Sexual assault is when any sexual activity occurs without clear consent from both parties. Sexual assault is a crime in every state. Sexual assault laws also forbids sexual activity with a person who is unable to consent. People who are mentally ill, under the age of 18, or intoxicated are considered unable to consent. There are many activities that fall under sexual assault, such as: rape, molestation, forced sodomy, and incest.
Is Sexual Assault a Criminal or a Civil Crime?
Sexual assault and sexual battery can be tried as both a criminal and a civil issue. The criminal statutes of each state explain how different sexual crimes are classified and what the penalties are for each crime.
Victims of sexual assault can also file a civil suit against their abuser or attacker. These civil claims are aimed at recovering money damages for pain and suffering. Civil claims against sexual predators can be filed alongside, or in addition to, criminal charges. In some cases, if a criminal case against the defendant does not succeed or does not reach trial, then the victim can seek relief through a civil case instead.
There are many defenses available to a person accused of sexual assault. But the best defense depends on the specifics of their case. Many defendants claim the assault was not an assault because the activity was consensual. In many or most cases, there are not other people present to corroborate this. So these cases can turn into a “he said/she said” cases. If the alleged victim claims to have been drunk, then the defendant can prove that they were not and the issue of inability to consent will be harder to prove.
What are Defenses for Sexual Assault?
Civil penalties are different than criminal penalties, and they will differ from state to state and location to location. Criminal charges can result in fines and/or prison time, while civil penalties can incur monetary damages paid out to the victim. There are many kinds of defenses available for individuals charged with sexual assault, such as:
- Suppression of Evidence – If evidence such as text messages, emails, phone messages, video, or semen can be suppressed, it can help in the defense of someone charged with sexual assault.
- Actual Innocence – Since everyone is innocent until proven guilty in the US court of law, a person who did not commit the crime can use this as a defense.
- Consent – Usually sexual assaults happen in private. But if a person charged with assault can reasonably prove that the alleged victim consented to the activity, then it can constitute a successful defense.
- Mental Incapacity – If either party was drunk at the time the sexual activity occurred, then the activity is technically illegal. A person under the influence of alcohol is considered to be unable to consent.
- Insanity – A legally insane person is unable to consent to sexual action. If the person charged with sexual assault is legally insane, then this can also be a successful defense.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Yes. Persons convicted of sex crimes will have to register with a sex offender registry in many areas of the country, and this is something that is very difficult to reverse. It is important to hire a criminal lawyer as soon as you are made aware of the possibility of charges.