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Rape

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Rape

Getting convicted of rape in Ohio could all but destroy your life as you know it, as you could be placed behind bars for years to come, and that is just one of the consequences. Critically, Ohio prosecutors aggressively prosecute rape cases and will seemingly hold nothing back in seeking a conviction against you. The moment that you are suspected of rape, you should promptly consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney so that they can defend you and protect your rights. Here’s what you need to know about rape in Ohio, including how an attorney can help you avoid getting convicted.

Dayton Rape Lawyer

The dedicated criminal defense lawyers at Joslyn Law Firm represent those in Dayton Ohio facing criminal charges including sex offenses. After evaluating your case and helping you understand your legal options, we can chart the best path forward for you. Remember that you are in a difficult situation right now, not an impossible one. In order to build a strong defense to the sex crime accusations brought against you, it is important that you consult with us sooner rather than later. For a free case evaluation with one of the knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers at Joslyn Law Firm, call (614) 444-1900 or contact us online.


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Overview of Rape Offenses in Ohio


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What Is Rape?

The crime of rape is not defined in any laws of general application throughout the entire country. Rather, each state has its own specific definitions of the crime, and their unique definition of what elements are essential to proving the crime. Ohio laws say that rape is sexual conduct with a victim who does not consent to the act, either because the victim is:

  • Coerced by violence or violent threats of harm;
  • Drugged or intoxicated by the attacker, so as to not be able to comprehend the actions;
  • Below the legal age of consent to sexual contact;
  • Elderly or disabled, mentally or physically.

The act of sexual conduct involved in rape can include vaginal, anal, or oral penetration, regardless of the genders of the parties involved in the act. For a conviction in an Ohio rape case, a prosecutor has to prove that there was “sexual conduct” as defined above, and that there was criminal intent to commit the act.


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Categories Of Rape

In Ohio law, there are four separate and distinct categories of actions that can lead to criminal charges of rape:

  1. Rape by force or threat: In cases of this type, the assailant made the victim engage in sexual conduct without consent. The force used to coerce the victim can be actual physical violence or threats of violence. Marriage is not a defense to this type of rape charge.
  2. Rape by involuntary chemical incapacitation: In this crime, the alleged rapist administered an intoxicant or drug to the victim, either with force or threats, by deception, or in secret, and the substance impaired the person’s judgment or bodily control so as to not be able to consent to sexual conduct. The prosecutor must also establish that the intoxicating substance was given with the intent to overcome the victim’s ability to resist the sexual conduct to get a conviction on this charge.
  3. Child rape: An act of sexual conduct with a child under the of 13 years old is considered a strict liability crime. The assailant does not need to know the victim’s age to be convicted under this law.
  4. Impaired or elderly rape: The victim in this type of case is unable to consent to the sexual conduct due to a physical disability, emotional or intellectual impairment, or advanced age, such as a patient in an elderly care center. The prosecutor must prove that the attacker knew of the person’s impairment at the time of the sexual conduct to get a conviction of this crime.

The facts of every case are unique and there are almost always complexities to a situation that requires further understanding. A skilled defense attorney can help you to understand the facts and the law.


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Attempted Rape

Anyone who takes steps toward accomplishing a rape and who intended to carry out the unlawful sexual conduct but was prevented from concluding the act can potentially be charged with attempted rape under Ohio law. The crime of attempted rape is completed when someone takes steps toward completing a sexual assault, even if the victim is able to flee or some other circumstance intervenes before the sexual conduct is completed.


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Rape Investigations

The process of an official investigation into an alleged rape begins with a report. Either the rape victim, or family or other loved ones of the victim, or a professional with a duty as a mandatory child rape reporter, (including teachers, doctors, social workers, and counselors) begins a case by contacting Dayton police or other local law authorities to report an alleged rape. In some cases, police respond directly to the scene of the crime or to a local hospital to take the incident report.

