Whether you are a football fan or not, you have probably heard the news regarding former San Diego State and Buffalo Bills punter, Matt Araiza. If you haven’t yet, here is a quick summary: An 18-year-old woman has accused Araiza and two other San Diego State University football players of sexually assaulting her at an off-campus college party when she was 17 years old in the fall of 2021 while Araiza was still at San Diego State. The accuser has now brought forth a civil lawsuit against Araiza and others.
Araiza was drafted by the Buffalo Bills into the NFL in the Spring of 2022 and was announced as the Bills’ starting punter by August 2022. However, a few days after news of the civil lawsuit went public, Araiza was released by the Bills, despite no criminal charges having been filed against him at the time.
So, the question now is, if charges are brought forth, what charges will the DA bring and does the former San Diego State football star have a viable defense?
The alleged victim has accused Araiza and the other two men with rape, gender violence, and false imprisonment. If the District Attorney’s Office believes there is enough evidence to support the rape allegation, Araiza may be charged with Forcible Rape under Penal Code section 261 and/or Statutory Rape under Penal Code section 261.5. The latter charge is due to the alleged victim claiming this occurred when she was under 18, which is the age of consent in California.
The alleged victim claims that she was intoxicated at the time when she had sex with Araiza and that he should have known she was intoxicated. She also claims that Araiza should have known she was a minor. Araiza denies knowing she was intoxicated and that she was a minor. It appears as if he will concede the two shared a sexual encounter of some sort at or around the time the complainant alleges, but that it was neither forcible nor while she was so intoxicated that she lacked the legal ability to consent.
Here is a break down of the potential of a forcible rape and/or statutory rape charges being filed against Araiza:
Based on his own alleged statements and admissions on the “controlled call”, which is consistent with interviews his attorney has given, “consent” appears to be Araiza’s best defense to the potential of a forcible rape charge under Penal Code section 261. Consent is a defense if the accuser consented to having sexual intercourse and it is also a defense if the accused actually and reasonably believed the other party consented to have sexual intercourse.
The “consent” defense will not fly, however, as a viable defense to a Statutory Rape allegation, per Penal Code section 261.5, because minors cannot give consent. A common defense for Statutory Rape is the reasonable belief that the minor was over 18 years old. The strength of the defense to this allegation may depend on the number, and credibility, of witnesses who are alleged to have made statements they recall the accuser telling people she was 18 the evening of the encounter with Araiza.
Click here to view a video David P. Shapiro made about what we know about the potential criminal charges Matt Araiza could be facing.
If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges and want to learn how you can best protect your freedom and future, give us a call at (619) 295-3555.
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