The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved prior to trial. This is true for both misdemeanor and felony sex crime cases, such as those involving sexual assault or lewd conduct. Sometimes, the State dismisses the case because the prosecutor knows that a conviction is unlikely due to a lack of evidence or a mistake by police during the arrest or investigation stage of the case. Most of the time, however, criminal cases are resolved through a process called "plea bargaining." At The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings, our San Bernardino and Riverside sex crime attorney is always prepared to take a case to trial if this proves necessary, but he can also take advantage of plea bargaining in sex crime cases and other matters if that is what is in a client's best interests.
When someone is accused of a sex crime like solicitation or date rape, there can be many negative consequences if he or she is convicted as charged. In addition to a possible lengthy prison sentence, the defendant may be fined hundreds or thousands of dollars and be made to register on the sex offender registry. Other penalties, such as community service, are also possible.
There are many other "unofficial" consequences of a criminal conviction for a sex crime. The defendant's reputation may be irreversibly tarnished, causing him or her difficulty in finding employment or being accepted socially. Finding work or housing may be difficult, and even child custody or visitation may be disrupted. A criminal conviction can also get in the way of the defendant getting a professional license to pursue a certain career in the future.
Being charged with a sex crime is just the first of many steps involved in the prosecution of a criminal offense. If an agreement is not reached prior to trial, the defendant has a constitutional right to a jury trial and to be represented by counsel at that trial. If a defendant is found not guilty by the jury, a judgment of acquittal is entered by the trial court, and the case is dismissed. Because of the double jeopardy clause, a defendant who has been acquitted cannot be retried in most cases (although there are a few exceptions). For someone who maintains that he or she is innocent, an acquittal may seem like the ideal outcome of the case.
Unfortunately, juries do not always see things in the same way that the defendant does. Many sex crime cases hinge on the testimony of the alleged victim. The defendant has a right to remain silent and to refrain from self-incrimination, so he or she often does not testify at trial. If the jury believes the victim's version of the events, even after vigorous cross-examination by the defendant's lawyer, it is possible that a guilty verdict may be entered. Physical evidence also can be subject to multiple interpretations and used by the State to suggest that what the defendant insists was a consensual act was, in fact, against the victim's will.
When a defendant is convicted as charged of rape, sexual assault, lewd conduct, or another sex offense, the judge must follow the state's sentencing laws for that crime. The advantage of a plea bargain is that the defendant may be able to plead guilty to a lesser crime - that is, a crime with a less severe sentence that involves less jail time or even just probation. The State may agree to this if there are possible weaknesses in the case against the defendant. For example, there could be an issue regarding the admissibility of certain evidence, or the victim's credibility may be questionable.
At The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings, we represent the criminally accused throughout Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. You can reach us for an appointment by calling (951) 686-3457 or contacting us online. Whatever your legal situation, Attorney Gregory H. Comings is here to help you determine the right strategy for you under your specific circumstances.