the only evidence. However, she gave inconsistent statements about what had occurred and why there was a delay in reporting the rape to the police. During the cross examination by Thomas V. Alonzo, the victim admitted to the inconsistencies and also admitted that she was sober at the time of the event, whereas before she had indicated to the police that she was drunk.
The Lafayette parish jury came back with a unanimous verdict of not guilty. Our client was set free and all charges were dismissed. The jury had the option to find our client not guilty of simple rape but guilty of the lesser charge of sexual battery, but did not do so. In Louisiana, sexual battery is non-consensual sexual touching, and carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years, but can be 25-99 years in special circumstances. We believe the jury came back with the not guilty verdict because the woman was not considered incapacitated once she admitted she had not been drunk and because of her inconsistent statements. In this instance, proper cross examination was critical.
The penalties for conviction of a sex crime are high – in addition to possible prison time, there is also the inconvenience and social stigma of having to register as a sexual offender and be monitored electronically. A person who is accused of a sexual crime, particularly rape, needs a good criminal defense attorney with extensive trial experience and also experience specifically dealing with sex crimes to defend them. The stakes are high. If you are facing a felony charge, particularly one related to a possible “sex crime”, do not hesitate to call our law office. We have tried many of these type of cases and understand the important issues associated with a jury trial.