Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

Are People Aware That They Are Being Investigated For a Sex Crime Before an Arrest?

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Most people are aware that they are being investigated for a sex crime. However, when they start thinking about what to do about it, far too many rely upon a strategy that can be described as merely hoping that things will be okay. Investigations into sex offenses can literally take several months. Sometimes the Office of the State Attorney, as well as law enforcement, are waiting for DNA evidence in a particular type of case. In other cases, they may be waiting for digital information from cell phones. Because of this, several months can take place between the time someone is first contacted by law enforcement and the time they are arrested. The smartest thing that someone can do when they are being investigated for a sex crime is to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately.

The strategy of waiting, hoping, and planning to hire a lawyer if there is an arrest is an absolute failure path. The time between when someone first becomes aware that they are being investigated for a sex offense, and the time at which they may be arrested for some type of sex crime, is a window of opportunity that will not exist if someone waits until it is too late. During the course of my career, I’ve represented several people that were in the investigation phase. For a legal fee that is often 10% or less than what they would pay if they were actually charged, we’ve been able to intervene effectively. This has resulted in a large number of people who would have been otherwise been prosecuted finding themselves with no criminal charges—because a skilled legal team swung into action, gave them the right coaching, and did the right things to ensure that a false allegation of sexual abuse doesn’t result in a false prosecution.

Should Someone Hire an Attorney Before Arrest if They Are Being Investigated For a Sex Crime?

Occasionally people have a concern that if they get an attorney right away, that they are lawyering up and that they have something to hide. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are so many different deceptive methods of investigation that are used on people. So many people who have never been in trouble with the law before tend to want to stick their head in the sand, and whether it’s because they are afraid it will make them look guilty or they want to rely on a strategy of hoping it will all go away because they didn’t do anything wrong, those are both failure paths. It doesn’t make someone look guilty to make a smart decision, and the smartest decision that someone can make if they are being investigated for a sex crime is to not just contact an attorney but to contact the best legal team that they can possibly find.

How Often do Sex Crime Cases End up Going All The Way to Trial?

Historically, criminal cases don’t go to trial very often. There are many lawyers who sit around the courthouse on miscellaneous court dates and pre-trial conferences, but they have very little trial experience. To the shock of most people, many criminal defense lawyers have absolutely no trial experience whatsoever. How can this be true? This is true simply because about 1% of all criminal cases go to trial. When it comes to sex offense cases, I think we are going to see a dramatic uptake in the number of cases actually going to jury trial. Even then, I don’t think it’s going to crack 3%. However, with all the media attention to sexual harassment, there is going to be tremendous pressure on prosecutors to double their plea offers, and not offer anything resembling a bargain when it comes to negotiating a settlement of the case.

The absence of a plea bargain means additional trials. If you have a 15 year maximum sentence, and the plea offer previously would have been five to seven years, you might see cases moving forward where the prosecution would not offer any plea bargain whatsoever. When this happens, you can find someone confronted with the fact that they can get the maximum sentence if they plea straight up to the judge. We all know that the judge is going to come under a lot of political pressure to impose the maximum sentence allowable by law. If the plea offer is basically the maximum sentence, then someone with the worst case in the history of sex offense prosecution would have no incentive whatsoever to plead no contest or guilty, and they should take their case to trial. When I take these terrible cases to trial, my philosophy is the same as it has been since I began in 1990—make sure that trial lasts as long as possible.

This is critical to understand, and I don’t really want to go into why this is important, but let’s just put it this way. A long time ago when psychology was first formed, it was understood that people move away from pain and towards pleasure. When it comes to a criminal jury trial and nothing to lose, those should be the most painful trials that everyone in the courtroom has ever experienced. When it comes to those kinds of trials, that’s exactly what we deliver. Now, in cases where we have a reasonable chance at acquittal, that’s a different strategy, but I think what we are going to see moving forward is an increase in the number of trials. Prosecutions are going to be more brutal, which necessitates defense lawyers becoming more brutal. Is this ideal? Absolutely not, but we are entering an era where the writers are talking about the presumption of innocence, and in the same sentence they are talking about the presumption of accuser credibility. I read an article about that just last week, and what jumped off the page at me was that the author had been a law clerk for a United States Supreme Court Justice.

That person should definitely know there is no such thing as a presumption of credibility of the accuser. In future cases, I’m going to be asking for a specific jury instruction that states no witness is automatically presumed to be credible, and you should follow the instructions as I have laid out before you when deciding your verdict in this trial. This is what I would ask the judge to say to the jury as a special jury instruction. The reality is when we go into a courtroom, we are picking from a panel of 60 people in order to find six jurors (you only get 12 jurors in Florida if it’s a death penalty case), which makes it easier for the state to get a conviction. What we are going to find is that there will be more trials, these trials will be longer, and the appeals process will be more intense. I am concerned about courthouse security, as a large and growing number of people start to feel as if they have nothing to lose because they cannot get a fair trial. This is a real security concern in my mind.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

For more information on Investigations For Sex Crimes In Florida, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (850) 423-0035 today.

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Stephen G. Cobb, Esq.

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