Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

What Steps Should You Take If You Are Charged With A Sex Crime?


Step 1: No one should ever try and talk their way out of an arrest. “I would like to speak to an attorney” completely cuts off the questioning. Sometimes people would want to say, “I’d like to remain silent”. That means that law enforcement or someone else within the judicial system can ask those questions every four hours. But, if someone says “I’d like to speak to an attorney”, and invokes their sixth amendment right to counsel; that harassment stops immediately. Never try to talk your way out of an arrest.

Step 2: hire the best criminal defense attorney you can find. If you or someone you love is arrested, it can mean the difference between getting a bond and not getting out of jail. A skilled legal team will also get you a lower bond than one the judge would normally set. Limit your search strictly to Florida Bar certified criminal law specialist. The only exception is a lawyer supervised by a criminal law specialist – more on this later. The best defense attorneys are Board Certified by the Florida Bar. Sexual offense cases are extremely specialized. In this time of great need for top legal service, sorting through over 100,000 lawyers and figuring out who is a specialist on your own isn’t realistic and you do not want an uncertified and unsupervised lawyer handling such a serious legal matter. If you stick with just the criminal law specialists, you still have over 300 criminal law experts to choose from. Pay no attention to lawyer social media ratings – the Florida Bar has been rating lawyers as actual specialists since 1982, and they are the official source. I have an AVVO 10.0 Superb rating. It means absolutely nothing.

Make sure to ask if the defense lawyer has actual trial experience in sex offense cases. Most have “handled” sex offense cases, few have tried them in front of a jury. Most of those that have, failed to use modern litigation methods the best criminal defense attorneys use. For example, in death penalty litigation, there is a rule that you must have a certain amount of continuing legal education, years of practice, experience, experience handling death cases; a number of different things. One of the requirements is that two lawyers must be on the case; the days of a single lawyer handling a death penalty case are all gone.

Sex offense cases are actually more technical major felonies than most murder cases I’ve handled. Evidence admission and exclusion often mean the difference between winning and losing a trial, as well as the most favorable plea bargain possible.

Most uncertified criminal defense attorneys do not have litigation team experience. In fact, many will tell this is not necessary and only adds to the expense of defending yourself. What they won’t tell you is that they every penny of the highest legal fee they can quote and keep it all. In contrast, I recommend a two lawyer minimum, litigation strike team every single time and divide the fee with a handpicked colleague. Experience is a powerful teacher, so here is why.

Stephen G. Cobb, Esq.

Get your questions answered - call me for your free, 20 min phone consultation (850) 466-1522

When I first started death penalty litigation, there were no rules requiring a certain amount of experience before you could handle a case that serious. Fortunately, none of my clients as an Assistant Public Defender were ever sentenced to death. I would love to tell you that is because of my brilliance but the truth is I was lucky and so were they. Ineffective assistance of counsel claims due to negligent performance at trial and sentencing reached epidemic proportions. Innocent people have almost been executed across the country. As a result, litigation teams of no less than two lawyers and preferably three, are required by Florida law. This rule should be extended to major felonies such as sexual battery, lewd or lascivious molestation, acts or batter and several other charges too numerous to detail. I advocate that the Bar require teams in other major felonies such as most sex offenses for one simple reason; they work better. The State Attorney’s Office has used them for decades. OJ and Michael Jackson had very large defense teams. They also won their cases.

Now that you have a proper legal team in place, this next part is critical: do everything that your lawyer recommends. When people retain me, they are expected to go to work and provide information. I require a fully detailed Fact Pattern Report in writing, whether someone is in jail or out on bond. I also expect a follow up Discovery Review Report when the Discovery Exhibit has been received from the State. Most law firms don’t use them because frequent office visits are a marketing strategy to cross-sell and up-sell clients and their families. Other lawyers and law firms can do as they please. I know this works better because I have researched this method very carefully.

One of the most important things I ever recommend, is that people download a list of books, audio programs, and YouTube video recommendations as well as a free EBook we provide and immediately begin a stress control protocol throughout the entire case. We call our protocol, Coping with Stress During Criminal Prosecution. This is obviously more difficult for people with first degree felony sex offense charges who are not able to make bond, but it can be used by friends and family members who are emotionally devastated by the arrest and prosecution. We have used it for many years, it has been revised several times, and it does help. Don’t be like the guy who lost his cool for just an instant trying to enter a plea of no contest: four years of probation and no jail time was turned into 35 years in prison.

What Are The Ramifications Of Public Knowledge About Sex Crime Arrest Or Charges?

The right to a public trials is pretty well-known, although most people charged with a sex offense would rather have them in private. The press will always pick up on a major case and sometimes they will pick up on a less serious charge like indecent exposure. It is very rare that the defense needs to counter pre-trial publicity; however that is precisely what was done in the Duke Lacrosse case. As many people know that case resulted in a dismissal and the prosecutor was ultimately disbarred. But, in terms of keeping this type of stuff out of the media, that is not a realistic expectation. Instead what should be done is media profile planning and it is part of what we do. What is media profile planning?

We have to make a decision early on how to handle not only traditional media, but people’s snarky comments on Facebook and other things. We recommend that people change their Facebook settings and other social media settings so that people cannot make the derogatory comments on their Facebook walls or other social media locations. In cases where computer porn is charged, people may need to have a trusted friend or family member do this for them if their bond conditions prohibit computer access. Generally speaking, a major sex offense allegation is going to be publicized at the top of your news feed online, but when someone is acquitted or charges are dismissed, you have to search for it.

How Often Do Alleged Sex Crime Victims Retract Their Allegations?

This is where people get over confident. Sometimes they will hear through the grapevine that the accuser decided they do not want to press charges and you hear this in domestic violence cases routinely. People will say, I am not worried because so and so is going to drop charges or I have heard from a friend of a friend that so and so is going to drop the charges. Unfortunately, that cannot happen at all. Only the State of Florida can formally charge someone. This is done at arraignment. In some counties, such as Okaloosa for example, it is called plea day. That is technically inaccurate, but it is an arraignment proceeding – formal charging. Only the State of Florida can dismiss charges voluntarily or drop charges as folks like to refer to it.

Technically, that is either a nolle pros meaning a no prosecution or a nolle prosequi. Either way, only the State of Florida can do one of these types of dismissals. Given the political nature of these types of offenses, the emotions they arouse, it does not happen that often. When it does, the state will frequently want to push forward. I have actually had cases where I had to break down several witnesses in order to find out that the complaining witness did not want to prosecute at all, she was in love with her much older boyfriend still and it was her father who was pushing the case. We had to identify who was pushing the case, so then we could take corrective action. But, there is none of this automatic dropping of charges if someone recants. False accusers are supposed to be prosecuted, but they almost never are even investigated. I had a client who was falsely accused of sexual assault and during the discovery process, she repeatedly denied – under oath – that she was not interested in making money with a false allegation. I busted her on the stand, during trial, with her own Facebook private messages: she was bragging to her friends about how much money she would make off of the charges against my client. Needless to say, he was acquitted by jury verdict.

For more information on Steps To Take If Charged With Sex Offenses, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (850) 466-1522 today.

Stephen G. Cobb, Esq.

Get your questions answered - call me for your free, 20 min phone consultation (850) 466-1522

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