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Sexual Assault Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

June 25, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

Sexual assault is a very serious crime that involves a perpetrator who forces a victim to sexual contact. It can involve anything from groping to rape and many types of assault in between. This is a crime in every state throughout the country, but the specific definition of sexual assault may vary depending on the state. However, the one element that is always in play regarding sexual assault is that touching in a sexual manner that is unwanted is involved. As a very serious crime, sexual assault carries severe penalties by state and federal level. The crime can also be prosecuted by state or federal jurisdictions or even by both.

Sexual Assault Laws

Sexual assault, including rape, is covered under the 10 US Code 920, Article 120, which discusses rape and general sexual assault. As per the statute, sexual assault is a crime that is committed when a person perpetrates a sexual act on another individual through the following:

• Making threats or instilling fear in the victim
• Causing bodily harm to the victim
• Fraudulent representation, such as in stating the sexual act is for professional purposes
• Causes the victim to believe something through concealment or pretending to be someone else

In addition, the statute describes sexual assault as a sexual act perpetrated against another person when the victim is asleep or unconscious. This includes the use of alcohol or drug impairment that renders a person unable to give consent. Mental disease or defect also prevents a person from being able to consent to the sexual act.

Sexual Assault Crimes and Charges

Sexual assault is a serious crime that can involve a number of factors. They include the following:

• An act of physical and sexual violence is committed against another person, who can be either male or female
• The sexual act occurs without the consent of the victim or the victim is unable to consent due to young age or mental incapacity
• The sexual act is a violation of the individual’s body and bodily integrity

In general, the main element of a charge of sexual assault involves consent. If a person does not give consent or is incapable of giving it, then the sexual contact is considered sexual assault. As per federal law, the age of consent in most states ranges from 16 to 18 years old.

Penalties for Sexual Assault

If a person is found guilty of sexual assault by a jury, the case will then move to sentencing so a judge can hand down the defendant’s sentence. The judge will examine a variety of factors to determine a sentence that is appropriate. Generally speaking, the state or federal jurisdiction has different statutes that determine the penalties for the crime. Sexual assault typically includes a maximum and minimum prison sentence, fines and other penalties.

The judge will also take into consideration any aggravating or mitigating factors when determining a sentence’s length. Among those include the individual’s prior criminal history, if any, and the severity of the crime.

If the case was heard in federal court, the judge will also explore various factors when determining the penalties. Previous criminal history is taken into consideration and the way the individual accepted responsibility for the crime is considered as well. By federal law, the maximum penalty for sexual assault includes fines and a prison sentence of 20 years. The defendant is also required to pay restitution to the victim for expenses related to the crime. This can include medical fees, attorney’s fees and more.

Additionally, individuals convicted of sexual assault are also required to register as a sex offender within their city or state. This can be in place for several years or even for the rest of the person’s lifetime. Additional penalties include treatment while in prison or after they have been released on probation.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault?

As per federal law, there is no set statute of limitations for sexual assault or for crimes such as rape or sexual assault of a child. However, at the state level, the statute of limitations for bringing charges forth depends on the state in question. South Carolina and Wyoming are two states that do not carry a statute of limitations for the crime. Then, there are other states that have a set period of time for charges to be made that have an exception when DNA is obtained.

Sexual assault charges are very serious and require the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Sexual Battery Laws, Charges & Statute Of Limitations

Though there are many sex crimes that carry significant penalties, sexual battery is one that tends to have lesser penalties. In large part, this is because no intercourse or other sexual penetration took place during the crime. However, that does not mean this crime is not taken seriously by prosecutors. In fact, courts sometimes come down quite hard on defendants convicted of this crime.

What is Considered to be Sexual Battery?
Described as an act of touching someone without their consent or making them touch someone else so that another person can achieve sexual arousal, sexual battery is covered under the Aggravated Sexual Abuse section of the U.S. Code. In legal terms, sexual battery is defined as a form of sexual consent achieved through the use of force or threat, or through other means where a person did not or was unable to provide their consent. Within the U.S. Code, special laws are in place regarding situations where sexual battery occurs with children under age 12 and with minors who are less than 16 years of age. When sexual battery cases involve children or minors, prosecutors and courts often do everything possible to gain convictions and impose sentences that are as harsh as possible.

Crimes and Charges
In any sexual battery case, regardless of the age of the victim, the primary element to prove a crime took place is the lack of consent between both parties. Thus, when consent is not given or a person is unable to give consent, the crime of sexual battery has taken place. As for those who are deemed to be unable to provide consent, this includes children up to 15 years old and anyone who suffers from a developmental disability, mental illness, is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, or is unconscious or otherwise physically helpless. However, should a sexual battery crime ultimately involve intercourse or penetration, charges will always become more severe.

Punishments for Sexual Battery
While the punishments for sexual battery are not as harsh as those associated with rape, they can quickly escalate into more serious areas should the crime be deemed a felony. For this to happen, the defendant would have needed to commit sexual battery using a deadly weapon or have the sexual battery result in another person being physically injured. Also, should there be more than one perpetrator committing the act, felony charges may also be applied. Since judges are given large amounts of discretion in these cases, punishments can vary from one year or less in jail to prison sentences of at least one year. If no weapon was involved or no physical injuries took place, a judge may also impose psychological treatment for the defendant, as well as drug or alcohol treatment. In virtually all cases involving sexual battery, those who are convicted are required to register as sex offenders.

Sentencing Guidelines
Since many factors are often at play in sexual battery cases, judges always need to take many things into consideration prior to imposing sentence on a defendant. Some of the most important elements include verifying the act was indeed non-consensual, the mental states of both the perpetrator and victim, past criminal history of the defendant, and age of the victim at the time the crime occurred.

Statute of Limitations
In cases involving sexual battery, the statute of limitations is usually three years if the crime is classified as a misdemeanor. However, exceptions can be made if the defendant was out of the state or country, or if they were imprisoned. Along with this, DNA exceptions can result in further tolling of the statute of limitations. Currently, 27 states have DNA exception laws in place. Thus, if a person is identified through DNA evidence as having committed sexual battery after the normal statute of limitations has already expired, tolling can be used to extend the statute of limitations. In some states where the victim was under age 18, a statute of limitations does not begin tolling until they reach 18 years of age. In addition, eight states across the nation currently have no statute of limitations in place for any sexual crimes, meaning defendants can be charged with and convicted of the crime many years later.

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