Arrest Based on Rape Accusation
UPDATED: February 6, 2020
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.
We strive to help you make confident law decisions. Finding trusted and reliable legal advice should be easy. This doesn't influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
If an individual makes an accusation of rape, law enforcement officers may investigate the concern. This can lead to the person accused of rape being arrested. It depends on the circumstances of the situation as to whether the investigation leads to the arrest of the individual accused of rape. If you are arrested because of a rape accusation, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The definition of rape varies between states. In some states, rape is known as “sexual assault” or “sexual battery.” In many states, the definition of rape includes forced sexual contact between both people of opposite sexes as well as people of the same sex. Many states will also consider consensual sexual contact involving a child rape. This type of offense is commonly known as “statutory rape.” Rape typically carries a penalty of prison time and heavy fines. In some situations, it may require registration as a sex offender.
Often people who are in bad relationships will accuse their former partner or spouse of rape. Law enforcement officers who come to investigate rape accusations may develop probable cause to arrest one or more of the parties involved in the incident. They develop probable cause to arrest on what they see and hear before and during their visit. Law enforcement officers are more likely to develop probable cause to arrest if they observe any of the following things.
- At the scene, the alleged victim is extremely distraught. The alleged victim may be crying, hysterical, or undergoing an anxiety attack.
- There is an audio or video recording of the alleged victim sounding as if they are in great distress. This is especially true if the alleged victim called an emergency service such as 911.
- The alleged victim tells the story the same way every time they are approached. They also tell the same story to different people.
- The alleged victim’s clothing is torn.
- The alleged victim appears to have been physically attacked. An example would be noticeable bruising.
- There is physical evidence of a struggle in a location. Some examples are a bush with broken limbs and a bed with ripped sheets.
- There is a witness or witnesses present who back up the story of the alleged victim. This is especially true if the witness appears to be an uninterested party. One example of an uninterested party is a neighbor who is not a relative, friend, or acquaintance of the alleged victim.
- The alleged victim appears to be young, vulnerable, or both.
- The alleged attacker admits to attacking the alleged victim.
- If the alleged attacker gave a statement, their statement is inconsistent.
Law enforcement officers are less likely to develop probable cause to arrest the alleged attacker if they observe any of the following things.
- The alleged victim takes back their story. This can backfire if the alleged victim seems fearful of the alleged attacker.
- The alleged victim tells their story a different way every time they are approached. They also tell their story differently to different people.
- The alleged victim indicates that any part of their story or all of it might be false.
- The alleged victim is intoxicated. The degree of their intoxication is relevant as to whether they appear to be telling the truth, can distinguish fantasy and reality, and seem motivated for an unrelated emotional reason.
- The alleged victim tries to physically harm the alleged attacker in front of law enforcement officers.
- The alleged victim indicates that he or she is engaged in a heated legal battle about other matters with the alleged attacker.
- The alleged victim indicates that they called law enforcement officers to get revenge on the alleged attacker for an unrelated matter.
- There is a witness or witnesses present who back up the story of the alleged attacker. This is especially true if the witness appears to be an uninterested party.
- If the accused attacker gave a statement, their statement is consistent.
Often law enforcement officers arrest either or both the alleged attacker and victim at the scene. They want to separate them from each other and other parties, such as minor children. It is not always clear what has happened. Confusion can be heightened by the use of alcohol or other intoxicating substances. In some situations, law enforcement officers may arrest parties without having thoroughly investigated every detail.
There is a good reason for this. In order to arrest a party, all law enforcement officers need to demonstrate is the existence of probable cause. A law enforcement officer does not need to know everything. The goal of law enforcement officers is not to find out who is right or wrong. Law enforcement officers have the job of preventing harm to all parties, including themselves.
In many cases, the District Attorney will drop a rape charge if they think they cannot prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. D.A.'s sometimes use two tools to determine whether they should prosecute a rape case. These are a polygraph, or lie detector, test, and a sexual assault nurse examination (SANE). A SANE is an examination of an alleged victim's body and clothing by a specially trained nurse. In a SANE, the nurse particularly looks at the alleged victim's genitalia for evidence consistent with forcible entry, such as vaginal bruising. A SANE collects evidence such as semen and hair samples.
Generally, state and federal courts disallow the results of polygraph tests to be admissible as evidence in a criminal case. A SANE is usually always admissible as evidence in a criminal case. The exception is if the results appear to have been faulty or tampered with. If a SANE was performed in your case, insist that the evidence collected be tested for accuracy. If the evidence appears to have been tampered with, speak to your attorney about possible “chain of custody” issues. This topic concerns a misplacement of the evidence or wrongful access to it by an unauthorized party.
Rape is a serious accusation. A conviction of rape has long-term consequences. Once you are accused of rape, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney to review the facts of your case. They will let you know whether law enforcement officers were reasonable in developing probable cause to arrest you. They can also help you decide whether to give a statement to law enforcement officers or the District Attorney, which may include a polygraph examination. A District Attorney will watch your behavior while the investigation is ongoing. They will partially base their decision as to whether they will prosecute you on your actions and demeanor. It is important that you learn from your attorney not only how to understand your case, but how to behave in and out of court until your case is resolved.