Recently, Bikram Choudhury dodged a criminal prosecution in Los Angeles after numerous prior yoga clients complained of sexual misconduct. Although Mr. Choudhury avoided criminal charges, he lost in a civil lawsuit related to the same complaints wherein a jury awarded the victims over 6 million dollars in punitive damages (see http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-bikram-yoga-lawsuit-20160126-story.html). The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office indicated that there was no corroborating evidence to support rape and/or similar sexual assault charges against Mr. Choudhury. When being investigated or arrested for sexual assault, rape or any other serious felony charges whether the case is filed in West Covina, Pasadena, Lancaster, Los Angeles or any other city in California, you should always consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to get the best possible result in defending against criminal charges.
1. Avoid Any Statements to the Police or Jail Calls
In many criminal prosecutions for sexual assault, the police and/or prosecutor may lack any corroborating evidence including any timely physical evidence such as a medical exam of the victim, any physical evidence of forcible sexual contact or any eyewitness evidence besides the account of the alleged victim. Often times a detective will seek out a suspect and attempt to get a statement, which may lead to a confession or assist the police in making a case against a criminal defendant. Most persons who are questioned by the police are scared and feel the need to provide an answer to a question posed by a detective. No matter how compelled you feel to answer a question, you should always refrain from speaking to the police and specifically tell the police that you are invoking your right to counsel and do not want to speak.
Unfortunately, the fairly recent United States Supreme Court case of Montejo v. Louisiana (2009) 556 U.S. 778 even allows a police officer to attempt to interrogate a person who has already been appointed counsel. In such a situation, most attorneys will tell you to not talk to anyone about the case, so if a police officer visits you after a case has been filed and you have been appointed an attorney or have appeared in court with any attorney and the police try to question you outside the presence of the attorney, always tell the police that you are invoking your right to counsel and do not want to give a statement. Under both the 5th and 6th Amendments to the United States Constitution, once you tell an officer you are invoking your right to counsel, the police cannot question you and, if they do, any statement made thereafter should be suppressed.
In addition, there are many times a prosecution has no substantial corroborating evidence but an anxious defendant who is in custody will make jail calls to friends and family, which are always recorded in California whether your case is in Los Angeles or Fresno. In many instances, a defendant will make statements on a phone call that a prosecutor will use at trial to convict a defendant that otherwise may have a winnable defense. Clearly, all such calls and conversations must be avoided.
2. Hire A Criminal Attorney As Soon As Possible to Investigate and Represent Your Interests
In my over 20 years of practicing criminal law, I have represented numerous persons charged in serious crimes, including sexual assault. In many cases, persons don’t attempt to retain an attorney until after they have spoken to the police or after one or two court appearances have already occurred in the case. It is always best to hire a lawyer as soon as possible to protect your interests. No matter how much knowledge you think you have about a criminal case, the prosecutor and police will have more knowledge and will do anything they can to obtain a conviction. When hiring a lawyer, you will have a skilled criminal attorney who can investigate all facts possible which can support a not guilty verdict by a jury. Every fact investigated can potentially be used to show reasonable doubt, which in the end may lead to the reduction or dismissal of your charges whether the case is a felony or misdemeanor case in California.