Being accused of a sex crime in the state of Oklahoma is serious, with far-reaching consequences to your personal and professional life.
But sex crimes allegations also have some extra kinds of concerns that most other cases don’t have. Here, we discuss those issues and what to do if you are accused of a sex crime.
This blog post originally comes from a conversation on our Your Best Defense blog. To listen to the original podcast, click here.
Do not talk to the police
The first, and most important, piece of advice that I have to give you, is this: Do not talk to the law enforcement.
Most times when people are charged, our natural inclination, especially if we’re innocent, is to defend ourselves.
But it is really imperative that you understand that law enforcement are not your friends. They are not asking you questions in order to clear you of these allegations. They are trained to take your words out of context, and use them against you in the future. So, the first and most important thing is, stop talking to the police.
Who can I talk to?
A lot of times, especially if we are falsely accused, we want to talk to people about it. And we go to our safe places. We talk to our counselor or our psychiatrist, some of us share this information with our preacher, or our friends in the church community. Maybe you know someone at the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS is the one who’s come to you with these kinds of allegations, and they just want to hear your side of the story.
You cannot talk to these folks. You can’t talk to your primary physician. You can’t talk to anybody. You really can’t even talk to your wife, your mother, your father, or your kids.
And this is why: in Oklahoma, these people are deemed mandatory reporters. All of these people (primary physicians, doctors at the emergency room, your spouse, your counselors, and your preacher) have a kind of fundamental confidentiality with you and work to protect our communities.
But in Oklahoma, these people are called mandatory reporters, which means if they hear that there’s an allegation, or they have a suspicion, that a child has been the victim of any kind of physical abuse or sexual abuse they are obligated under law to report you.
And their failure to do so will put them at risk of being charged criminally.
(Sometimes the law will provide a spousal exception.)
So, all of the places that we generally go to as a safe place are no longer safe when we’re being accused of a crime against children or a crime involving sex. With that said, who can you talk to?
You have to find a lawyer.
The attorney-client privilege is sacred, and we are not mandatory reporters. You can come into my office and admit that you did every single thing that they said that you did, and I cannot report that. And I will not report it. My ethical obligations as an attorney prohibit me violating that confidence.
Choosing a sex crimes attorney
So, how do you figure out who to talk to?
You don’t want to talk to just any lawyer. You want to find the lawyer that has experience in sex crimes cases. You have to find an Oklahoma City sex crimes defense lawyer. How do you know if they’re sex crimes defense lawyers?
Well, we’re not allowed to “specialize.” I can’t put on my website, or on my business card, or on a billboard, that I “specialize” in sex crimes, that I “specialize” in defending folks accused of crimes against children, or crimes involving sexual acts. Again, my ethical obligations prohibit me from doing that.
So how do you figure out whether or not the person you’re talking to is experienced and qualified to handle these kinds of allegations?
You have a duty and an obligation to yourself to interview those lawyers. The lawyer that you choose is as important to you in this matter as the doctor you would choose if you had a brain tumor.
You are quite literally putting your life in their hands. It is their honor to represent you. You should not be honored to have them represent you. That’s not how this works.
So, take advantage of your free consultation. Most lawyers offer them. I certainly do. Come in and interview me. Ask me about my experience. Ask me how many cases I’ve taken like this to trial. Ask me if I have to go to trial in these cases.
I’m going to tell you as an experienced criminal defense lawyer who does a lot of work dealing in sex crimes: these cases don’t have to go to trial. We have a lot of tools at our disposal that we can help you through this process. And each case is so fact-specific that you really have to get in and talk with me — and you have to do it sooner, rather than later.
Getting started is the hardest part
If you know you’re being accused you cannot let fear, shame, or embarrassment stop you from picking up the phone. With most of my clients charged in these things, they are falsely accused. And they report to us that picking up the phone and asking for help in this regard was one of the hardest things they ever had to do. And I understand that. It’s embarrassing. Even if we did nothing wrong, our reputation has been damaged in the community, and we are afraid that people are judging us.
What you’ll find here is that you walk into this door with no judgment.
You will not be judged. You will not be shamed. You will not be made to be in fear of what’s going to happen. You’re going to walk into this door and be welcomed by me and my staff, who are equipped and experienced in dealing with these kinds of cases.
