Every alleged victim who reports a sexual offense at a Massachusetts emergency room is offered a “rape kit” examination. If you have been charged with rape, the results of the rape kit examination likely are a key piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case against you. The outcome of your case and your freedom may depend on your Boston criminal defense lawyer’s success in challenging the reliability of the rape kit evidence.
What is a “rape kit”
A “rape kit” is a procedure followed by a certified nurse or a physician in the emergency room of a hospital when a woman reports a rape or sexual assault. The rape kit generally includes paperwork to be completed by the nurse or physician; paper evidence bags used to collect the alleged victim’s clothes and belongings; swabs used to collect physical samples from the alleged victim’s body; and other evidence that might link a suspect to an alleged sexual offense. When the nurse or physician has examined the alleged victim and completed the rape kit. the hospital will send the rape kit to the State Crime Lab or local police will retrieve it.
Challenging rape kit evidence
Your lawyer has several available avenues for challenging rape kit evidence. For example, a good place to start is with the forms completed by the nurse or physician in the emergency room. The forms usually include diagrams of the alleged victim’s body used to identify any physical injuries or marks. Is there anything unusual or inconsistent here? The forms might also include information about what happened during the time between the alleged offense and the rape kit examination. If, for example, the alleged victim ate, drank, showered, or brushed her teeth before going to the hospital, these acts could discredit the results of the rape kit.
Another possible angle of attack is to challenge the objectivity of the nurse or physician who performed the rape kit. The nurse or physician must act neutrally when completing the rape kit; she is not an arm of law enforcement, acting on behalf of the police, and should not presume that a sexual offense has occurred. Your BCD will look for evicence that the the nurse or physician guided the alleged victim in answering questions or exaggerated the alleged victim’s answers. These examples of bias can be used to undermine the prosecution’s case. Moreover, because a rape kit examination is performed on every person who reports a sexual offense at an emergency room, the prosecutor should not be allowed to suggest that the nurse or physician performed a rape kit exam because he believed the alleged victim’s version of events.
Contact the Mahoney Criminal Defense Group
If you have been charged with a sex crime, and you would like to speak with an experienced Boston criminal defense lawyer about your case, please contact us using our online contact form or by calling us at 617-492-0055.