Is a Sex Crimes Confession Invalid If the Defendant Was Drinking or Using Drugs at the Time?

October 29th, 2019 by Tad Nelson in Sex Crime

Houston-area law enforcement take sex crimes cases extremely seriously. Police and prosecutors have every incentive to secure a conviction for anyone accused of sexual assault, particularly when the victim is a child. With that in mind, if the police suspect you are the guilty party, you need to be mindful of your constitutional right to remain silent and refusing to answer police questions.

Appeals Court Affirms Texarkana Man’s Sexual Assault Conviction

As frequently as those of us who serve as criminal defense attorneys emphasize this point, we still see cases where suspects effectively guarantee their own convictions by talking to the police outside the presence of counsel. And while there are situations where a judge will later decide the police coerced a confession from a suspect who talked, more often than not such interviews are deemed admissible evidence.

Here is just the most recent example. In Battiest v. State, a Texarkana man charged with sexually assaulting a seven-year-old child unsuccessfully challenged his conviction, arguing he was sleep deprived and under the influence of alcohol and drugs at the time he spoke to police about the case.

According to the Texas Sixth District Court of Appeals, the defendant “volunteered” to give a “noncustodial interview” with the police. This interview included taking a polygraph test administered by an agent with the U.S. Department of Justice. Prior to the interview and polygraph, police officers informed the defendant of his right to remain silent. Ignoring the warnings, the defendant proceeded to admit he had made “sexual contact” with the victim.

Before the Court of Appeals, the defendant maintained his confession should have been deemed inadmissible by the trial judge, because at the time the defendant was “under the influence of substantial illegal drugs and alcohol and was deprived of sleep.”

Neither the trial judge nor the Sixth District accepted this argument. Nobody disputed the defendant had been drinking and used drugs in the hours prior to the police interview. Indeed, the Justice Department agent decided not to conduct the polygraph after determining the defendant was medically unfit. However, the defendant went on to make a voluntary confession to the agent. This led police to conduct a “separate, custodial recorded interview,” where he repeated said confession. Critically, the police advised the defendant of his right to remain silent before both the aborted polygraph and the custodial interview. Under the circumstances, the Court of Appeals said the defendant’s confession was not coerced or otherwise unconstitutional.

Contact a Houston Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Today

The defendant in this case will serve a minimum prison sentence of 15 years. This should clearly spell out the consequences of committing–and then admitting to–a sex crime in Texas. It should also serve as a cautionary tale about taking your rights seriously. You are never obligated to answer a police officer’s questions or take a polygraph test.

And if you are charged with a sex crime or sex offense, before you do anything else, call an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney who can properly advise you on what steps to take next. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City if you need immediate assistance. Call 281-280-0100.

 

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