Truth-Detection Devices and Victims of Sexual Violence: A Shortcut to Injustice

An overreliance on truth-detection devices and misunderstandings about the dynamics of sexual violence can correlate with a belief that their use with victims of sexual violence is the best method to conduct complete investigations even though such methods would never be entertained for victims of other types of crimes. This is alarming not only because the results of such tests are unreliable, but the very use of truth-detection devices with victims of sexual violence can do more harm to the victim and frustrate the pursuit of justice. While the utility of truth-detection tests for enticing suspects to agree to be interviewed has long been recognized, there is less appreciation that their use with victims of sexual violence is clearly irreconcilable with trauma-informed interviewing techniques designed to elicit victims’ fullest recollections of events while avoiding further harm. This article provides a brief overview on the his- tory and modern forms of truth-detection devices and discusses how the earliest concerns about their reliability and limitations continue to be valid today. It will discuss why truth-detection devices are inappropriate and how, in many jurisdictions, they are prohibited from being used when interviewing victims of sexual violence. Despite the reliability concerns, it will also be discussed how truth-detection devices remain a potentially useful tool during questioning of suspects.

Reaching a Verdict: Guiding the Jury’s Response to the Evidence

After being thrust into an unfamiliar role in a complex system that is often equally unfamiliar, jurors in sexual assault cases face the daunting task of reaching a just verdict for a crime that is shrouded in misconceptions. In this foreign terrain, prosecutors serve as a trusted guide—pointing out familiar landmarks of personal experience and presenting witnesses and other evidence in a manner that makes them both understandable and relatable. By assisting jurors in forming personal connections to the evidence, the prosecutor can remove obstacles that might otherwise block the jury’s path to a just finding of guilt. 

This presentation will discuss ways to focus the jury’s attention on the evidence in a manner that accurately conveys the reality of sexual assault and assists jurors in rendering a fair and just verdict—beginning with jury selection and continuing through opening statement, presentation of evidence, and summation.  

Who Should View
Allied justice system professionals including but not limited to prosecutors, law enforcement officers, community-based service providers, medical and mental health practitioners, probation and parole officers, judges, etc. are encouraged to view this webinar recording.

CLE Credits
This one-hour webinar recording should qualify prosecutors for one (1.0) hour of continuing legal education credits. Prosecutors are encouraged to contact their state bar association in reference to application requirements and related fees.

To Record or Not To Record: Use of Body-Worn Cameras During Police Response to Crimes of Violence Against Women

For a variety of reasons—officer safety, public accountability, evidence collection, and departmental transparency—an increasing number of police departments have adopted, or are considering adopting, the use of body-worn cameras (BWCs). While BWCs can provide helpful evidence in cases involving gender-based violence (GBV), their use may also adversely impact victim safety and privacy. This article discusses many of the issues law enforcement, prosecutors, and allied professionals must consider when BWCs are used in GBV investigations. The article describes the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration – at the local, state, and federal levels – in order to develop effective BWC policies that address victim safety, privacy, and autonomy. The article also addresses issues such as deactivation of a BWC at appropriate points during the investigation; privacy and safety considerations; discovery, redaction, protective orders limiting dissemination; and requests under freedom of information or open records statutes.


The ABCs of BAC: Toxicology for Prosecutors and Investigators

Alcohol’s unique toxicological effects, widespread use, and ease of access render it the ideal substance to facilitate sexual assault. The same factors that make alcohol such a perfect weapon also present unique challenges for investigators, prosecutors, and other allied professionals in alcohol-facilitated sexual assault (AFSA) cases. An understanding of basic toxicology principles is critical for investigators and prosecutors handling these challenging cases from investigation through sentencing to be able to hold offenders accountable for their criminal behavior. This webinar explains the toxicology of alcohol, as well as drugs, in lay terms that will help you understand how alcohol affects the body. Topics include alcohol metabolism, the disproportionate effect of alcohol on women and men, the mechanism of intoxication, an explanation of blackouts vs. pass outs, and other common toxicological issues. It also explores common issues and challenges related to the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases where alcohol is present.

This webinar recording should qualify prosecutors for 1 hour of continuing legal education (CLE) credits. Prosecutors are encouraged to contact their state bar association in reference to application requirements and related fees.

Alcohol- and Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault: A Survey of the Law

While the absence of laws covering the assault of a voluntarily intoxicated victim is often cited as a barrier to prosecuting sexual assault cases, the laws in all 58 U.S. jurisdictions allow for the prosecution of sexual assault cases in which the victim was voluntarily intoxicated. The language in some statutes, however, may not always include the assaultive conduct relevant to a specific case. Additionally, some sexual assault statutes do include an element requiring the victim’s intoxication to be caused by a perpetrator, without the victim’s knowledge, for the purpose of perpetrating a sexual assault. Because language among these statutes is not consistent and may not specifically refer to intoxicated victims, this Statutes in Review synthesizes the similarities and distinctions among the statutory language and summarizes AEquitas’ more comprehensive analysis of rape and sexual assault laws covering alcohol- and drug -facilitated sexual assault involving penetration in all jurisdictions in the country.