The criminal justice system involves various functions, from investigating a possible crime to the judicial determination of guilt or innocence. Take note that the criminal justice system has so many moving components, and it can be challenging to keep track of everything. By familiarizing yourself with a few critical aspects of the operation, you might feel more prepared by eliminating some of the unknowns.
What constitutes sexual assault or harassment in the eyes of the law is the experience of the victim or survivor, hence, the difference between sexual assault vs sexual battery.
It doesn’t make a difference whether the person who assaulted or harassed you believed it was acceptable, harmless, nonsexual, or proper (they think you enjoyed it, desired it, or were unconcerned). Sexual assault or harassment occurred when the behavior made you feel unsafe or uneasy, was unwanted, or violated your body.
What does “submit a complaint” mean?
Following the initial report to law enforcement, a survivor can decide whether or not to continue the investigation, a process called pressing charges. The state finally chooses whether or not to pursue criminal charges. Even if the survivor declines to participate, a prosecutor may pursue charges based solely on the evidence presented.
Why would the state choose to drop the case?
If law enforcement or prosecutors believe they will not establish guilt, they may decline to file charges. They may have had difficulties establishing the case due to a lack of evidence, an inability to identify the perpetrator, or other factors. It’s challenging to hear, but that’s not meant to diminish your experience.
There are alternatives to the criminal justice system that you might seek. You may file a civil suit, a civil lawsuit in which you seek monetary compensation.
If charges were filed, what’s the next step?
Numerous sexual assault cases are resolved through a plea bargain. A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecution and the defendant’s representative in which the defendant agrees to admit guilt to a crime in exchange for a reduced punishment. In this scenario, the survivor is not required to testify.
If the case pushes forwards to trial, it will undoubtedly be in criminal court, with the survivor testifying. Specific state and federal statutes are designed to protect the interests of survivors who testify in court. For example, a rape shield statute restricts the defense’s ability to inquire about the victim’s prior sexual history.
Additionally, the prosecution may file court petitions to prevent the victim from disclosing any additional personal information. Each jurisdiction has authored its own set of norms and instruments for trial participant protection.
Additionally, most states prohibit sexual behavior that is not characterized as penetration, oral sex, or sodomy. Sexual battery or criminal sexual contact refers to sexual conduct without the other person’s consent.
It is important to be aware of where and how to contact an attorney if you or anyone you know experienced these things.
Do not let time pass without reporting the incident to the authority; keep in mind that the sooner you report it to anyone who needs to know what happened, the better the chance is of getting the perpetrator legally penalized.