While rape is a serious offense, and a subject that shouldn’t be taken lightly, most of the rape allegations that we defend are made by accusers who engaged in consensual sex with our clients. The allegations are made for a variety of reasons. Some of these allegations are blatant lies, either to be vindictive, to cover up an affair or to fend off embarrassment. Some of these accusers, however, honestly believe that they were raped, either as a result of being intoxicated or perhaps, from their perspective, they do not believe that they consented to sexual intercourse. By contrast, in statutory rape cases, the allegations are always that the sex was consensual, but just that the alleged victim was under 16.
Rape is defined as the carnal knowledge of a woman, forcibly and against her will. The statute defines carnal knowledge as “any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.” Under Georgia law, a person is not guilty of rape if he reasonably believed that the accuser consented to the sexual intercourse. Therefore, our job is to gather every bit of evidence that exists that will prove that our client honestly believed the sex was consensual. This often includes text messages, emails, social media, pictures, videos, and statements from witnesses who either observed or spoke with the parties prior to or after the sexual encounter. It is critical that our clients not delete any communications, messages, pictures or videos that they exchanged with the accuser. If this evidence does get deleted, we can often retrieve it with the assistance of a computer forensics expert.
Georgia’s Rape Shield Statute provides some exceptions under which evidence of the alleged victim’s “past sexual history” may be admissible. According to O.C.G.A. § 24-4-412(b), if the court determines that the past sexual behavior “directly involved the participation of the accused and finds that the evidence expected to be introduced supports an inference that the accused could have reasonably believed that the complaining witness consented to the conduct complained of in the prosecution,” then the evidence may be admitted. Section (c) also permits the introduction of evidence that is “so highly material that it will substantially support a conclusion that the accused reasonably believed that the complaining witness consented to the conduct complained of” if the court finds that justice mandates the admission of such evidence. When determining the issue of consent, the Rape Shield Statute only requires a reasonable inference that the alleged victim consented to sexual relations with the accused. The courts recognize that certain behaviors or verbal exchanges between the parties can indicate consent.
Prior to trial, the defendant must file a written motion notifying the court of his intent to introduce evidence of the alleged victim’s past sexual behavior. This motion will prompt the court to conduct an in camera hearing outside the presence of the jury in order to examine the defendant’s proffered evidence.
In a recent case, we were able to introduce a video that our client took of he and the accuser engaging in oral sex. The video was taken just a few minutes prior to the sexual intercourse that was later alleged to be rape. This video became one of the most critical pieces of evidence proving that the allegations were false. (Click here for more info)
In another case, we were able to obtain video surveillance footage of our client and the accuser entering and then leaving his apartment building. On both the way up and the way down, the two of them were arm in arm. This was crucial evidence for our client since the accuser claimed that what transpired inside the apartment was a violent rape that left her with visible injuries. (Click here for more info)
Statutory Rape Cases
Under Georgia Law, statutory rape is defined as sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 years. Neither force nor lack of consent are required. Furthermore, a person may be convicted of statutory rape even though he or she had an actual and reasonable belief that the victim was above the age of 16 years, because knowledge of the victim’s age is not required by the statute.
With respect to knowledge of the victim’s age, there is a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision that seems to suggest that an affirmative defense may exist in certain situations. In Castaneira v. State, the Court noted that perhaps a defendant could raise a mistake of fact defense in a case “where an adolescent led the defendant to believe that she was an adult.” This holding departs from prior Georgia appellate cases where courts have consistently held that mistake of fact is not a defense in child sexual offense cases. Thus, this decision may lay the groundwork for a mistake of fact defense in future cases where a child lies about his or her age and the defendant reasonably relies on the misrepresentation.
In statutory rape cases, we employ the same investigation strategies and pretrial motion practice as we would in any child molestation case. To learn more, please visit our pages on Our Practice and Child Molestation Cases.