The next steps in the investigation don’t always follow the same order, but the process involves gathering potential evidence, assessing facts and getting statements from the victim, and presenting the facts to the prosecutor to consider bringing criminal charges. Typically, the case proceeds through the following steps:

  • Rape kit and physical evidence: In many cases, the victim of the sexual assault will go through a detailed physical forensic examination, sometimes called a rape kit exam, to collect and preserve physical evidence of the incident. If the victim alleges that there was involuntary intoxication, the medical staff will draw blood to analyze for chemical substances. In the event of a child victim under 13 years old, the presence of DNA from another individual is adequate evidence to file charges immediately. Other cases rely on a sworn statement from the victim that there was non-consensual sexual conduct in the incident.
  • Detailed interview with victim: Experienced sex crimes investigators will interview the victim, as well as any witness or other people, such as parents, who may have relevant evidence to offer. They are gathering facts and also considering the victim’s level of truthfulness and open disclosure of all the facts as they discuss the case, to help them determine whether to begin a rape investigation. Facts may come out that change the perspectives or opinions of the investigators as they learn more about the entire event and the people involved in the alleged rape.
  • Full investigation: Law officers will launch a rape investigation if the facts are consistent with the allegations of criminal activity. They are likely to use the full range of legal authority to investigate alleged crimes, including warrants to obtain physical evidence, which may include the alleged assailant’s DNA as well as physical items such as clothes or even electronic devices to search for evidence of contact between the parties, for example. Usually in the investigation, officers will try to question the suspect, using early contacts with the alleged assailant to open discussions that may lead to potential evidence from the talk. It is important to remember that police are not talking to people casually or just to be pleasant; they always have an interest in gathering facts and supporting a case that they are building. A suspect does not have to talk to police or answer any questions without first consulting with legal counsel. The best advice is to use this right if you are involved in an investigation.
  • Charges and arrest: As soon as the police have put together all the evidence that they believe will prove the elements of the crime of rape as defined by Ohio law, they will meet with the local prosecutor to present the case and refer it for criminal charges. Rape charges are always a felony matter, so a grand jury is required to hear the evidence and make the decision to indict, which is the official name for bringing criminal charges against the defendant. At that point, the court issues an arrest warrant, and the defendant is arrested and officially charged with rape. The defendant has the right at this time to request a criminal defense attorney. Even before charges are officially brought, though, you have the right to consult with an experienced lawyer. If you are ever asked questions about a possible rape case by detectives or investigators, you should politely request the opportunity to consult with your legal counsel before proceeding.

When the case has developed to the point of legal charges and a court case, a lawyer on your side can challenge the status of evidence that the prosecution will offer and will help to prepare you for trial, if it comes to that. Many cases resolve without a full trial, as the prosecutor and defense attorney are able to discuss plea arrangements that can resolve the case, in appropriate situations.


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Evidence In A Rape investigation

The elements of a rape case that the prosecutor must prove involve both actions and intentions. Evidence that is typically used to prove the charges includes both verbal evidence, in the form of the alleged victim explaining the story of the incident and other witnesses adding in supporting details, as well as physical evidence, such as what is gathered during the rape kit exam. Physical evidence includes biological evidence recovered from the victim’s body that indicates foreign DNA, as well as DNA samples from the accused and the accuser, toxicological results from the victim where there are claims of involuntary intoxication, clothing fibers and the victim’s clothing from the time of the incident that may contain foreign hair, skin fibers, or bodily fluid samples, as well as physical evidence from the scene, including bedding, clothing, and more.


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Fourth Amendment: No Unreasonable Searches Or Seizures

Potential limits on evidence being used in court against an accused individual come from the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that restricts unlawful searches and seizures. An officer needs probable cause to investigate and search private property. In most cases, police must go to court and convince a judge that there is adequate reason for suspicion to allow a search warrant to be issued.

