Defense Strategies in Virginia Sex Crime Cases
The following is excerpted from an interview with Virginia sex crimes lawyer Thomas Soldan.
What are Some Defense Strategies in Sex Offense Cases?
Thomas Soldan: It is a sensitive topic because as an attorney defending these matters you have to have the ability to put together the best advocacy for your client and protect your client’s rights, but you also have to be sensitive enough to know that attacking the alleged victim of the offense might not be the best strategy. There are all different strategies in these types of offenses, and an attorney has to be sensitive to every type of strategy, as well a sensitive to the confidentiality that may be at play in these types of sex crimes. Someone’s identity may be compromised. They may not want this to be in the public eye, and for an attorney doing your job often involves keeping the lowest profile possible.
How Can a Virginia Sex Crime Lawyer Can Help Protect Clients’ Privacy?
Thomas Soldan: The thing that someone has to consider if they are being charged with a sex crime is that the attorney is the person to whom they can tell everything. There’s an attorney-client privilege and a duty of confidentiality. An attorney is not going to tell everyone what the client just told them; we are ethically barred from doing that. A person who is charged with a sex crime can confide in their attorney. If someone can’t tell their story to other people because of embarrassment, they can gain some guidance and counsel. An experienced criminal defense attorney has probably heard most of it before and has helped people through almost every kind of situation. We have that experience. If it’s the person’s first time being charged, they’re probably embarrassed and scared. The attorney can provide counsel and use their experience to help the person to navigate an uncomfortable situation in a respectful, confidential manner.
What is the Interaction Between School Disciplinary Action and Criminal Proceedings?
Thomas Soldan: It depends on that specific university’s code of conduct. It very well may be that simply being charged or having allegations brought is a violation of that school’s code of conduct. The criminal justice system of the United States requires guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That may not be the burden of proof at a university level, especially with a private university. They may have their own standards that they expect their students to uphold, and they may have disciplinary proceedings that follow that. If a college student has been charged with or accused of a sex crime, it’s important that they know and understand their school’s policies and share those with counsel, so that they can figure out a plan.
How Can You Protect Yourself From Being Falsely Accused of a Sex Crime?
Thomas Soldan: People have to err on the side of caution because it’s out there, especially with social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The information is able to spread very quickly. People have to be very careful also when drugs or alcohol are involved, because they can impair somebody’s judgment; not only the males or females who may be the victims of the alleged offenses, but also the people who are alleged to have perpetrated these offenses. They can be impaired as well and their judgment may not be as clear as it should be. That’s something that people definitely need to consider. Students are being increasingly educated about these things, and hopefully parents are educating their children. Educators are also involved in educating people about this, and, as an attorney, I need to educate them as well. Just an allegation of a sex offense can be very damaging to somebody, even if it turns out not to hold merit. Being charged with something usually attracts some degree of media attention. That is something that people need to be aware of and they need to be very cautious.