Wrongful Convictions for Rape in New Jersey
Rape is a heinous crime that leaves victims with physical and emotional scars that are often permanent. Justice is served when those convicted of rape serve stiff sentences followed by a lifetime of being a registered sex offender. Changes in rape laws over the past four decades have been driven by outcries for victims to be treated with respect, to have their dignity protected, and to not suffer further humiliation and degradation on a witness stand. Though these positive changes have protected the victim, there are concerns that they may in fact lead to wrongful convictions for the accused.
Many people that are wrongly convicted of the crime of rape have had to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the sex between them and the alleged victim was consensual. These changes have led to an increase in false accusations, which not only hurt the accused, but also diminish the credibility of future rape victims. What was intended to be an improvement to how rape cases were handled has now become a hindrance to justice for the victim and the right to a fair trial for the accused.
A law review from Akron University outlines how the changes in rape laws have impacted the due process. Probably the most significant is the change in the definition of rape. Where rape was once defined as forcible genital penetration without consent, the definition in some states has been revised to include genital penetration in the presence of alcohol, which would render the victim unable to give consent. The statue of limitations for rape cases in the majority of states has been abolished, allowing people to accuse someone of rape many years after the alleged incident.
Current laws in many states forbid revealing the name of the accuser and prohibit criminal defense lawyers from questioning the accuser on their prior sexual history. Moreover, any previous history of false accusations of sexual assault by the plaintiff cannot be revealed. While this change may seem fair in protecting the alleged victim’s identity and right to privacy, it is in stark contrast to laws that allow all prior sexual assault allegations, arrests, charges and convictions of the defendant to be introduced as evidence during a trial.
Probably some of the most ambiguous changes in rape laws concern the definition of consent. In the past, men accused of rape could prove consent with details of a woman’s behavior that implied consent. Now, a woman must give verbal consent or imply consent through blatant actions that indicate consent. Further adding to the burden of proof placed on the defendant, there is no longer any corroborating evidence required to convict a rapist, nor does the victim have to prove that they tried to physically resist her attacker.
As the laws pertaining rape continue to evolve, many are calling for sanctions that ensure justice for both the victim and the accused. Wrongful convictions of rape carry a lifetime sentence for those accused of the assault. To ensure that the rape victim can indeed have justice, the system must be balanced to ensure the presumption of innocence for the accused and respect for the accuser.
Camden County Criminal Lawyer Protects the Rights of Those Accused of a Criminal Offense
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in New Jersey you need to rely on an experienced criminal defense lawyer that can ensure that your rights are protected. Camden County criminal defense lawyer, Jill R. Cohen, brings 30 years of experience and extensive knowledge of New Jersey criminal law to your defense. Call us or complete our online contact form to schedule a consultation today. Conveniently located in Westmont, New Jersey, the Camden County criminal defense Law Office of Jill R. Cohen serves clients throughout southern New Jersey, including Camden City, Cherry Hill, Camden County, Gloucester County, Burlington County, and Atlantic County.