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How Does a Sex Crime Prosecutor Prove a Case?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Jan 21, 2020

This is a good question because many people have a false view of how a sex crime case will be proven or prosecuted.  I can't tell you how often people come into my office and say, well, they don't have any evidence against me, so I don't understand why I've been arrested.

I don't get it.  And I'm like, wait a minute.  Somebody must have said that you did something.  Well, that's not evidence.  Well yeah, that is evidence. There's a jury instruction that says that if you believe the testimony of one witness and that witness appears credible to you, you can find the person guilty just based on one witness's testimony.

Witness Testimony

So if someone is saying you did something inappropriate to them, causing you to be charged with a sex crime, and the prosecutors call that person as a witness. They testify under penalty of perjury as to what supposedly happened; if the jury believes them, you could be convicted of the sex crime or crimes you're charged with as long as whatever it is they say meets the elements of the crime or crimes that you're charged with.  It's as simple as that.

An example I give in my office is if I took a gun out right now and I pointed it at you. I told you to provide me with all your stuff, and you gave me all your stuff, and I say, all right, get out of my office, and then you drove down to the local police department and say, hey Hedding went crazy.

He pointed a gun at me and took all my stuff.  And in the meantime, while you were doing that, I called my secretary to tell her to take the gun and all of your stuff and throw it off the pier in Santa Monica, and she went and did that.

The police come to my office and say, hey Hedding, did you threaten these people, point a gun at them, and take all their stuff, and I look at them and say, no, I would never do anything like that.

So, does that mean a crime wasn't committed just because there's no videotape, just because there are no witnesses inside my office?  Of course, it doesn't mean a crime wasn't saved.  It is going to be my word against their word.

Reviewing Credibility of Alleged Victim

How Does a Los Angeles Sex Crime Prosecutor Prove a Case?

So, I think this makes you understand how they can prosecute some of these sex crime cases. Still, it should also give you an idea of how they can be defended because now we're going to look at the credibility of the alleged victims defended because now we're going to look at credibility of the alleged victim.

So, in my example, I might say, hey, I would never do that.  I don't know what's the matter with these people, and in fact, I'm a criminal defense attorney.  These people are in here.  They're being charged with a crime so I wouldn't believe them.

So, you see now how I've already started to attack the alleged victim's credibility.  Now the police are scratching their heads.  The prosecutors will probably be scratching their heads when they're thinking about filing the case.

Why would Hedding do something like this?  He knows what the ramifications are of pointing a gun at somebody.  So, now you start to see that even though they believe I went crazy and pointed a gun at him, they could still prosecute me. Still, of course, the defense will try to attack the credibility of these complaining witnesses, think of a motive to lie, and point out why there aren't any other witnesses?

Why is there no videotape?  Why is there no gun found?  Why aren't their valuables found in my office if I stole them?  Why would I steal someone's valuables and then get rid of them?

Corroborating Evidence

So, the same goes for proving a sex crime case.  They can use the alleged victim, but the prosecutors realize that they might lose that case if he said/she said situation.  The defendant may explain why the alleged victim is making up these allegations against them.  So, the prosecutors, realizing that already, will try to find corroborating evidence.

For example, were there any witnesses who saw what happened?  Was there a motive for the person to do this?  Another thing that they love to do when they're investigating these sex crime cases, they love to make what's called a “pre-text” phone call where they have the alleged victim call the person and say, why did you do that to me.

The police will sit there and listen to it.  They'll tape-record the conversation, and now they can start to be in a position to get potential corroboration if the defendant is stupid enough to say some things that incriminate them relating to that particular victim.

So as far as how prosecutors are dealing with these cases, they're looking for someone giving the information that sounds credible.

Also, that some sex crime offense was committed and then they're going to start looking for proof, corroboration, other evidence that supports what the alleged victim is saying because they already know that the defense is going to attack the credibility of the alleged victim, so they're going to need some other evidence. 

Sometimes they can find it; sometimes, they can't.

Prior Bad Uncharged Acts

Another significant factor in these sex crime cases and I've done a lot of them over 25 years, more and more they're using Evidence Code Section 1108 to prosecute people.  So, if other victims come forward, and the defendant hasn't even been charged in the crime, and say he did something to them, then they can use those victims to try to get him for the current offense.

That kind of evidence is tough to refute, you know, when you have three or four women, for example, coming forward, saying that a particular person committed some sex crime offense against them. It's terrible or similar to what they are charged with; that's pretty powerful evidence.

There's a lot of ways that prosecutors in Los Angeles investigate these sex crime cases, but it's going to be particular to what happened.  So, I encourage you to come and sit down with me.  We can go over your case and start to do some damage control on your behalf.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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