In many states, sexual assault is sexual penetration by force, the threat of force or violence, or without the consent of the victim. The sexual contact is made intentionally to the intimate body part of another person. It comprises penetration of a sexual nature, which is otherwise known as rape.
Sexual assault is a serious felony in Nevada and in addition, if the perpetrator acts as an employee or representative of a company or institution, the company or institution may be held civilly liable to the victim.
How Is Sexual Assault Defined in Nevada?
In Nevada, a person is guilty of sexual assault when they do any of the following acts:
- Subject another person to sexual penetration against their will;
- Force another to effect sexual penetration of them;
- Have sexual intercourse or sexual contract with a person who is mentally or physically incapable of consenting;
- Subject a child under the age of 14 to sexual penetration;
- Subject an animal to sexual penetration.
Sexual contact with any person under the age of 16 is illegal in all situations. It is the separate criminal offense of statutory rape.
How Does Nevada Define “Sexual Penetration” for the Purposes of Sexual Assault?
Sexual penetration refers to any of the following acts:
- Sexual intercourse;
- Oral sex;
- Any intrusion into a body part, including the anus and genital region, of another with any object.
Is a Sexual Assault Charge in Nevada a Misdemeanor or Felony?
Sexual assault is a Category A felony in Nevada. It is punishable by a minimum of 10 years in prison and possibly as much as life in prison, depending on the circumstances. The potential sentence that may be imposed on a perpetrator depends on both the victim’s age and whether substantial bodily harm was inflicted upon the victim.
If the victim is an adult, the person faces any of the following sentences:
- Life without the possibility of parole is the victim is under 16 and substantial bodily harm was inflicted on the victim, or if the victim is under 16 and the defendant has a prior conviction;
- Life with the possibility of parole after 15 years if there was substantial bodily harm;
- Life with the possibility of parole after 10 years if there was not substantial bodily harm.
Again, if the victim is under the age of 16 the following sentences are possible:
- If substantial bodily harm was inflicted on the victim. then the punishment is life without the possibility of parole;
- In cases where the victim is under 16, and the defendant has a prior conviction, the punishment is life without parole.
If substantial bodily harm was not inflicted upon the young victim and the victim was between 14 and 16, then the sentence is life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years have been served. If the victim is under the age of 14 and did not suffer serious bodily injury, then the sentence imposed would be life in prison with the possibility of parole after 35 years have been served.
Parole is never guaranteed. It is only a possibility after a certain prescribed number of years have been served in prison. After a defendant has served the minimum number of years that must be served, they become eligible to apply to the state parole board for parole. The parole board makes the decision to grant or deny parole.
In addition to a term in prison, penalties for sexual assault may include court monitoring, substance abuse testing, payment of fines, and an order not to have any contact with the victim. However, with prison terms for sexual assault ranging from 10 years to life, prison time is the most significant penalty for anyone facing sexual assault charges.
In addition, all people who have been convicted of sex offenses, including sexual assault, are required by Nevada law to register as a sex offender with the local law enforcement agency in the county in which the person lives. Conviction of sexual assault requires the defendant to register for life as a Tier III sex offender. Failure to register is a felony offense in itself. It is punishable by a sentence of from 1 to 4 years in prison and a fine of as much as $5,000.
Are There Any Defenses to a Charge of Sexual Assault in Nevada?
Defenses to sexual assault in Nevada may include the following depending on the facts of each case:
- There was no sexual penetration;
- The victim consented to the contact;
- The victim was not physically or mentally unable to consent or understand the nature of the contact and did understand and consent;
- The victim was 16 years old or older;
- The perpetrator was misidentified because a witness is mistaken or is not telling the truth;
- The police cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the alleged crime;
- Evidence should be excluded because it was obtained through police misconduct, e.g. it was seized without a search warrant and the seizure was not justified by an exception to the warrant requirement. Or, the defendant confessed but was not advised of their Miranda rights.
It is also possible to contend that the perpetrator was falsely accused. Evidence that may show that the defendant was a victim of a false accusation include:
Text messages, emails, or audio recordings from the victim showing a motivation to lie about being raped;
Witnesses who may have heard the victim discussing the fabricated rape; or
Expert medical testimony which may show that the victim’s injuries were self-inflicted.
If the attorney can raise a reasonable doubt by showing that someone may have falsely accused the defendant, the sexual assault case may be dismissed.
Is Being Married a Defense to Sexual Assault in Nevada?
The fact that the victim and the perpetrator were married is not a defense to the crime of sexual assault in Nevada. The law states that sexual assault of a person was committed by their spouse is not a defense to a charge of sexual assault by force or threat of force.
What Should I Do If I Am Charged with Sexual Assault?
If a person is charged with sexual assault, they want to proceed very cautiously. They should ask to speak to a lawyer as soon as they are arrested. If they must enter a plea in court before meeting with their lawyer, they want to preserve all of their rights by pleading not guilty.
It is important to keep in mind that sexual assault is potentially punishable by up to life in prison. What the specific facts of a person’s individual case may be, they still have rights and want to act so as to protect them.
A person accused of sexual assault has a right to present a defense and question witnesses. They may request a trial or pursue a plea resolution that may offer a much better result in their case than conviction after a trial would offer. It is important to work quickly to exercise rights and assert any defenses.
A person has a right to be represented by a criminal defense attorney if they are charged with sexual assault. If a person cannot afford an attorney, the government must provide them with one at no cost.
Do I Need to Talk to a Lawyer?
A charge of sexual assault is very serious. In some circumstances, the perpetrator may be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In addition to a possible lengthy prison sentence, a person faces a lifetime of stigma because of the nature of the crime.
For these reasons it is essential that you consult an experienced Nevada criminal defense lawyer if you have been charged with sexual assault. Your lawyer can analyze the facts of your case and identify any possible defenses that you may have. Your lawyer can also negotiate with the prosecutor and possibly find a plea resolution for your case.