Many of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein have been for incidents that occurred years ago. Many of these cases can never be prosecuted because California’s criminal statute of limitations has expired. There are, however, some allegations against Weinstein for recent incidents sexual misconduct. At least one Weinstein accuser, an actress who wishes to remain anonymous, is pursuing a civil claim against Weinstein for sexual battery and assault that occurred in 2015 and 2016.
The civil statute of limitations for sexual assault in California is two years. This is significantly shorter than the criminal statute of limitations for sexual battery, which is generally ten years. Now that a Weinstein accuser has come forward with allegations of recent misconduct, he could potentially face criminal charges for his actions.
Burden of Proof in Criminal Sexual Assault Cases
Just because Weinstein is facing civil consequences for sexual battery and assault it does not automatically mean that he will be charged with a crime. This is true even if his victim is successful in court. The standard of proof in a criminal case (beyond a reasonable doubt) is much greater than the standard of proof in a civil case (preponderance of the evidence). The state of California will be required to investigate the alleged offense and acquire sufficient evidence to support criminal charges. Weinstein can only be arrested if the state is able to gather probable cause that he committed a crime.
Proving Criminal Sexual Battery
No specific details about this particular Weinstein incident have been released. However, the victim and her Los Angeles sexual assault attorney clearly feel confident that they have a case for civil sexual battery. The elements of criminal sexual battery are not much different. The main differences are that the civil offense of sexual assault does not require restraint or sexual motivation. In order to convict Weinstein of sexual battery in Los Angeles, the state will be required to prove:
- Weinstein caused intimate sexual contact to occur with the victim;
- This intimate sexual contact was done against the victim’s will; and
- The contact was done for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.
The crime of sexual battery is aggravated if the defendant restrained the victim. Intimate parts are defined as “a female’s breast or the anus, groin, sexual organ, or buttocks of anyone.”
Evidence in a Criminal Sexual Battery Case
What kind of evidence is used in criminal sexual battery cases? By their very nature, these crimes often lack a significant amount of physical evidence. Sexual battery cases often rely very heavily on the testimony of the alleged victim. This can make it difficult for the state to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The victim’s statements may be sufficient to warrant an arrest and criminal charges but may be insufficient, alone, to get a conviction. Other evidence that may be used in a criminal sexual battery case include:
- Photographs of bruising, scratches, swelling, and other injuries;
- Eye-witness testimony;
- Character testimony;
- Phone and text message records;
- Video footage;
- Police reports; and
- Expert witness testimony.
Defending Charges of Sexual Battery
If he is, in fact, charged with a crime he will be given the opportunity to defend himself. This means that he can assert any defense that helps to mitigate, excuse, or explain his alleged conduct. His Los Angeles sex crimes defense attorneys will likely determine where the prosecution’s case against Weinstein is weak, and then attack those areas.
Defenses that Weinstein may assert if he is charged with sexual battery include:
- He has been falsely accused of this crime;
- The prosecution lacks the necessary evidence to convict him;
- The alleged victim consented to the sexual acts;
- Weinstein mistakenly believed that the victim consented to the sexual conduct; and
- Weinstein never made intimate sexual contact with the victim.
If at any point during the investigation or trial, the police or prosecution violate one of Weinstein’s Constitutional rights, the evidence related to that violation can be invalidated. This means that the prosecution would not be able to use tainted evidence to support their case.
As more women step forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, the chances of Weinstein being charged with a crime continue to rise. Weinstein is undoubtedly in contact with his trusted Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys and strategizing a future defense. His chances of a successful outcome will be better with the help of his lawyers.