This is an interesting question because it depends on the facts and circumstances of a case as far as how long it’s going to take to investigate a sex crime case in Los Angeles. Obviously, if the police see somebody commit a sex crime, that’s enough for them to just arrest the person on the spot, but that doesn’t happen that often, and there are other cases where someone is accused of a sex crime, there are witnesses and the police feel comfortable enough to bring it to the prosecutors and the prosecutors file the case. There are yet other circumstances where the prosecutors don’t even have to become involved. The police just decide, based on the evidence that they have, that they’re just going to arrest the person and they don’t need much investigation and send them into court and let the prosecutors deal with them.
But there is that segment of cases – which is really what this article is about – where there needs to be an investigation. Sometimes it’s a he said/she said situation and there’s not much evidence on the person that’s claiming something sexually-related happened to them, and therefore, some investigation needs to be done because both the police and prosecutors realize that if they don’t investigate these he said/she said cases, they’re going to lose. So, a lot of times they’ll do what is called a SART exam, where the alleged victim will be examined by a nurse. Testing will be done. They’ll see if there’s DNA, semen or any type of injuries that would be consistent with somebody who was sexually abused.
Other times, the alleged perpetrator of the crime may have a criminal background related to this type of offense. So, that will take some time to investigate. Maybe they need to go talk to witnesses and alleged victims in other cases the person might have perpetrated. That can cause an investigation to take some time. So, when you talk about how much time, it depends on what the police have to do. It’s not like you see on TV where the police are working 24/7 on a case. A lot of times, the detectives work 9 to 5 and they work four-day weeks and they have other cases. So, sometimes it takes months to investigate some of these cases.
It really just depends on what they have to do and how busy they are – what their caseload is – as far as what the time frame is for the investigation. A lot of people ask me, can they take that long? Is that right? The bottom line is they can take whatever time they need. They don’t have to file the case right away if they don’t want to. They just have to be cognizant of the statute of limitations for the particular crime or crimes they want to file.
They have to be cognizant that the defense at some point might decide to file a motion saying they took too long, and therefore, the defense cannot do their investigation. Witnesses’ memories have faded and now there’s evidence that would have been available if they would have acted swiftly that’s no longer available, and then the defense can make an argument to dismiss the case based on that.
So, those are the two considerations that they have when they’re thinking about whether or not they’re going to file a case and how much time they’re going to take to file the case. Sometimes for example, if there’s an argument that defendant says I didn’t touch that person after they talk to them, they may want to do some sort of DNA testing on the alleged victim and that can take some time. The DNA laboratories across Los Angeles County are backed-up even related to sex crime offenses. They prioritize things and take things in order and that can take some time in order to get things done.
So, as far as really getting the pulse of how long a particular sex crime investigation might take in Los Angeles County, you need to sit down with a defense attorney. When I sit down with people, we talk about pre-filing. Okay, here’s what the prosecutors are going to try to get. Here’s what we can do while we’re sitting here waiting, and the bottom line is, I will contact the prosecutors. I will contact the police – whoever is in charge of the case at that point – and try to get a feel for how long it’s going to take. Part of my job is to try to give the client peace of mind so they have a good sense of exactly where they are, how long it’s going to take, what’s likely to happen, what they can do to help and what I’m going to do to help them when it comes to a sex-related offense in Los Angeles County.
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