The stage during which a person is considered to be a person of interest in a criminal case, including a sex offense, is called the Pre-charge or investigation stage. During this period, formal charges have not been filed because the police are still trying to gather enough evidence to establish probable cause that the person committed the offense. People are also considered to be in the pre-charge stage when they have been arrested for the offenses, but formal charges have not been filed. These people may be released from jail without charges. However, the charges may be filed at a later date when the police have gathered enough evidence to bring formal charges.
If you are currently in the pre-charge stage for a sex offense, it is extremely recommended that you speak with a sex crimes attorney immediately. With a lawyer’s help, it may be possible for you to avoid being charged so that you can move forward with your life.
Watch this video from David Cantor explaining about the Pre-charge Investigation Stage:
Understanding the Pre-charge Stage of a Sex Crimes Investigation
Someone may be suspected of committing a sex offense when an accusation is made by another person or child. The police may subsequently arrest the accused person to question him or her. If the police do not have enough evidence that the offense occurred to bring charges, the person may then be released from jail. However, being released or having initial charges dismissed does not mean that the person is in the clear.
The police will likely continue their investigation into the alleged offense to try to find other evidence that the person committed the offense. If they secure enough evidence, the person may be charged with the sex offense at a later date. If you are in the investigation stage of an alleged sex offense, it can wreak havoc on your life. Even though you have not been convicted, your arrest may be documented and recorded. The story of your arrest can appear in the newspaper or on one of the publicly available news reporting sites online. Arrests for sex crimes often make the news. This can mean that you will face public backlash and problems with your relationships. You will also be stuck in the investigation stage after your arrest until you are ultimately charged with the sex offense. If you have been arrested on suspicion of committing a sex offense and have been released without formal charges, you should talk to an experienced sex crimes lawyer.
The early stages of a criminal investigation into an alleged sex offense can be vital to the outcome of the case. A small error in judgment while you are being investigated for sex crimes allegations can result in a bad outcome for you. This can also be true in situations in which you have a poor understanding of your rights, submit to an interrogation, and fail to ask for an attorney at the right time.
When you have a good sex crimes lawyer representing you, he or she will understand your rights and how the criminal justice system works. Your attorney should know how to gather strong evidence of your innocence and how to establish communication with the officer who is in charge of the investigation of you along with the prosecutor’s office. Your attorney should also advise you about the applicable laws and offer you guidance about how your defense should be prepared during the investigation phase of your criminal case.
Police Raids Related to Sex Crimes
Police sometimes use raids to round up people who are suspected of committing sex offenses. Undercover officers may pose as minors online to try to get people to engage in luring of a minor for sexual exploitation and other offenses. Undercover officers might participate in chat rooms or place ads on online sites to try to get people to make plans to meet minors for sex acts. When the people show up to the planned location, they will then be arrested for luring.
When people do not show up, the police may seek a warrant to search their homes and computers. Police officers similarly seek warrants when they believe that an IP address shows that someone has exchanged or downloaded child pornography. The police might then conduct a raid. These raids by law enforcement officers frequently occur very early in the morning or late at night. The officers plan these raids at these times to have an element of surprise. They want to surprise the suspects so that they will not have time to hide or destroy evidence. Raids are also planned late at night or early in the morning to ensure that the suspects are home instead of somewhere else.
In Arizona, police normally request and secure no-knock warrants to conduct police raids. These warrants are issued by judges and allow police officers to enter homes without prior notice such as ringing a doorbell or knocking. The police might identify themselves just before when they use force to enter the homes. Judges issue no-knock warrants when police officers state in their affidavits that they believe the evidence that they think that they will find could be destroyed between the time that the officers identify themselves and when they can secure the homes. They are also issued when the police assert that there is a real threat to the safety of the officers when they try to execute a warrant.
The execution of a no-knock warrant when you are suspected of committing a sex offense can mean that the police can arrive with a SWAT team to break in your door. They can then search the areas that are listed in the search warrant and seize certain types of property such as computers, smartphones, hard drives, photographs, and others. You might also be arrested during the raid of your home and taken into custody for questioning.
How Long can the Police Keep You in Custody for Questioning?
Police officers are not allowed to hold people without formal charges indefinitely. Arizona has a 48-hour limit following an arrest. To hold people beyond that amount of time, formal charges must be filed against them.
