Sexual assault charges can have life altering consequences. The first rule when being confronted by the police is to remain silent. Try to stay calm. Under Canadian law, you are entitled to speak with a lawyer immediately on arrest or when you are detained. Police may detain a person for investigative purposes without arresting them where “there are reasonable grounds to suspect in all the circumstances that the individual is connected to a particular crime and that such a detention is necessary.” A person is detained where their liberty is deprived through “physical constraint” or where “the state assumes control over the movement of a person by demand or a direction which may have a significant legal consequence and which prevents or impedes access to counsel.”
Police officers are trained and skilled at interrogation. When confronted with accusations of sexual assault, defendants feel especially vulnerable. The reputational consequences of the allegations alone can cause them to try to explain themselves to the police. It is important to understand that anything you say to police can and will be used against you later. However, what you say to a criminal defence lawyer you hire is privileged and confidential.
If you are arrested, you are only obligated to tell the police your name, address, and date of birth. Should the police want to ask you anything beyond that, you should seek advice from a criminal defence lawyer before responding. If the police want to meet with you (either for coffee or at the police station), you should seek advice from a criminal defence lawyer before meeting with them.
Sexual assault charges are defensible. There is hope. You can protect your rights and rehabilitate your reputation, but it requires retaining an experienced criminal defence lawyer who is compassionate, realistic, knowledgeable, yet effective with the police, prosecutors, and judges. Yoav Niv Ottawa has the experience, credibility, and combination of compassion for clients and rigorous defence before the Crown that you need to defend your case and protect your liberty.
Understanding Sexual Assault Charges
Sexual assault encompasses a broad range of behaviours, all of which involve unwanted and unconsented touching in a sexual manner. The most common forms of sexual crimes are:
- Sexual assault: occurs when someone touches another person—body, genitalia, or breasts—in a sexual way without their consent.
- Sexual interference: occurs when someone touches a child under the age of 16 in a sexual way.
- Incest: occurs when someone has sexual relations with a family member, including a parent, child, sibling, or grandparent.
- Voyeurism: occurs when someone watches or records someone else in a private act without their consent, such as spying on someone in a changing room or bathroom.
- Sexual exploitation: occurs when someone takes advantage of another person’s vulnerability for a sexual purpose. This can include sexual grooming or taking advantage of someone who is immature, mentally or physically incapacitated.
A conviction on sexual assault charges has far-reaching consequences: jail or prison time as well as a lasting impact on reputation, especially if one is required to register as a sex offender.
- Sexual assault, depending on the severity of the charges and circumstances, can bring a prison sentence of up to 10 years. If the victim is under 16 years of age, or there are other aggravating factors, like threatened or actual use of force, the sentence can go even higher.
- Sexual interference and sexual exploitation might bring a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
- Incest can carry a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
- Voyeurism might result in a prison sentence of up to 5 years.
In addition to a potential prison sentence, the court can require a defendant to register as a sex offender, pay a fine, engage in community service, and attend counselling.
With such severe consequences, you must seize control of the situation by immediately retaining an experienced criminal defence lawyer like Yoav Niv. Only an experienced and savvy criminal defence lawyer has the skill you need for a strong and effective defence.
What to Do When Facing Sexual Assault Charges
As soon as you know you are the target of an investigation, or upon your arrest, you should immediately hire an experienced and reputable criminal defence lawyer who practices in Ottawa and knows all of the players. Throughout the time you are with the police, you should avoid the very human impulse to explain yourself. Be quiet. Stay quiet. You cannot effectively defend yourself during a police investigation. You need the advice and skills of a criminal defence lawyer.
Criminal defence lawyers possess a combination of skills and experience. Of course, they know the law: the substantive law of what constitutes a crime, procedural law as to how a case proceeds through the courts, and evidentiary law to make sure that only legally obtained physical evidence and firsthand testimony are entered into the record. In addition, a skilled criminal defence lawyer has a professional relationship and reputation with the prosecution so that they can negotiate, when appropriate, or stand firm and insist upon a full trial before a jury.
Only a skilled and experienced criminal defence lawyer knows how to assess evidence and witnesses to determine how a jury might react. This is not the time to delude yourself into thinking that because you watch Law & Order, you understand how the criminal justice system really works. Most importantly, you need to always remember to remain silent and only answer questions upon the advice of your lawyer.
