If you’ve been accused of rape, most people think you only have one of two defenses. Number one: “it wasn’t me.” Or, two: “it wasn’t rape.”
Quite frankly, these defenses don’t quite work the way you think they will.
We’re here to discuss the situation of sex crime laws in Oklahoma and what some defenses can really look like in practice.
This discussion was originally featured on Your Best Defense podcast during series about defending sex crimes in Oklahoma.
Defense #1: “It Wasn’t Me”
In 2016, with the technological advances that we have, the defense of “It wasn’t me” is almost obsolete.
Law enforcement has abilities to identify the offender better now than they ever could before. It’s also very uncommon that rape allegations come from a “stranger.”
More times than you would imagine, these allegations come based upon someone that you were somehow affiliated with socially, or friends or family. Oftentimes, they are, in fact, from the people that we love the most – our children, our girlfriends, our friends, etc.
We’re not going to spend a whole of time on the defense of “it wasn’t me” for those reasons. We can use DNA tests most of the time. Those aren’t the cases that generally get litigated.
Defense #2: “I’m falsely accused”
Instead, the case we see 9 times out of 10 is, “I’m falsely accused.” And if you’re falsely accused, how do you defend yourself?
The problem with these cases is the allegation tends to be something that takes place in private. Prosecutors oftentimes preach to jurors that it’s hard for them to prove these cases because rape is a private act that happens in the dark corners of society.
But what if you’re falsely accused of rape? Although rape is oftentimes been described as one of the most underreported crimes, I’m here to tell you it is one of the most falsely reported crimes. And it’s incredibly hard to defend because we’re dealing with a “he said/she said” scenario.
Most of the time, even in false allegations, the accuser isn’t saying this happened in a room full of people with a bunch of witnesses. So, now it’s just a matter of what the accuser said versus what you can prove.
And this causes a lot of problems in defending these cases.
So how do we handle these cases?
Keeping you off the stand
First, you have a right to remain silent. You are not compelled to take the stand in your own defense. It is my belief that if we can avoid a criminal defendant mounting the stand, we should do so at all costs. There is nothing more uncomfortable than sitting in a witness chair and being subjected to cross examination, and it’s a dangerous place for a defendant to sit. If I can avoid you from having to take that stand to defend yourself, that’s going to be my goal.
Defending your innocence
In this country we have this idea that you are innocent until proven guilty.
Although, I think that is not a reality in practice. When it comes to sex crimes defenses, it’s even less of a reality. A person accused of rape, or child molestation, or anything sounding in sexual abuse starts the game way far behind the starting line. People are not generally inclined to give that person the benefit of the doubt.
Sex is very taboo in this country. It’s even more taboo in Oklahoma. We reside in the Bible Belt. So, to talk about it openly and freely in a room full of strangers is almost impossible. Lawyers struggle with talking to jurors about these things.
But you and I have to talk about it when we’re defending you if you’ve been accused of such a horrid crime. You have to understand that you do not sit there and bear the presumption of innocence. It’s very unlikely that anyone is going to be willing to help you, or let you off the hook.
Although the law doesn’t say you have to prove yourself innocent, in practice, we’re pretty much riddled with that burden. We have to present evidence to the jury that will make them disbelieve the accuser.
The Role of Your Defense Attorney
Our job as your defense attorney includes:
- Understanding your version of events
- Figuring out where the truth lies
- Discovering why this accuser would lie about you.
- Presenting that story to the jury so they can not only allow you to go home and acquit you
What is NOT Considered a Defense?
Before we get to what are some possible defenses, I want to talk just real briefly about what is not a defense to rape.
In a situation where you’re engaged in sexual activity with a minor who has not reached the age of consent, consent is not a defense. It gets rather complicated dealing with Oklahoma law – who can give consent to whom, to what, and when. But let’s just assume that the accused is 25-years-old, and he’s engaged in some sort of sexual activity with someone who he finds out later to be a minor (under the age of 18). If she is not of the lawful age to consent, consent is not a defense. Period. This is called strict liability. In Oklahoma, many of our sex crimes cases fall under this term of strict liability – which means she was either old enough, or she wasn’t.
So what does strict liability look like in practice?
- A good example of this is a man meets a woman in a bar. Remember that in Oklahoma, in order to be in a bar, she must be 21 years of age. Let’s say you witness the bartender ask for her ID, and because she looks young, you ask to see her ID yourself before you start moving the evening in a more intimate direction. But after a night together, her parents find out and call the police on you. You’re drug into law enforcement, and you’re being asked questions. And you say, “But she had an ID that said she was 21. The bartender was serving drinks. I relied upon that.” When you’re accused of rape in the state of Oklahoma, ignorance of her age is not a defense. It is a strict liability. She was either old enough to consent, or she wasn’t. And nothing you say and no set of the circumstances change that.