Evidence must also be useful to the fact-finder, the judge or jury in the trial, and be based on scientifically reliable facts. It must also be more helpful than prejudicial to the legal matter, meaning the evidence provides useful information that can be used toward finding that the elements of the crime exist in the case, without being excessively harsh or negative, or, in other words, prejudicial, toward the defendant’s point of view.


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Statements And Questioning In A Rape Investigation

Throughout a rape investigation and the legal case that follows, the police and legal authorities will do their best to ask a lot of questions of the alleged assailant in the incident. It’s important to remember that an accused individual always has the right to consult with a lawyer before answering any questions, and that the lawyer should always be present when the authorities are asking questions about the case. Statements by the accused can definitely be used in evidence if they can be taken to incriminate the defendant in the crime, or to corroborate, or support, the allegations made by the accuser.


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Polygraph Machine Evidence

Often, police or prosecutors may encourage an accused individual to take a polygraph examination, sometimes called a “lie-detector” test. The science behind the polygraph exam is to record and observe the physical status of the person answering questions. The machine monitors the heart rate, respirations (breathing rate), pulse, and blood pressure of the individual who is answering questions about the case. The idea is that a skilled examiner can use the machine, along with a series of questions directed to the subject, to be able to tell when the person is telling the truth or is lying.

In reality, though, polygraph evidence is usually not admissible in court without an agreement between both sides to the case that establishes the terms and conditions of the examination in advance. Even then the judge still has the opportunity to rule on the evidence as to whether it will be allowed to be shown to the jury. Often, police and prosecutors really hope to use the chance for a polygraph test to ask the accused more questions, and possibly to get some confirmation or affirmative statement on the record to use in court, which judges usually will allow.

If there is a good reason to agree to a polygraph test, it is best to work with an experienced defense attorney to arrange with the other side about the conditions of the test and how the results may be used. There are times and situations where it may be helpful to have such evidence, but it is not a good idea to agree to it without the advice of your lawyer.


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Past History And Reputation Testimony In An Ohio Rape Case

Under Ohio law, a lot of the details about past sexual experiences or reputations of either individual in the case will not be allowed into evidence at trial. So, in the typical case, a witness won’t be allowed to testify about either a defendant’s or a victim’s sexual past, including particular events of sexual conduct, or particular partners, nor about opinions of either person’s sexual reputation.

But, in certain situations, the prosecutor can make a special request of the judge, called a motion, to have a special evidence hearing without the jury present, about whether the prosecutor can use some kind of opinion evidence about the accused or the accuser to try to establish a motive, or to show that DNA evidence may have come from someone else other than the accused.


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Acts Involved In The Elements Of A Rape Case

The elements of proving rape charges in an Ohio courtroom involve showing through valid evidence the following:

  1. There was “sexual conduct”,
  2. it was non-consensual, that is, that the victim did not agree to the sexual conduct, and
  3. it was vaginal, anal, or oral penetration that was completed with a body part or an object, without regard to the genders of the people involved in the incident. Any event of oral or anal sex or even a slight amount of vaginal penetration can meet the legal definition of sexual conduct and can be used to support rape charges that will be upheld in court.

The sexual conduct that is the basis for the legal charges will be considered rape under the law if the victim of the sexual penetration is either:

  • Incapacitated because of a physical or mental disability or advanced age, and unable to consent to the sexual conduct;
  • Under the age of 13 years old, regardless of whether the attacker knew of the victim’s age;
  • Impaired or intoxicated by a substance that was administered or given by the alleged attacker for the purpose of overcoming resistance to the sexual conduct; OR
  • Physically overpowered or threatened with violence if the victim resisted the sexual conduct, in which case the marital status of the parties to the incident is irrelevant. Spouses can be charged with rape under this law as well as strangers or anyone else.

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Statute Of Limitations On Rape Charges

Under Ohio law, prosecutors must bring rape charges within 25 years of the date of alleged event, or else the case is kept out of court because of time limitation laws known as “statute of limitations”. There are some exceptions to the 25-year time limit on filing charges, including in cases where the victim was a minor, in which case the state has 25 years after the victim turns 18 to bring the charges.

