Is DNA required for a rape conviction? The short answer is no.
DNA, fingerprints, video footage, and other forms of forensic evidence are not required for a conviction – the prosecution can present witness testimony only, or even circumstantial evidence to support its case. If the evidence is sufficient to persuade the jury to convict, it will very likely be upheld by an appellate court. In many cases, law enforcement fails to preserve DNA evidence and the entire case rests on the credibility of the witnesses.
Often, law enforcement will do a lengthy interrogation with the defendant and seek to use his or her statement as a ‘confession.’ Because the jury has never been interrogated by law enforcement before and has no idea how coercive the process can be, the jury judges a defendant very harshly if they believe that the defendant ‘confessed.’
I have heard jurors say often, “I don’t care how long they interrogated me – I would never confess to something that I didn’t do.” While this sentiment makes sense, it never comes from a person who has been in the situation before, and therefore it is an uninformed point of view. For that reason, I often make repeated requests that jurors keep an open mind and listen to the evidence of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation. In ‘confession’ cases, the entire case may be about whether the defendant’s statements are an actual confession, which is usually the most damaging evidence in the case. Click here for more information regarding interrogations.
DNA does not speak to consent
Even in cases where DNA is present, the prosecution might not have an easy win. DNA evidence will certainly put the defendant at the location at a certain place and time so that identity is not an issue in the case, but DNA does not prove anything regarding whether an alleged sex act was consensual or coerced.
Fourth Amendment protections
Any evidence that has been wrongfully seized may be suppressed and inadmissible at trial. For this reason, defendants should never make assumptions about whether they should go to trial until discussing the evidence with a knowledgeable trial lawyer who understands complicated evidentiary issues.
If you are charged with Rape or a similar sex offense, please contact me immediately so we can discuss the best way to defend against these allegations.