How are Sex Crime Cases Investigated in Michigan?

Sex crime allegations in Michigan are taken very seriously by law enforcement. Due to the specialized nature of these cases many police departments have officers and detectives with in depth training specific to the investigation of sex crime cases. The same is true for lawyers who work with the police departs to prosecute sex crime cases. In fact, many of the larger counties have specific teams of prosecutors who exclusively handle sex crimes cases. For example, the Wayne County Prosecutor has the Sexual Assault Team, and the Oakland County Prosecutor has the Special Victim Section (SVS).

On the west side of Michigan, Kent County does not have a specially named division in the prosecutor’s office, but that office does designate a few attorneys within the office to handle most of the sex crimes cases in the county.

To combat these highly specialized sex crime teams at the various prosecuting attorney’s offices throughout the State of Michigan, the Barone Defense Firm has assembled a team of sex crimes lawyers to go head to head with the prosecutors.

Who decides to investigate a sex crime?

The decision whether to investigate a sex crime begins with the police department that receives the complaint. A sex crime case almost always starts with an alleged victim (or family member of an alleged victim) reporting a complaint to the police department in the city in which an alleged incident took place.

A police officer has a duty to take a sex crime claim very seriously. If a police officer doesn’t properly preform due diligence on a claim that turns out to be true, that officer could be fired, and it would create bad PR for the department. Therefore, every report of a sex crime made to police is investigated.

Upon receiving the complaint, the police department next assigns a detective to meet with the alleged victim and collect their statement. If the alleged victim also identified other witnesses, they would also be contacted. From there, the detective would typically reach out to the person accused for the purpose of arranging for their statement to be collected. Remember, the alleged victim is a witness. The accused is a witness. Many people who are innocent of sex crimes are eager to prove their innocence and give a statement to police to try to prove their innocence.

WARNING! DO NOT SPEAK WITH THE POLICE, TAKE A POLYGRAPH, OR TURN OVER ANY EVIDENCE, INCLUDING CELL PHONES OR COMPUTERS, WITHOUT FIRST HIRING A SEX CRIMES LAWYER!

What kind of evidence is sought in a sex crimes case?

The most common kind of evidence sought in a sex crimes case is witness statements. Witness statements are the most common kind of evidence because such statements can usually be obtained quickly and easily.

Electronic evidence, like text messages, emails, social media messages, and recordings, can also be helpful to investigators in a sex crimes case. Many times, detectives will ask the target (the alleged perpetrator or “perp” for short) if they can take their cell phone for investigation purposes.  Please know that a warrant is not required if you voluntarily give your phone (or any other electronic device) to an officer.  Consent is always an exception to the search warrant requirement, so never consent to a search!

Physical evidence is very rare in rape cases. For reasons that are much too lengthy for this article, most reports of rape are made to police after any physical evidence, like a rape kit, can be obtained.

In other types of sex crimes, like child pornography cases, physical evidence is crucial to proving a case. In investigating child porn possession and manufacturing cases, police will typically obtain a search warrant. The warrant will usually provide authority to search the target’s home and take anything that could possibly store child porn files; this includes phones, computers, tablets, thumb drives, and any other types of recording devices.

Polygraph examinations (lie detector tests) are also frequently requested by law enforcement in sex crimes investigations. As above, innocent people often fall into the trap of trying to prove their innocence by agreeing to take a polygraph exam with law enforcement. After reading this if you still think a polygraph exam is a good idea for you, please listen to this podcast featuring “Mr. Lie Detector.”  You will thereby learn that lie detector tests are nothing more than another way for the police to collect damaging evidence against you and in some cases trap you into confessing.

What happens after statements are made and evidence is obtained?

The evidence collected is carefully analyzed by the police and their experts, including digital forensic experts, who then determine what crimes they believe have been committed. Finally, the investigation culminates in a report being forwarded to the prosecutor. The report will include the detective’s report, images obtained, and, if applicable, the reports of any electronic evidence obtained. The prosecutor will then review the facts as suggested by the investigation to determine which “elements” of which crimes can be proved in court. Every crime is made up of elements, and prosecutors are merely determining if they can “check the right boxes.” All the prosecutor needs to have in order to charge you with a crime is evidence that you probably committed it. This is called “probable cause” and is one of the lowest burdens of proof in our criminal justice system.

If you are being investigated for a sex crime in Michigan, the best sex crimes attorneys at the Barone Defense Firm  can help. Knowledge of every phase of a sex crimes investigation is crucial to proving innocence and obtaining the best result. We are here for a consultation when you need us.

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