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Legal Defense Strategies When Accused Of A Sex Crime

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While it is always troubling to be accused of any type of crime, people who are accused of a sex crime face a particularly difficult set of challenges. Sex crimes often bring feelings of outrage from the public and the defendant feels embarrassed for being accused of something so terrible. However, it is possible to mount a strong defense against this type of crime. Below is an overview of legal strategies that may be used to defend someone against a sex crime in court.


Pretrial Defense

When someone is accused of committing a sex crime, the prosecution must be able to obtain an indictment from a grand jury to move forward. During this process, the prosecution must convince the grand jury that the accused committed the crime based on the evidence they have. Since most sex crime cases are based on the testimony of the victim, innocent defendants may be able to convince the grand jury they could not have committed the crime. Some evidence defense attorney’s use in the process includes:

  • Results of all polygraph tests
  • The defendant’s prior criminal history
  • Educational background
  • The reputation of the victim
  • Letters from those who support the character of the defendant

If the prosecution secures an indictment from the grand jury, the legal process moves forward and a trial date is set. It is up to the defendant’s attorney to mount a successful legal defense for his client. Some ways the attorney may accomplish this goal is by using one of the following defense strategies:


In some cases, the defendant admits to having sexual relations with the victim but was under the impression that the victim had given their consent. While this can be difficult to prove, the defense may use the victim’s past sexual history to show how they typically behave. This is especially effective if the victim has a history of making these types of accusations in the past. This defense strategy is not always successful, however. If the victim is a minor, then consent for sexual activity cannot be given and it may cast a bad light on the defendant.


This is the most common defense used in sex crime cases. A defendant may argue that he was not able to commit the crime because he has an alibi showing he was somewhere else when it occurred. The defense may also suggest the victim has mistakenly identified the defendant after a sex crime.

Diminished Mental Capacity

Diminished mental capacity is a legal defense that can be used in defense of a sex crime. The defense attorney can argue that the defendant had a disease or mental defect that affected their ability to make sound decisions. The laws regarding diminished mental capacity vary from state-to-state, but most courts are a bit more lenient with defendants who have a well-documented history of mental health issues.

Affirmative Defense

In certain instances, an affirmative defense strategy may be the best way to mount a legal defense to sex crime charges. With this type of defense, the defendant admits the sex act occurred and that he committed the act but it should not be considered a crime. Some reasons defense attorneys may use to mount an affirmative defense include:

  • The defendant and victim were legally married at the time the incident occurred
  • No threat of physical violence was used against the victim
  • The defendant was not more than 3 years older than the victim at the time of the offense

What Motivates Accusers

Most sex crimes are based on the word of the victim or accuser. For this reason, defense attorneys must delve into the background of the victim to prepare a proper defense. Some things that may motivate accusers are:


Accusing someone of a sex crime is one tool many accusers use to obtain money from a defendant. This can occur when someone accuses their boss of a sex crime or when an accuser knows a defendant has financial resources at their disposal.

Custody Battles

One parent may be accused of a sex crime against a child when parents are battling for custody in court. While these accusations are typically unfounded, it is a common tactic used to gain an advantage in child custody cases.

Lying About Consent

Accusers often lie about not giving consent to over their own embarrassment over have sexual relations with someone. In many instances, the accuser has given consent and lies to cover up the truth.

Being accused of a sex crime is an extremely stressful time, but there are ways to mount a legal defense that may be successful. If you have been accused of this type of crime, it may benefit you to consult a criminal defense attorney for advice.

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