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The Role of Evidence and Testimonies in Sex Offense Cases

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The Impact of Evidence and Testimony in Sexual Offense Trials

Facing trial for a sexual offense like aggravated sexual assault is a serious matter, and you need a criminal defense law firm who isn’t afraid to take on these types of cases. When you’re discussing trial strategy with your attorney, one of the most important pieces to understand is how evidence and testimony are used by both the prosecution and the defense.

What Kinds of Evidence Are Used in Sex Offense Cases?

Cases involving alleged sexual offenses are some of the most intensely prosecuted in the state of Texas, and defendants will face the full weight of the criminal justice system. The prosecution is likely to have dozens of exhibits to enter into evidence, and these can include digital, forensic, and physical evidence.

Digital evidence often comes into play in cases involving child pornography or the distribution of intimate material. Investigators often confiscate digital devices, such as cell phones, tablets, and computers, from the defendant to analyze the data they contain. Forensic computer analysts are often able to restore even deleted and encrypted files, which can all be used as evidence at trial.

Forensic evidence is evidence gathered from the alleged victim or from the scene of the crime. Forensic technicians use scientific methods and procedures to identify, collect, preserve, and test evidence left at the scene. Many people think of DNA evidence when they think of forensic evidence, but this category also includes:

  • Trace evidence, such as hairs or fibers left behind
  • Fingerprints, palm prints, and bite marks
  • Impression evidence, such as shoe prints

The category of physical evidence sometimes overlaps with forensic evidence, but physical evidence can also include anything you can evaluate with your senses. For example, this could include video or photographic evidence placing the defendant at the scene, audio recordings, or items left behind.

The prosecution is legally required to share any evidence that relates to the possible guilt or innocence of the defendant with the defense team. This gives your attorneys the opportunity to review the evidence, try to get a sense of the prosecution’s case, and determine if it’s possible to get any of the evidence deemed inadmissible in court.

Rules of Admissibility

All evidence must meet the standards of admissibility. These can vary at the state level, but in general, evidence must be relevant and lawfully gathered. To be considered relevant, the evidence must connect to the case in a way that makes a fact of the case either more or less probable. All evidence must be obtained through legal means, such as search warrants. An officer is not able to search your home or seize your devices without a search warrant. Any evidence that is obtained without going through the proper procedures cannot be used in court.

If there are questions as to the evidence’s authenticity — such as issues with the chain of custody — the evidence may be deemed inadmissible. Evidence must also not be considered privileged. For example, there are certain expectations of privacy and confidentiality in certain relationships that someone cannot be forced to breach in court. A common example of this is attorney-client privilege, but others exist as well, including priest-penitent privilege, account-client privilege, and doctor-patient privilege.

How Does Testimony Impact the Prosecution’s Case?

Criminal cases can involve dozens of witnesses, and testimony is one of the key components of both the prosecution’s and the defense’s strategy. Those called on to testify can range from witnesses to the alleged incident, character witnesses for the defendant, expert witnesses, and the alleged victim. In general, the alleged victim’s testimony and that of expert witnesses often have the greatest impact on the case.

Victim Testimony

In many cases, the prosecution will call the alleged victim to testify. They will ask questions about what happened before, during, and after the alleged incident and ask them to explain what impact it has had on their life. While these statements can be impactful to the jury, it’s the defense’s job to show that the witness isn’t credible, has changed their version of the events over time, or is going against what has been presented as evidentiary fact.

It’s important to note that it is possible for the defendant to also testify in court, but this isn’t advisable in most cases. It can be very easy for the prosecution to ask questions that force you to either make a statement that could be incriminating or to assert your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. And neither of these is likely to have a positive effect on your case.

Expert Witnesses

Expert witnesses are professionals in their fields who are called on to provide their educated opinion on certain matters. For example, a case involving allegations of child pornography may involve a digital expert who can speak about whether it’s possible for images to have been altered or whether they were actually knowingly accessed by the defendant. It’s common for the prosecution and the defense to have their own expert witnesses on the same subject who will testify to opposite conclusions. This can be confusing for juries at times, and it often comes down to which expert witness has the strongest credentials and is the most believable.

If you are facing criminal charges related to sex crimes, our criminal defense team can help you understand what’s at stake and strenuously defend your rights in court. Call the Flanary Law Firm, PLLC, at (210) 899-7566 to schedule a meeting to discuss your case and what is likely to happen at trial.