Sexual Battery

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What is Sexual Battery?

Battery, broadly defined, is when one person intentionally touches another, without the victim’s consent, in a manner that is harmful or offensive.

Consent, like all sexual crimes, is the essential factor in many cases. If a person is incapacitated, then consent cannot be given. It does not matter if the victim is incapacitated through their own conduct. For example, if a person gets drunk and passes out, any sexual contact with that person would be sexual battery. Fondling a person while he or she is asleep constitutes sexual battery. Similar conduct against a person confined to a hospital bed would also constitute sexual battery.

What Is the Difference Between Sexual Battery and Other Sexual Crimes?

Almost any case of rape would meet the above elements of sexual battery (non-consensual sexual contact with a person who is restrained or incapacitated), it is treated as a separate, and more severe, crime. The primary difference between sexual battery and rape is that with battery there is no penetration between the sexual organs. With sexual battery, all that matters is the non-consensual touching of another person’s sexual organs.

Sexual assault, like the broader crime of assault, constitutes the threat of force. Battery, in contrast, is the actual contact between perpetrator and victim while assault is the threat of force to establish the intended contact.

What Is the Punishment For Sexual Battery?

Punishments for sexual battery are severe, as sexual battery is a felony in most states. Sentences include thousands in fines as well as possible lifetime imprisonment. Such punishments vary on a state by state basis. Some examples are below:

California - the sexual contact must take place while the victim is restrained by the perpetrator or an accomplice; it must be against the victim’s will, and for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse. It can be punished by up to 4 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.

There are some exceptions to the requirement that the victim be physically restrained. If the victim is asleep, unconscious, immobile, or otherwise unable to give consent, any sexual contact with the victim is sexual battery.

Florida – Punishment for sexual battery is differentiated by certain factors. If there is no injury, then the penalty is up to fifteen years in prison. With injury, the punishment is up to thirty years in prison. If the victim is under the age of twelve, then the defendant is sentenced to life without parole. All sentences can also carry up to $10,000 fines.

Mississippi – The penalty is based upon age of perpetrator(s) and victim(s) as well as physical state of victim during the battery; i.e. if the victim(s) can legally given consent at the time.  Prison time ranges from twenty to thirty years with fines ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. Forty years of prison time can be given for repeat offenses. 

New York – The penalty can be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on age of victim(s), and the use of any restraints or incapacitations, be they physical or chemical. Sentencing can range from three months to seven years in prison. 

Texas – Sentencing for sexual battery depends on use of a weapon and/or injury to victim(s). Without usage of a weapon or any injuries, sexual battery carries two to twenty years in prison. With such usage or injury, prison time increases by five to ninety-nine years. Both sentences are subject to $10,000 fines.

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Last Modified: 07-12-2012 12:01 PM PDT

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