Another exception to the 25-year statute of limitations on bringing rape charges is in a case where the 25-year limit has expired, and then DNA evidence is found to match the DNA evidence that had been retained in a prior rape investigation. Prosecutors in such cases may bring charges within five years of the newly discovered DNA evidence.


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Charges In A Rape Case

Charges under Ohio law in a rape case will typically be in state, not federal, court. The crime is punished as a first-degree felony. In some cases, the charges may bring the possibility of a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole, if convicted as charged.

Usually, contained within the indictment, or charges, for the rape are what are known as “lesser-included offenses” that came about from the same incident or event. Some of these charges might involve domestic violence, in cases of sexual assault between spouses, or charges of assault, battery, sexual conduct with a minor (also called statutory rape), or even sexual battery. Each of these separate offenses, if included with the rape charges that are brought to trial, could result in a conviction for the defendant, if the judge or jury don’t find against the accused on the rape charge.

An example is the charge of sexual imposition, which is defined as unlawful contact that is intended to lead to sexual arousal in either party to the incident. The charge of gross sexual imposition under Ohio law is a felony. Sexual imposition can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the case. These charges are typically included as a lesser-included offense within a charge of rape.

A charge of sexual contact involves one person touching another person’s sexual areas, called erogenous zones, with the intent of generating sexual arousal or gratification. The areas that are included within the definitions of “erogenous zones” for purposes of the sexual contact law include, but are not restricted to, the genitals, thighs, buttocks, or female breasts. According to the law, sexual contact may happen as part of the sexual conduct that leads to rape, but the touching that is involved in sexual contact is not enough to lead to a rape charge on its own.

Every rape charge is a felony offense and can lead to substantial prison time and many other negative consequences in your life if you are convicted on the charges. Even conviction of one of the lesser included offenses that are added onto rape charges in court can lead to a felony conviction and prison time, if the judge or jury does not find all the elements of the rape charges were met, but that the conduct did violate the sexual contact or sexual imposition laws. If you are facing potential rape charges that may be brought against you, it is critical to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.


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Potential Defenses To Rape Charges

Rape crimes are some of the most serious criminal charges that can be brought against a person in the criminal justice system. The punishments are harsh and go beyond just a prison sentence and monetary penalties like a fine. Rather, they continue on to include registration on a sex offender database and many other restrictions on civil life even after serving time following a conviction in court or a guilty plea. It is possible to challenge charges in court, though. In the right cases there are legal defenses that can shift the balance of justice, including some typical defenses that may apply in a particular case.

Marriage

While it has exceptions, it is true that being in a state of marriage with the accuser can be a defense to rape charges. The requirements include that the people have to have been together, living in a legally valid marriage at the time of the sexual conduct at issue in the case. A person may avoid prosecution for certain categories of rape due to marital status of the people in the incident, but the defense does not apply to forcible rape involving violence or threat to coerce the sexual conduct. The exception is also not applicable where the people involved were separated, divorcing, or in the process of annulment of the marriage at the time of the sexual conduct.

Physical Evidence Abnormalities

Normally, rape kits and the physical evidence that they help the authorities collect and preserve can be a key part of a rape prosecution. In some cases of rape kit improprieties, the procedure was not performed within at least three days of the sexual encounter. For example. the physical evidence is not helpful and may be harmful to the rape prosecution. In other examples where physical evidence may not have been stored or catalogued correctly, may have been mishandled or corrupted in the process, or is otherwise scientifically unreliable, a defense attorney will point out these facts to the trial court.

In some cases, expert witnesses are needed to discuss the forensic details of physical evidence like DNA, hair or skin samples, or toxicology reports, as in cases where the charges involve incapacitation by drugs or alcohol. An experienced criminal defense attorney will choose the best experts available to present your case effectively in court. You can be sure that the prosecutors make every effort to develop the expert testimony that will be needed to convince the fact-finder in your case of the importance of some piece of evidence, and so a skilled advocate on your side to counteract the prosecution’s experts is essential to balance the scales of justice.

