What You Need to Know
The sexual assault laws in Canada are far-reaching, severe and can have permanent damaging effects on you and your family. Sex crimes include a wide range of activities, from groping, stalking, voyeurism, and harassment, to more serious allegations of forced sex, exploitation, sodomy, child sexual abuse, and gang rape.
How you handle yourself and your interaction with police at the initial stages of a sexual assault investigation will affect your case down the road. The temptation to tell authorities “your side of the story” — for example, by trying to argue evidence of consent — can be difficult to resist. However, speaking to authorities may have unseen and unanticipated consequences.
Do not say anything before seeking the advice of an experienced criminal lawyer. Our legal team will provide you with full and frank advice about how to proceed, and about how to best protect yourself and your reputation moving forward through this difficult time.
The stigma and defamation of character that is associated with sexual assault convictions can be far-reaching and long-lasting. If convicted of a sexual assault or related offence you may be at risk of going to prison and will be placed on a SOIRA order, which is a National Sex Offender Information Registry. For the rest of your life you will be labelled in the system as a sex offender in the community. You may lose rights to be with your family and have restraining orders placed on your contact with them. Child Protection Services may get involved if your charges involve sex with a minor or incest.
Recent changes to the Criminal Code have also made prison sentences mandatory for several types of sexual offences — especially those that involve a minor.
A sexual assault charge can be laid with relatively little evidence. Often, charges of sexual assault are laid based solely on the allegations of a single person, without corroborating evidence or other witnesses.
How We Can Help
Our criminal lawyers are extremely qualified to handle rape cases. Here are several strategies we will employ to ensure your best possible outcome.
Taking your matter to trial means having the Crown Prosecutor attempt to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Sexual assault cases are complex and involve many variables. More often than not there will be evidentiary and legal issues at trial that will give rise to a defence.
If your case goes to trial, the charges against you can be defended in a number of ways:
- Challenging the facts: Sexual assault cases are often a credibility contest of ‘He said vs. She said’. Achieving a not guilty verdict in such a case rests heavily with your lawyer’s ability to effectively cross-examine the complainant and any independent witnesses who might seek to implicate you. Our criminal lawyers have years of courtroom experience to be effective advocates for your credibility.
- Navigating Special Evidentiary Rules: Although sexual assaults are largely credibility contests, they are not ONLY credibility contests. In recent years, amendments to the Criminal Code have made it more difficult to challenge credibility. “Rape shield” type laws and statutory limits on being able to challenge a complainant on his or her sexual history have watered down the adversarial system. A successful defence to a sexual assault allegation must navigate these waters carefully and with deftness.
- Interpreting the law in your favour: We argue the law and precedent cases in a way that is most favourable to your specific case and fact scenario. This is achieved through careful and diligent legal research and application.
- Violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Talking to the police, giving statements, and providing any kind of self-incriminatory evidence can be detrimental to the outcome of your case. When faced with the option of speaking to police or remaining silent, it's always better to remain silent. However, after the fact, our sexual assault lawyers can apply to have any initial evidence excluded by way of an application made under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We understand the typical violations to your Charter Rights. For example, police may search your car without permission or not give you the option to call a lawyer. These violations are arguable in the courts in your defence.
- Sentence: In some cases, the best course of legal action may be to reduce the damage that may be done to you. Not all cases are defensible or result in acquittals. In these circumstances you will benefit from an experienced lawyer who can help keep your sentence as lenient as possible. This could include any number of possibilities:
- Avoiding a Criminal Record: In the least serious sexual assault cases it may be possible to argue for an absolute or conditional discharge if you are convicted. This means that it may be possible to avoid having a conviction on your criminal record, despite the fact that you were found guilty.
- Avoiding jail time: Where jail is a possibility, our lawyers will paint the best picture of your personal circumstances in an effort to avoid incarceration. Often this will mean you will receive a fine or a period of probation.
- Reducing jail time: In those circumstances where jail is unavoidable, the goal will be to keep any potential jail sentence as short as possible.
Call us. We can help.
If you have been charged as a sexual offender, accused of rape, or have been caught sexually involved with a minor, it’s important to speak with a criminal lawyer immediately. Our team in Calgary will work to understand your case and build your defence strategy.