Child Abuse Investigations
There is an understandable but absolutely unfair bias of many people to believe to that the person who is charged with child sex abuse must be guilty of child sex abuse. Every year we help clients secure dismissals and not-guilty verdicts for accusations that are ultimately found to be false. We have seen children prompted by adults to make accusations against another adult to gain advantage in a divorce or child custody litigation. Children who have truly been the victims of abuse sometimes accuse a third-party so they don’t have to reveal the identity of the true perpetrator. Some children make a sex abuse accusation as a preemptive strike to avoid getting into trouble for their own misconduct. Others have made accusations to avoid contact with an undesirable step-parent or partner of a biological parent. The public never hears about these cases because (1) the exonerated defendant rarely is interested in drawing more attention to the fact that he was once accused of such a heinous crime, and (2) politicians and news outlets don’t see any value in championing the cause of people falsely accused of child abuse.
Whether the accusations are ultimately deemed to be true or false, our world offers no mercy for the person who is charged with child sex abuse. Employers and friends often immediately sever all ties to the defendant. It is politically trendy and convenient for legislators to pass new laws each year that “get tough on child abusers.” No one is introducing legislation to help protect against erroneous convictions. Many child abuse investigators are trained to not challenge the accuracy of what the child reports during his or her interviews. Unlike in civil cases, there is no right of the defendant to depose or interview the accuser prior to trial. Various laws make it very difficult to access the psychiatric records of the accuser who has a history of mental illness. Some prosecutors would rather try a questionable case and lose, than be responsible for dismissing the charges. Judges tend to hand out severe sentences to those who are found guilty of child abuse related charges. Then sex offender registry forces many people to move from their homes to comply with restrictive residency requires, or to avoid harassment from neighbors. Maryland also maintains a less-known registry of people who are even found “not guilty” of child abuse.
If you have the slightest concern that some young person may accuse you of some impropriety, it is important that you consult with an attorney who, like us, is experienced in handling these types of cases. You should cease all contact with that young person. It is important that you talk to no one about this matter except your attorney. A criminal investigation may have begun, and you don’t know it. Conversations you are having may be recorded. You should not speak to any police investigator or social worker without having your attorney present. Even good and honest detectives are trained in interview tactics that are designed to pressure suspects into giving incriminating statements. You should be extremely suspicious of any suggestions by a police officer that your cooperation may work to your advantage. If you find yourself in such a situation, please do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation at the Law Offices of Barry H. Helfand and David Martella, 301-251-9001.