Pretrial Preparation of Sexual Assault of a Child Cases

We received a call the other day from a potential client. Her son was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. The woman spoke at length about the child’s credibility problems and the possible motivations that child might have to make false accusations against her son. Her son faced life in prison if convicted. Nevertheless, from the things I was hearing, it sound like her son could have a strong defense at trial.

Then the woman dropped the bombshell. The case was set for trial the following week.

I asked the woman how that could be. She explained that her son had been indicted two years ago and they hired a lawyer at that time for a nominal fee. The lawyer kept “passing” the case over the two-year period until the judge finally said “no more!” I asked the woman about the witnesses the lawyer had spoken to, only to find out that he had not done any investigation during the two-year period.

There are a couple of lesson’s to be learned from the plight of this woman’s son.

The first lesson is that “out of sight, out of mind” does not apply when you are charged with a criminal offense. If you are released from jail pending trial, it can be human nature to want to forget the fact that there are serious criminal charges pending against you. You may not want to talk to your lawyer only to be reminded that you are facing a lengthy incarceration if you are convicted. You may subscribe to the adage that “no news is good news.” However, by doing this, you are doing yourself a great disservice and severely jeopardizing your future. During the weeks, months or years prior to trial, you need to be working closely with your lawyer to make sure your lawyer has all the information necessary to defend you and in order to make sure your lawyer is doing a full investigation and talking to as many witnesses as possible.

The second lesson is that defending an aggravated sexual assault of a child case requires exhaustive pretrial preparation. First, any statements made by the child need to be reviewed several times looking for inconsistencies. In most cases, we will also recommend hiring an expert psychologist to also review the child’s statements and any recordings of interviews with the child. Second, in many cases, we will arrange for our client to take a polygraph exam to present to the DA and/or a grand jury to convince them not to pursue charges. Third, an extensive investigation of the child needs to be undertaken and any witnesses that are familiar with the child’s credibility need to be interviewed. Fourth, an extensive investigation needs to be done into any events that might have lead to the child making false allegations. For example, CPS files need to be obtained and reviewed and any files related to divorce or child custody disputes need to be reviewed. Fifth, any person who the child talked to about the alleged offense needs to be interviewed. Sixth, any persons who could undermine the child’s version of events need to be interviewed to show that they could not have happened the way the child claimed they happened.

The bottom line is that it can take several months to properly prepare a defense when a client is charged with sexually assaulting a child. Such preparation is often the difference between not being charged at all or a “not guilty” verdict at trial versus being convicted and receiving a significant prison sentence. If all your lawyer is doing is “passing” your case, you could be in for a very rude awakening. You owe it to yourself to make sure that your lawyer is fully preparing your case and, if not, don’t wait until a week before trial to hire another lawyer.

To learn more about theses cases, contact Broden & Mickelsen, LLP.

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.