Consent

While an alleged lack of consent is usually the issue at the very heart of a rape prosecution, in many cases there is more to the story. While it is true that the defendant’s personal belief that there was consent to the sexual conduct is not enough to legally justify the act, there are cases where such legitimate belief may come into play as a potential defense to the charges.

Actual consent of both parties to the sexual conduct is an absolute defense to rape charges, of course, unless the victim is unable to consent due to disability, was under the age of 13, or the charges involve statutory rape. For cases of sexual conduct with a minor over the age of 13, but less than 18, the crime of statutory rape eliminates the possibility of consent as a defense. If the victim was 16 or 17 and the defendant is less than four years older, there is a possibility of mitigation of the crime with what is called the Romeo & Juliet mitigation in certain cases.

Evidentiary Defenses – Fourth Amendment Challenges

Law enforcement officers have legal responsibilities to follow the laws when they are seeking and gathering evidence. Conducting a search without a valid warrant authorizing the search, or making an arrest based on an officer’s “instinct” versus actual probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, can lead to evidence being excluded at court proceedings.

Evidence that is gathered as a direct result of an illegal search is considered “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” and must be excluded from consideration at trial. Not every piece of evidence that is challenged will change the outcome of the overall case, but there are some key parts of the case that will undermine the prosecutor’s chances to get a conviction if it is shown that the evidence was improperly obtained.


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Punishments On A Rape Conviction

A conviction on rape charges is a felony in the first degree, which is the highest level of felony in Ohio. Penalties authorized for conviction of a first-degree felony cover a range from five years in prison up to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Monetary fines are authorized up to $20,000. In general, judges in Ohio criminal trials have some discretion in sentencing on rape charges, but there are some mandatory minimum penalties that they must follow.

A rape that is carried out by involuntary intoxication or violent force, for example, has a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence attached to a conviction. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is the mandatory sentence on the conviction of a violent rape of a child under 10 years old.


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Additional Impacts Of A Rape Conviction

In addition to the prison sentence, potential financial penalties, and time served on parole following time in prison, there are a list of collateral consequences attached to conviction of a felony, and status as a Tier III sex offender, including mandatory lifetime registration on the Ohio Sexual Offender Registry. Other additional impacts on the civil life of a convicted sexual offender can include:

  • Restrictions on residency and work, based on designated school zones
  • Personal identifying information posted on the Ohio Sex Offender Registry
  • Loss of professional licenses or ability to apply for a professional license
  • Inability to travel internationally, or often, out of the county or state
  • Revocation of child custody and loss of right to foster or adopt children
  • Loss of firearm (Second Amendment) rights for violent sexual crimes

Facing rape charges is a very serious matter. It is in your best interests to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as you are aware of the situation. You can only assert your rights if you know about them, and your lawyer is there to let you know all the legal details that apply in your case.


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the definition of Rape in Ohio Law?

Rape in Ohio is defined as non-consensual sexual conduct (meaning penetration of any body part or foreign object in a sexual manner into the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, regardless of gender of either party) if the act is done by force, whether by physical violence or threats, by drugging and incapacitating the victim, or if the victim is mentally or physically incapable of resisting due to age, infirmity, or disability. Some people are considered legally incapable of consenting to sexual conduct, including children under 13, with whom sexual conduct is a strict liability offense, meaning it doesn’t matter whether the defendant knew the victim’s age, and minors less than 18 years old are not legally allowed to consent to sex with an adult, so such charges are called “statutory rape”.

What is the sentence for a conviction of a rape charge?

Rape is a first-degree felony in Ohio, which is punishable by a prison term of five years to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, as well as financial fines of up to $20,000. A rape conviction is also associated with a mandatory Tier III sex offender status, which requires lifetime registration on the Ohio Sexual Offender Registry.

What is attempted rape?