We understand the emotional turmoil that it puts on you, and you families, and your employers, and the people in your community. This does not just affect the accused. It is a wide-reaching, damaging accusation, and you have to have people who are prepared to defend you, not just in a courtroom, but with those other people in your lives.
Sex crimes cases are different from other cases
We know how to do that because we know that these accusations are very different from any other kind of accusation:
- It’s not like you’ve been accused of DUI — a lot of people get DUIs.
- Most people know somebody who’s been through the criminal justice system on a simple possession of marijuana charge.
- Even a domestic violence charge, where someone got into a scuffle at home.
These cases are very, very different. And you have to go somewhere where they understand the nuances of what’s going on in sex crimes litigation.
Every district attorney’s office has lawyers that are skilled and trained to prosecute sex crimes, specifically.
In Oklahoma County they have an entire division of their district attorney’s office dedicated to what they call the Special Victims Unit. We know that society looks at these cases differently (especially thanks to shows like Law & Order).
And it’s true — these cases are different from other cases. That’s why you have to interview the lawyers to find out in a position to trust them to take your life and your family’s life future in their hands.
Next step: honesty
Once you find that criminal defense lawyer, and you’ve hired them, the most important advice I can give to you is that you must be brutally honest.
Many times we want to defend ourselves, or withhold information because we think it makes us look bad. We don’t want to acknowledge our own wrongdoings.But it’s important when you sit down with me, and I ask you, “What happened?” that your honesty is unmatched to anywhere else you’ve ever been.
And I know that kind of goes against most of what we’ve learned. Most of the time defense lawyers tell you to shut your mouth. “We don’t want to hear the details. The details will make it harder for us to defend you.”
In sex crimes cases, the devil is in the details. The only way you will be freed from these allegations, and not have the stigma riding with you for the rest of your life, is if you are brutally honest with me.
It’s important because it’s the only way I have to defend you. If we start building a defense based upon on a lack of truthfulness, or not having the whole story, that can really blow up in our face quicker in a sex crimes case than anywhere else.
Remembering that the confidentiality that you have with an attorney is sacred. We’ve engaged in an oath to the Oklahoma Bar Association that says if we violate that confidentiality, they can take away my license to practice law.
I will not ever violate that privilege. Any information that is shared within this office can only be repeated with your permission.
So, you will be instrumental in building your own defense. Therefore, we have to start out this process open, and honest, and with a free-line of communication. It’s the only way that we can really help you.
Holding back from me is only going to hurt you in the future.
So, the first thing you have to know is stop talking. Do not engage in any interview with anyone that is asking you questions that sound like you’re being investigated.
You ask whoever’s asking you, “Am I a suspect? Am I free to leave?” And if the answer is, “You’re free to leave,” then you kindly thank them for their time, and you exit the room.
Many people believe that only guilty people ask to talk to a lawyer. This is what the cops want you to believe because they don’t want you to ask for a lawyer.
The first thing I will do as your attorney is stop the interrogation. No further questions of my client. And if you’re not under arrest, we’re leaving – you’re walking out with me.
If and when we decide it is in your best interest to engage in an interview with law enforcement, or DHS, or anyone else, we will record that interview ourselves so that we cannot ever be faced with your words being taken out of context or being presented to a jury of your peers, twisted and misunderstood.
You have to give us the opportunity to make the decision to engage with law enforcement together. It is a strategic decision, and it must be made with the advice of counsel.
These cases are different than any other cases because law enforcement and those involved in the investigatory process are trained to believe the accuser.
The accuser will be forced to tell their story over and over and over again, but not once will they ever be challenged until they’re sitting in a courtroom being cross-examined. Law enforcement won’t start picking apart the accuser’s stories, but they will do that to you. They are trained to believe the accuser at all costs.
And if they start their investigation believing that you are guilty, then nothing you say can get you out of that presumption.
You have to leave it to the professionals to do that for you.
Contact Jacqui Ford Law Firm
I cannot stress enough how important it is that you exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent until you’ve engaged with a qualified Oklahoma City sex crimes defense lawyer.
That is the only way you can protect yourself, and the best way to have a chance of ever walking away from this situation a free person. Contact Jacqui Ford Law Firm today to see how we can help.