The presumption of innocence until proven guilty of criminal charges may be followed in the court room, but the damage of a sexual assault charge to the reputation and personal life of you and your loved ones can be irreparable, even if you are innocent.
Those harmful effects may be at play in the case of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, whose 17-year-old son has been released on bond after being charged by a Texas prosecutor with sexual assault. Hunter was recently placed on the team's restricted list so that he could tend to the legal matters involving his son. He has not announced when he will return to the team.
According to one source, the prosecutor contends that a group of boys at a local high school -- including Hunter's son -- invited girls to parties, gave them drugs and had sex. The charge came after a month-long investigation into the alleged sexual assault.
Hunter's son has been described as a "standout" junior wide receiver, and several college teams had been recruiting him, including Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia. It's unclear what impact this charge will have on his future, even if he is innocent.
Many commonly associate the charge of sexual assault with "rape," even though the legal definition of sexual assault in Texas typically refers to almost any unwanted sexual contact applied by intentional force. That misperception may explain, in part, why a sexual assault charge carries such a stigma. Another reason may be the harsh punishment: sexual assault typically is a 2nd degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison, depending on the circumstances and if there are any previous convictions. Many punishments also require lifetime sex offender registration.
Even if false, sexual assault allegations can permanently damage the reputation, social circle and career of you and your loved ones. That damage is even more frightening considering that a percentage of false sexual assault charges continue to be brought each year, motivated by animosity or other causes.
If you have already been charged with a sexual assault, it is important that you have an attorney on your side before you begin answering questions by law enforcement. An attorney will help you minimize the damage of a sexual assault charge and advise you on your best defense.
Source: USA Today, "Prosecutor: Torii Hunter's son assaulted girl," Robert Klemko, May 16, 2012