Why You May Not Get Justice in the Criminal Court System
You have survived the trauma of a sexual attack. You have chosen to report the attack, gone through a rape kit, police interview and you met with a prosecutor from the State Attorney's Office. You have done everything asked of you and you have relived the attack several times in order to seek justice and punish your attacker. However, the prosecutor has refused to file charges or has dropped them months after arresting the perpetrator.
I cannot claim to have all the answers and I can only imagine the anguish, fear and anger a survivor feels when a criminal prosecution fails. The following information is provided to give you a little insight, not to make excuses or to cast blame, but hopefully to educate you and allow you to maybe get the answers you want from the prosecutor.
Prosecutor's Biggest Fear
I believe a prosecutor's biggest fear is losing at trial. They want to win and they want to take cases to trial that they are certain they will win. If they have doubt about the evidence, they will often cut the case lose. From a victim's perspective, their story is credible and there is no doubt who has caused them pain and hurt them. From a lawyers perspective, things are rarely ever as clean cut. Bottom line, if the prosecutor believes there is a big enough issue with the evidence, they will most likely decline prosecution or drop the charges.
Take for example a recent case I was able to see from the victims perspective. The young woman was sexually assaulted at a business, by an employee. Her story had never changed no matter how many times she told it. There were also other victims. The prosecutor filed charges and a criminal prosecution began. After depositions of all victims and months of back and forth between the prosecutor and the defense attorney, the charges were dropped. Now I can never say exactly what led to this happening, only the prosecutor knows the exact reason, however I know the arguments the defense was making. No victim could 100% identify the certain employee that was arrested. The defense was able to present a similar looking employee and an alternative theory that may seem plausible to a jury. In essence, the defense presented reasonable doubt to the prosecutor and shined a light on a big hole in the case.
You have probably heard the term before and it is a real aspect of any criminal case. The state must prove a person committed the crime "beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt." Unfortunately, often times in sex cases, the evidence is based solely on the victim's story, their version of events. This scenario allows a defense attorney to focus their attack on the victim's credibility or the holes in the victim's testimony. A prosecutor is almost always going to want some other evidence to corroborate the victim's story. This can by physical evidence, like DNA, blood, fingerprints and hair. Or it could be other witnesses, videos, text messages, voicemails, social media, nearly anything to support what the victim has stated.
Ways to Help Your Case
Always tell the truth. A lie or embellishment will unravel. Save your clothes, phone, text messages, voicemails, social media posts, receipts and anything else that you think might be helpful. Do not comment on the attack on any social media platforms. If you are going to report the crime, go as soon as you are able. Reach out for help from all the wonderful agencies here in Jacksonville, you do not have to suffer alone and there are great people who can help. Understand that you do not have control over the criminal case and you are not to blame for any decision the prosecutor makes. You may also want to reach out and talk to an attorney. An attorney can help guide you through the criminal prosecution while also reviewing the case to see if there is a way to seek monetary damages against any parties in a civil lawsuit. Just because the prosecutor drops criminal charges, doesn't mean the fight is over.
If You Have Questions Regarding Your Rights as a Survivor of Rape or Violent Crime
Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.