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Pretext Phone Calls in Sex Crime Cases

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Jul 09, 2019

Having practiced criminal defense now for twenty-five years and done many sex crime cases, I see more and more law enforcement trying to use these pretext phone calls to get evidence against those people they believe are involved in committing sex crimes.

First, you need the definition of what a pretext phone call is, and that's either the police calling somebody who they believe committed a crime or, more likely, the alleged victim calling somebody that has supposedly committed a sex crime against them.

The police will tape-record the conversation, and they will ask specific questions trying to get the person to incriminate themselves.

Usually, I see these pretext phone calls where the alleged victim goes in, talks to the police, and tells them that a particular individual committed a sex crime against them.

The police then say, okay, what we want you to call that person up.  We're going to listen and tape recording, and we have a list of questions that we want you to ask that person.  Do we have a list of statements you could make to that person?

We're going to record it, and we're going to try to get them to say something where they admit that they committed the sex crime, and then we can use that as evidence against them.  So, that's what the pretext phone call is.

For example, the types of questions or statements the police will ask the alleged victim to make are:  you did X, Y, and Z to me.  I want to know why did you do that?  What were you thinking?

Other times I see them say, hey, I feel like you did something wrong to me last night.  What happened?  Did we have sex?  Then again, they're tape recording trying to get the information.  They're challenging the person who they think is the suspect or the target with whatever they did wrong, and then they're trying to get them to admit it.

A lot of times, people respond, well, I don't know what you're talking about, and then they'll get precise you grabbed me by the back of my head; you through me down or whatever the case may be, and they're trying to get the person to acknowledge.

Often, what I see in these pretext phone calls is the person apologizing — I'm so sorry that I did that.  Can you forgive me?  This is then used to say, why would somebody apologize if they didn't do anything wrong.

Don't Make Any Admissions in a Pretext Call

The best answer in these situations is, I don't know what you're talking about.  I don't know why you would say that.  I didn't do anything wrong last night, and then obviously, you explain what happened.

It's lawful whatever it was, and now the police are going to look at the alleged victim and say, what happened here?  That person's not admitting that they did anything wrong.

So, this is what a pretext phone call is, and then you have to get into the issue of what you're going to do about the pretext phone call.  What ends up happening is if they file a criminal case against you, then your defense lawyer — I would see the pretext phone call — it's usually tape-recorded, or it's mentioned in the police report, and now we have to go over the pre-text phone call, and we have to dissect and breakdown why you said what you said — whether we can still defend the case with that pretext phone call in there.

The next thing you start to ask yourself is the value of that pretext phone call, and they can be precious.  I've had them be valuable for the defense if the person denies everything.

If the person is given our theory of the case back to the alleged victim, they would now play the pre-text phone call in the preliminary hearing at the trial and say, why were you saying this?

Why were you saying that alleged victim?  Why didn't you confront them with this is? They committed some sex-related offense against you.  So, sometimes the defense can use the pretext phone call to their advantage to put out their theory of the case, impeach and attach the alleged victim's credibility.

Developing a Defense Strategy Against a Sex Crime Case

Other times, the defendant is saying some disturbing things that incriminate them, and we have to sit there and do damage control and figure out why you said whatever you said, why you answered the question that way.

Sometimes, there's a good explanation for it.  Other times there's not, and then we now have a problem, and sometimes it operates as a confession.  That's really what the purpose of a pretext phone call is.

It's to try to get you to confess in some way or say something inconsistent with your defense so that when you try to defend yourself, you testify or the alleged victim testifies, the prosecution and case; why would the guy say this if he was innocent?

They can even confront the perpetrator with that and say, wait a minute, you admitted.  Why would you apologize if you didn't do anything wrong?  If you didn't do anything wrong, you'd say, what are you talking about?

Why wouldn't you challenge the statement that the alleged victim made to you versus apologizing or acknowledging it or remaining quiet?  Nobody innocent would do that.

Why Are Police Allowed to Make Pretext Calls?

That's really how they're using these pretext phone calls in Los Angeles against you.  Another question many people have is, is law enforcement allowed to do a pretext phone call?

The answer is yes.  I mean, you wouldn't think so because Penal Code 632 PC – Eavesdropping — it says you're not allowed to tape-record someone unless they give permission or unless there's no privacy there.

But, law enforcement has an exception.  They're allowed to tape-record somebody when they're in the pursuit of trying to investigate and get information that a crime has been committed.

So, law enforcement can do it.  Whether or not somebody could do it on their own and then try to use it against you and go to law enforcement with you, that's a different scenario, and they may be able to be blocked as a violation of Penal Code Section 632.

But if law enforcement is involved, they've decided to tape-record; they think it is an effective investigatory tool. Law enforcement is probably going to be able to do it, and you won't be able to stop them, and you will be in a position where if you do admit to something or if you do acknowledge something, you're going to have to deal with that in the criminal case.

Los Angeles Sex Crime Lawyer

So, if you've got a sex-related offense and there's a pretext phone call involved, pick up the phone.  Give me a call.  We'll talk about it, and obviously, I'm warning people who call me pre-filing and say that a pretext phone call is one thing that you better look out for.  Contact the Los Angeles sex crime attorneys at the Hedding Law Firm for help.

Someone's going to call you — the alleged victim.  They're going to challenge you.  They're going to ask you questions, and the police will be recording you, so you have to look out for that type of strategy employed by law enforcement.

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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