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Common Sex Crime Defenses in Washington

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Sex crime allegations in Washington State can lead to devastating consequences, including long prison sentences, hefty fines, lifetime registration as a sex offender, and social ostracization. Facing such charges can be distressing and overwhelming—your entire future is at stake, after all.

In these circumstances, it is vital to understand the possible defenses that can be used to challenge the prosecution’s evidence. In most cases, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime—and by presenting evidence that contradicts the burden of proof, you could effectively fight against these charges.

Here are eight common defenses that you and your criminal defense attorney can leverage against sex crime charges in Washington.

#1: Insufficient Evidence

One common defense is to assert that the prosecution has insufficient evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This might involve challenging the credibility of the alleged victim or any witnesses, questioning the reliability of forensic evidence, or arguing that the prosecution’s interpretation of the evidence is flawed.

#2: Consent

In Washington, consent is defined as a freely given agreement to engage in sexual activity under RCW 9A.44.010(7). Consent can be leveraged as a defense in certain cases, such as rape or indecent liberties, when the charges are predicated on forcible compulsion. However, it’s important to note that consent is not considered a viable defense in cases involving sexual misconduct with minors, incest, child molestation, or if the act involved intentional exposure or transmission of HIV.

Once the defense can present sufficient evidence to generate reasonable doubt about the lack of consent, the burden falls on the state to prove otherwise. In situations where the charges are based on the alleged victim’s mental incapacity or physical helplessness, the defendant must demonstrate that they reasonably believed the victim was neither mentally incapacitated nor physically helpless at the time of the offense.

Washington’s rape shield law, RCW 9A.44.020. permits a defendant to present evidence of the victim’s past sexual behavior only in certain situations and following a rigorous procedure. These situations include when the perpetrator and the victim have engaged in sexual intercourse with each other in the past and the past behavior is material to the issue of consent.  However, this evidence is only admissible after a detailed court procedure to ensure its relevance and prevent undue prejudice. 

#3: Duress

Duress can be a viable defense to sex crime charges. According to RCW 9A.16.060, you can argue that you were compelled to engage in the alleged crime under duress, meaning that another individual’s threat or use of force led to a reasonable apprehension in your mind of immediate death or grievous bodily harm. This fear compelled you to participate in the act you would not have otherwise committed.

It’s essential to understand that this defense is not available if you intentionally or recklessly put yourself in a situation where duress was likely. Moreover, the law doesn’t consider simply acting on a spouse’s command as valid duress. What matters for this defense is the reasonableness of your fear of immediate harm, not whether such harm was truly immediate.

#4: Mistaken Identity

In some cases, a defense may hinge on proving a mistaken identity. This defense is often used when the identification of the perpetrator is primarily based on eyewitness testimony, which can be unreliable. DNA evidence, alibis, or other forms of proof may be used to show that you were not the one who committed the crime.

#5: Mental Incapacity or Insanity

If you were mentally incapable of understanding the nature of their actions or distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the alleged crime, you might employ a defense of mental incapacity or insanity. RCW 9A.12.010 outlines the criteria for the insanity defense in Washington.

To establish this defense, it must be demonstrated that at the time of the offense, due to mental disease or defect, your mental state was affected to such an extent that you were either unable to perceive the nature and quality of the act with which you are charged, or you were unable to distinguish right from wrong concerning the particular act charged. 

This defense must be established by a preponderance of the evidence, or that you more likely suffered from a mental disease or defect than not. You will likely need to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and have the psychiatrist testify in your case.

#6: Unlawful Search and Seizure

Evidence obtained through unlawful search and seizure is not admissible in court. If the police collected evidence without a warrant or reasonable cause, a criminal defense attorney could challenge its admissibility, which could weaken the prosecution’s case significantly.

#7: Constitutional Violations

If your rights were violated during the investigation or prosecution process, such violations could be used as a defense. These violations may include improper police conduct, coerced confessions, or violations of your right to counsel.

#8: Entrapment

Entrapment, as outlined in RCW 9A.16.070, can serve as a valid defense if you can establish that the criminal intent originated not from you but from law enforcement officials, or any person acting under their direction, and that you were lured or induced to commit a crime you had not otherwise planned to commit.

However, it’s important to note that entrapment is not merely a matter of law enforcement affording an opportunity to commit a crime. It requires clear evidence of inducement to a crime that was not part of your original intention.

Speak to a Washington Sex Crimes Attorney Today

Building a sex crime defense requires a thorough understanding of the law and a detailed examination of the charges and evidence. If you or someone you know is facing sex crime charges in Washington, it is crucial to obtain legal representation immediately.

A Washington criminal defense attorney can identify which defenses are most appropriate for your situation and implement them effectively to protect your rights and interests. He or she will have a deep understanding of the relevant laws, court procedures, and cases that could affect your defense. With this knowledge and expertise, you can build a compelling defense and fight for the best possible outcome.

Don’t let your future hang in the balance. Contact a Tacoma sex crimes attorney today to discuss your case and begin building your defense strategy.

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