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Evidence in Sexual Assault Cases

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Sexual assault is a serious crime in Washington. If you are facing sexual assault charges, the police will arrest you, you will have to enter a number of meetings and arraignments, and you will likely have to attend a criminal trial.

To defend yourself against these charges, you need to know the burden of proof for a sexual assault conviction, and you need to know the evidence the alleged victim may provide. With this knowledge, you and your attorney can develop a strong defense.

What Does the Law Define as Rape?

Sexual assault is a broad term that refers to a number of sex crimes, including rape. Under Washington law, rape involves forcible sexual intercourse that occurs without consent. The force that the perpetrator uses can be physical and emotional, such as threats, pressure, coercion, intimidation, and physical force.

There are three types of rape charges in Washington state.

  • First-degree rape: forcible, nonconsensual sexual intercourse that involves the use or threat of a weapon, kidnapping, breaking and entering, or inflicting serious physical injury
  • Second-degree rape: forcible intercourse that involves forcible compulsion, or where the victim cannot consent due to developmental disability, mental incapacity, or physical helplessness
  • Third-degree rape: forcible intercourse where the victim expressed lack of consent through words or conduct, or where the perpetrator threatened to harm the victim’s property

Evidence That Can Be Used in a Rape Case

In Washington sexual assault cases, you do not have to prove anything and the prosecution carries the burden of proof. The prosecutor will need to present evidence that proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed sexual assault as defined in Washington law.

Common evidence in sexual assault cases include the following.

  • Police reports and forensic sexual assault medical exam results
  • DNA evidence, such as swabs collected during a forensic medical exam or any evidence present at the scene of the assault
  • Trace evidence, such as clothing fibers, paint chips, pieces of soil, or hair
  • Toxicology reports showing the presence of date rape drugs
  • Impression and pattern evidence, such as fingerprints, footprints, handwriting, and tire marks

What to Do If You’re Accused of Rape

Sexual assault allegations can feel overwhelming. If someone accuses you of rape or law enforcement officers arrest you on these charges, take the following steps to protect your rights.

  • Contact a sexual assault defense attorney as soon as possible.
  • Gather all physical evidence, documents, or records that relate to the case.
  • Create a list of potential witnesses that could testify on your behalf.
  • Do not contact the alleged victim, and do not speak to any law enforcement officers without your lawyer present.
  • Do not provide any evidence or agree to any non-mandatory testing without speaking to your attorney.

If you receive a sexual assault conviction, you can face fines up to $50,000 and up to life in prison, depending on the severity of the crime. Sexual assault charges can impact several other areas of your life, including your ability to find employment or a place to live. You have the right to protect yourself and your future from these charges, and speaking to a lawyer can help.

Hiring a criminal defense attorney is an important investment in your future. Your attorney will understand Washington sexual assault law and will likely have represented several people facing these charges, using this experience to help you achieve the best possible outcome. Contact your lawyer as soon as you can after your arrest to discuss your case.

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