- Child pornography is also a strict liability claim. You either possessed it, or you didn’t. There is no gray area. If it is deemed that this is a person under the age of 18, and you’re in possession of photographs, audio, or video, or still photos, of this individual, you are in possession of child pornography. There is no defense to that. Ignorance, again, is not a defense. It can mitigate the damages. It can be used in negotiating a plea deal for you. But it is not enough to get you acquitted in front of a judge or jury.
The Truth About these Types of Cases in Oklahoma
Our job together is to discover what the truth is. Whether you know it, or not, if you’re being falsely accused, there’s a good chance your accuser has a motive. So, we have to figure out what that motive might be.
I’ve seen false allegations of rape be used to extort men. To extort women. As some sort of financial responsibility to someone in an attempt to protect themselves or possibly in an attempt to stop enabling someone so that they can stand on their feet. When people make these allegations they have no idea how fast and furious this snowball rolls down the hill, and builds and builds and builds.
And these scenarios are endless and the allegations of sexual abuse and rape are very, very fact-specific. There’s no way for me to give a “How To” defend these cases that would be applicable to every case, but I can tell you what we see a lot of times.
1. Consent gone wrong
Much like our example of the young lady having the fake ID, if she isn’t old enough, it doesn’t matter if she consented. It is a strict liability crime. Rape in the second degree falls into that category. Oftentimes, we see rape in the second degree between boyfriend and girlfriend, wherein they think that they’ve waited for her to turn the right age, but they’re just mistaken about the law. Her consent is not enough, and your ignorance of the law is not enough.
Another category of defenses is a little bit like “buyer’s remorse.” They consent to the activity, and the next day they wake up and decide this was a bad idea. Oftentimes, we see this where alcohol is involved — everybody’s had a bit too much to drink, and the next morning the accuser regrets her actions. And that could be for a number of reasons:
- Maybe the accuser doesn’t pride herself in engaging in casual sex. Although it is rather acceptable to a lot of folks, it’s really unacceptable to a number of people as well.
- Maybe the accuser was seen leaving your place, and they don’t want someone to tell their boyfriend, husband, wife, etc., what happened.
In order to protect themselves, they now have to accuse you of drugging them, or holding them against them will, and having sex with them in a manner that was not within their consent.
2. The scorned woman (or man)
Let’s say for example, in this case, that it’s your girlfriend, and you’ve decided to break-up with her because you want to date someone else. And she doesn’t let you off the hook that easily. Or maybe you were engaged in what you thought was acceptable, casual sex. If someone thinks that it’s more than what you think it is, and you reject them, they might have a desire to teach you a lesson. And we have to explore these options and see if we can find evidence to support that as a motive for their lie.
3. The unpaid prostitute
A prostitute is oftentimes working for someone, and if you engage in that kind activity and think that she’s an easy mark to walk out after her services are completed, that consent ended when you did not complete the transaction as agreed. She did not consent to have free sex. When she reports back to her pimp, or her manager, or whoever, and she hasn’t been paid, somebody’s going to have to pay. There’s a strong likelihood it’s the man who stiffed the bill.
Unfortunately, another area in which we see false allegations of sexual abuse, or sexual abuse of children, occurs during a divorce. And it’s incredibly difficult for people to imagine being in a situation where someone you once loved would conjure up a lie to cause such damage and wrongdoing that will forever riddle the accuser with horrible perceptions from the community.
Oftentimes, what we see in this scenario is where a parent coaches their child to make allegations against the parent or the other parent’s newfound love interest in a custody dispute. Because what we know for certain, is that in family law cases a judge is required to do what is in the best interest of the child. And there is not a judge in the state of Oklahoma that is going to find that it is in the best interest of the child to reside in the house with someone whom the child has accused of molestation or rape.
It is important that when we go out and engage in the very adult activity of sexual encounters, that we do so with respect in our minds. If you don’t want to find yourself in a position of being falsely accused, start out by treating your love interests with respect. At the end of the day, most people don’t want to be used. False allegations so often come from a place of hurt, so if you’re engaged in any type of sexual relationship, treat your partner with respect.
How Jacqui Ford Law Can Help
You must be brutally honest with your defense lawyer when we’re talking about these types of subjects so that we can figure out really what’s going on. It’s going to take work, it’s going to take investigation, and it’s going to take time. But the best news I have for you is that it is not hopeless.
Many people walk away from this without conviction. Many people away from this without having to register as sex offenders. But the only way that you can ensure that you have that opportunity is to make sure that you hire a qualified Oklahoma sex crimes defense lawyer. And when you do that, you can trust that you’re in the best hands, and that the hope is still alive.
Contact us today to see how we can help.