During the time after you are placed under arrest, the police will likely try to interrogate you. Before you can be questioned about the offense that is alleged against you, the police are required to read you your Miranda rights. Reading you your rights is meant to tell you about the rights that you have, including the right to remain silent and to have an attorney represent you. You need to assert your rights. The fact that you exercise your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney cannot be used against you in your criminal case. The police are supposed to immediately end their questioning of you when you assert your rights. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can talk your way out of being charged. This is when many people make critical errors in their cases. Instead, clearly tell the officers that you are choosing to remain silent and that you want an attorney.
If the police are unable to gather enough evidence against you during the 48 hours, you must be released from police custody. Unless the police can uncover additional evidence to help the prosecution prove the state’s case against you beyond a reasonable doubt, you will not face additional prosecution for the offense. You will still have an arrest record. Your picture will have been taken by the police, and members of the public might see it.
The reason for the police having a time limit after your arrest is to force both them and the prosecuting attorney to decide whether or not they have sufficient evidence to bring formal charges of a sex crime. If the limits did not exist, you could be held indefinitely. The hold limits are good because they protect people who have been arrested against unnecessary delays. If you exercise your right to remain silent, the police cannot arbitrarily decide to extend the hold limit. You must be formally charged within that 48-hour limit. After you have been arrested, you should assert your rights and ask to speak to a criminal defense lawyer. Your defense lawyer will be able to meet with you and to advise you about your rights so that you can avoid making mistakes.
Illegal Search and Seizure Issues
In Arizona, police often apply for search warrants so that they can search computers, homes, businesses, cell phones, and other things to investigate sex crimes allegations and other criminal offenses. Before the police can be granted search warrants, they must first write affidavits and submit them to a magistrate or judge. The affidavits must demonstrate that the police have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed to secure permission for a court-ordered search. If an affidavit does not show probable cause, the warrant should not be granted.
The requirement for probable cause comes from the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 4th Amendment explicitly grants the rights of people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. It also states that warrants cannot be issued without probable cause that is supported by affirmation or oath. Finally, the affidavit and resulting warrant must specifically describe the location that will be searched and the items and people that will be seized.
Searches and warrants are generally presumed to be valid. However, there are some ways to seek the suppression of evidence that police seized under a warrant. An attorney might attack a warrant if the search that the police conducted exceeded the scope of the search that was authorized by the magistrate or judge. A lawyer can also attack the search if it was not conducted within the specified period. Under A.R.S. § 13-3918, the police must execute a search warrant within five calendar days of when it is issued.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer may also carefully review the affidavit that the police submitted to the court to obtain the warrant. If the officers included any misleading or false information in the affidavit, the defense lawyer may challenge it. In Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), the Supreme Court of the United States held that an affidavit that contains misleading or false information must be stricken. The information that remains must then be examined to determine whether or not probable cause still exists.
If the removal of the false information removes any probable cause, the warrant will be declared invalid. Any evidence that the police obtained with the false affidavit will be suppressed, which means that the prosecution will not be able to use it. This might result in the dismissal of the charges against a defendant.
Felony and Misdemeanor Sex Crimes Statutes of Limitation
If you have been released without formal charges after you were arrested on suspicion that you committed a sex offense, this does not mean that you will not be charged. The prosecution and the police can continue to look for evidence. If they secure enough evidence, they can bring charges against you later as long as they do so within the statute of limitations.
Certain sex offenses in Arizona do not have a statute of limitations, including offenses found in chapters 14 and 35.1 of Title 13 that involve children who are under the age of 15 and violent sexual assaults. For these offenses, the prosecutor could bring charges against you again years later. For other felony sex offenses, the prosecutor must bring charges against you within seven years under A.R.S. § 13-107. For a misdemeanor sex offense, the prosecutor must bring formal charges against you within one year.
If you have been arrested and released for any sex offense allegation, you should talk to an experienced sex crimes lawyer even if you are innocent. You have the right to talk to an attorney so that you can prove that you are innocent. Your lawyer can investigate your case and look for evidence that can be documented and saved in case you are eventually charged with a sex crime based on the allegations that were made against you. Contact DM Cantor to schedule a free consultation by calling us at (602) 307-0808.
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