The crime of attempted rape involves an assailant who

  1. Intends to rape the victim, and who
  2. Took action and direct steps toward accomplishing the rape, but
  3. Did not engage in the sexual conduct that constitutes rape for some reason that interfered with the plan.

In the case of a defendant who intended to commit rape by inducing intoxication, the act of getting the date rape drug or other substance, planning how to administer it to the victim, and making an effort to carry out the plan could constitute the crime of attempted rape.

What is the definition of statutory rape?

Ohio calls the crime “unlawful sexual contact with a minor”, and it is different from standard rape charges because, even though both parties may have consented to the sexual conduct, one of the parties was too young to legally give consent to sexual conduct. Statutory rape is where the victim was 13, 14, or 15 years old at the time of the crime or was 16 or 17 years old and the defendant was at least four years older than the victim. Any sexual conduct with a child under the age of 13 is rape, not statutory rape, no matter the age of the offender. Statutory rape is a felony unless the Rome and Juliet mitigation might apply.

What is the Romeo and Juliet mitigation?

When there is consensual sexual conduct between two people, one of whom is a minor, 16 or 17 years old, and the other of whom is close in age, the so-called Romeo and Juliet mitigation may apply to reduce statutory rape charges for the defendant. The offender must be within four years of the age of the victim for the rule to apply. It is not a complete defense to a charge of sexual conduct with a minor in Dayton, however.

What is the statute of limitations for rape charges in Ohio?

Prosecutors have 25 years from the date of the assault to bring rape charges under Ohio law. When the victim was a minor, the 25-year period begins to run on the victim’s 18th birthday. In a case where a DNA record matches the DNA evidence retained as part of a rape investigation after the 25-year time has run, the prosecutor has five additional years to bring charges.


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Resources for Rape and Sexual Assault in Dayton

Ohio Revised Code § 2907.02

This section of the Revised Code tells you everything that you need to know about how Ohio defines rape offenses. It also outlines the charges that a rape offense brings and how those charges are affected under specific circumstances. The law explains various rules of evidence, such as the inadmissibility of the defendant’s reputation and past sexual activity.

The Revised Code serves as an excellent resource beyond this page. By reviewing the Sex Offense page of this document, you can familiarize yourself with key terms used in 2907.02 and related sex offense descriptions.

RAINN

RAINN offers its National Sex Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673) for victims of sex crimes. The group provides an array of victim services. They also work to improve public policy and public education, as well as offer consulting services aimed at developing programs to facilitate the recovery of sex crime survivors.

The Ohio Health Sexual Assault Response Network (SARNCO)

The Ohio Health Sexual Assault Response Network (SARNCO), provided by OhioHealth, devises sexual violence prevention strategies for use in schools and business communities. The group also offers outreach services, as well as policy review, training and education, and a 24-hour hotline and response team for rape victims in Dayton.


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Dayton Sex Offense Attorney

Police may choose at any moment to move forward with arresting you for a rape charge or other sex offense, or they might try to further question you before doing so. Either way, once you are on the police’s radar, you can be sure that they will ask you to say things that may incriminate you in your case. They may try to get you to say something to them during their questioning which then leads to your arrest. So, irrespective of whether you have done nothing wrong, it is vital that you make the most of your constitutional rights by remaining silent other than to ask for your attorney. Let your criminal defense attorney advise you on your situation. They can provide you with an understanding of your rights and defenses and give you counsel on the best way to proceed.

The skillful and highly-regarded criminal defense lawyers at Joslyn Law Firm represent people in Ohio who are facing criminal charges including sex offenses. You need a strong defense to such significant allegations especially given what a conviction could bring. We know what is at stake in these matters, including how the accusations alone can carry a severe stigma and disturb your life. But rest assured, we know how to fight back against the state’s theory of your guilt. So, if you have been charged with a sex offense in Dayton, get in touch with us by calling (614) 444-1900 or by contacting us online to discuss how we can help.


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