Building a Strong Defense
Your role in helping to build a strong defence is very simple: Don’t speak to anyone about your case except the skilled and experienced Ottawa-based criminal defence lawyer that you hire. Period. You can help your lawyer gather evidence, identify witnesses, and create a counter-narrative. It is important to avoid interactions with potential witnesses to avoid the appearance of witness interfering. Finally, you attend all scheduled court appearances and meetings with your lawyer.
Your defence lawyer’s role is to develop a viable defence based on an assessment of the evidence, the credibility and reliability of witnesses, and the ways in which evidence was gathered by police. Every case is different because the facts of every case are unique. Your criminal defence lawyer will build a case based on your facts: who you are, who the complaining witness is, how the police ran the investigation, and the publicity surrounding the case, if any. Most importantly, your defence lawyer is working for you. Your relationship with your defence lawyer should be built on trust and cooperation so that your defence lawyer can always act in your best interests, whether that means negotiating the dismissal of all charges, taking a plea to a lesser charge, or taking the case to trial before a jury. The attorney-client relationship ensures confidentiality between you and your lawyer.
Analyzing and challenging the evidence
Defence counsel knows how to look at the evidence gathered by the prosecution to assess its strength and to find any inconsistencies in the proposed testimony of witnesses. The physical evidence must match witness testimony. How evidence is gathered, in part, determines whether it is admissible. Some purported forensic evidence is not really scientifically based, requiring a defence challenge. Criminal cases are sometimes won or lost during pretrial proceedings when evidence is scrutinized, and the court decides what is admissible and what might be tainted or prejudicial. In many cases, the Crown fails to satisfy the legal requirements for a conviction. The legal requirements that are most often at play in sexual assault prosecutions are: consent, intent, identity, and whether the conduct alleged ever occurred. An experienced defence lawyer knows what questions to ask a witness and what questions to avoid in order to secure the best result for their client.
Exploring potential defences
In addition to examining the quality of the evidence, a savvy criminal defence lawyer constructs a counter-narrative that introduces reasonable doubt in the prosecutor’s version of what happened. That counter-narrative is built on defences to charges of sexual assault. Possible defences, chosen because they fit the unique facts of your case, might include claims of:
- Consent: demonstrating that the complaining witness voluntarily agreed to the sexual activity
- Mistaken identity: proving that you were not the person responsible for the alleged assault
- False allegations: uncovering evidence to show that the accusations are unfounded or fabricated
- Alibi: evidence shows that you were not in the area at the time of the alleged attack.
Preparing for trial
You want to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer with trial experience so that the consequences of fully litigating the case will open opportunities for the prosecutor to negotiate. While preparing for trial, your lawyer will be exploring all avenues for ending the prosecution with your best interests in mind. While the burden is always on the Crown to secure a conviction, trial preparation often includes developing a compelling and reasonable narrative that counters the prosecution’s story. Trial preparation means preparing and examining witnesses to support your case. Trial preparation means anticipating the Crown’s evidence and testimony with effective cross-examination. All the while, the object of trial preparation is to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the judge or jurors.
Your criminal defence lawyer’s experience will help you to better understand the roles played by the Crown, the defence lawyer, and the judge, as well as the timeline for a prosecution. Managing your expectations and the stress of defending such a charge is part of an effective defence. Deciding whether you might testify at trial is another important decision that requires trial experience and a full understanding of the evidence.
Protecting Your Reputation
When confronted with a charge of sexual assault, the damage to your reputation can be shocking and isolating. Hiring an experienced criminal defence lawyer includes devising strategies to manage any publicity and impact on your reputation, your business, and your family. In the age of social media, reputation can be destroyed with just a few Tweets or postings. Maintaining privacy for you and your family is paramount to keeping everyone calm and focused during these trying times.
Battling Your Charges
Facing a charge of sexual assault can be traumatizing and daunting. Your future and your liberty may well depend on hiring a skilled and experienced criminal defence lawyer whose reputation and ability will secure the best result.
Don’t delay. If you or a family member is facing prosecution in Ottawa on sexual assault charges, contact the offices of Yoav Niv today to arrange for a free consultation. Call (613) 518-2906 or schedule a consultation on our website. If you are interested in hiring Yoav Niv, we will draw up a retainer agreement and arrange for a retainer fee. Once that is completed, we will begin your rigorous defence.