Module 8
Issue Spotting: When Might a Sexual Assault Victim Need Private Counsel to Navigate the Criminal Justice System?

Legal Representation During the Investigative Process

As Module 2 explained, the investigative process of the criminal justice system will require sexual assault victims to provide a detailed narrative to law enforcement and prosecutors about their victimization. Victims may fear engaging with law enforcement and providing a forthcoming account of the sexual assault for many reasons.  Some victims may fear that their own actions surrounding the sexual assault could expose them to criminal liability.  Example: Victim, 19 years old, attended a party during which she voluntarily ingested alcohol and cocaine.  Perpetrator, a fellow party-goer, sexually assaulted the victim later that evening.  Victim fears being prosecuted for possession of drugs and/or underage drinking if she reports the crime to law enforcement.  In any instance in which a sexual assault victim communicates with their advocate that the victim fears possible criminal culpability, the advocate should recommend that the victim seek legal advice/representation. 

Victims who do not have a specific legal concern during the investigative process may still feel more comfortable having legal representation during interviews with law enforcement and/or prosecutors.  While victims do not have the same constitutional right to counsel that criminal defendants do (discussed in Module 2), as Module 3 explained, victims have some rights in every jurisdiction that an attorney can argue give victims the right to have legal representation during interviews if they so choose.1 


Disclaimers and Footnotes

1. See The National Crime Victim Law Institute, “Crime Victims Have the Right to Retained Counsel’s Presence During Investigative Interviews,” available at which explains the legal basis for victim legal representation during law enforcement interviews.

This module will be available to you as soon as you complete Module 1. To complete a module, you must read each of the lessons and complete the review quiz at the end.

It is important to finish Module 1 so that you have sufficient context for the rest of the program. After that, you'll have full access to jump between lessons however works best for you.

Tip: In the left sidebar, you'll notice a vertical bar of squares. Each square represents a lesson in that module. You can see at a glance which lessons you've done (brightly colored) and which ones you have not (gray).

Return to Module 1