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  • Coastal South Law

Common Defenses in Sexual Assault Cases

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

There are few criminal charges that impact your entire future quite the way a sexual assault charge does. Not only can such a conviction result in court-ordered penalties of a lengthy prison sentence and registering as a sex offender, but also devastating consequences to your reputation in the community and among your friends and family. A sex crime conviction may mean no longer being able to live where you choose and neighborhoods being alerted to your presence. Future employment might be severely limited.

North Carolina statutes lay out several different classifications of sexual assault offenses, and the penalties vary greatly. These range from first-degree forcible rape, a class B1 felony, to sexual battery, a class A1 misdemeanor, and everything in between. Having an attorney experienced in the defense of sexual assault cases can be the difference between a conviction and a verdict of not guilty. Several possible defense strategies exist in these types of cases.

Common Defense Strategies

  • Statute of limitations expired. Some sexual assault cases in North Carolina do not have a statute of limitations, while others do. A statute of limitations is the amount of time a prosecutor has to file charges against a defendant. For example, if the prosecutor files a misdemeanor sexual battery against a defendant 20 years after it happened, the defense may be able to get this dismissed.

  • Actual innocence. If the defendant claims to have an alibi, providing some type of proof of the alibi will be necessary. Was he at a restaurant with a group of friends? Get statements from the friends and a receipt from the restaurant. Was he traveling? Get a copy of the airline ticket. Was he home alone watching television? Get video footage from a security camera. Ask neighbors what time they saw him come home.

  • Consent. Sexual assault cases are difficult in that it is often a “he said, she said” situation. Most of the time, only the two people involved were present. Sometimes the defendant will admit that he did engage in sexual conduct with the accuser; however, the conduct was consensual at the time.

  • Mental incapacity. The defendant was insane, either temporarily or permanently, at the time of the incident. This type of defense will require bringing in an expert, such as a psychiatrist. Being guilty by reason of insanity does not mean the defendant is set free. He may be ordered to do some type of psychiatric treatment rather than going to prison.

  • No physical evidence. The crime scene contained no DNA or semen that belonged to the defendant. The accuser did not have any type of bruising or marks on her body nor did she seek medical care. No physical evidence helps to create doubt in the minds of the jurors.

  • Accuser’s statements are not reliable. There are several scenarios in which the alleged victim’s accusations may not be reliable. The accuser has a history of psychological disorders. The accuser was at a party under the influence of drugs, and there were other individuals at the party who had the means and opportunity to commit the alleged assault. The accuser has falsely implicated other defendants in the past of the same type of conduct.

  • Accuser has motivation to be dishonest. The accuser and defendant were in a relationship, but the defendant ended it, and feelings were hurt. The accuser and defendant are in a heated custody battle over their child. Does the accuser have something to gain by making false allegations against the defendant? Quite often financial gain or revenge are motivating factors.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Have you recently been charged with or arrested for a sexual assault crime in Southeastern North Carolina? At Coastal South Law, our experienced criminal defense attorneys are ready to fight for you both inside and outside of the courtroom. Having a tough negotiator and litigator on your side truly can make all the difference. Pick up the phone today and call 910-253-0411 or visit us online at

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