In today's social climate, discussions centered around sexual assault and related sex crimes have been brought to the national forefront. The resonance of worldwide movements like #metoo became a cornerstone for survivors of abuse to oust perpetrators from their guises. But in the midst of an undoubtedly vital era, some people may be compelled to manipulate their story of victimhood for reasons rooted in malice and spite.
The American criminal justice system upholds the age-old standard that individuals accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty. But in the minds of many people, this principle is discarded when it comes to sex crimes. Merely being involved in a stigmatized crime like sexual assault elicits public condemnation and an assumption of guilt prior to a verdict. For individuals who are facing false accusations, these premature judgments will make defending yourself, salvaging your reputation, and maintaining your freedom an uphill battle, but not an unconquerable one.
If you have been accused of sexual assault, you cannot afford to not retain legal counsel. The stakes are high for you despite your genuine belief that the claims brought against you are exaggerated or fabricated. With the help of a knowledgeable legal professional, the criminal justice system will be able to fulfill its intended function: convicting the guilty while simultaneously protecting innocent people who have fallen victim to false accusations.
For the purposes of this article, we will discuss the various sexual assault laws and penalties in the state of Pennsylvania.
Sexual Assault Laws in Pennsylvania
According to Pennsylvania statutes, sexual assault is defined as “sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse without the complainant's consent.”
The crime “sexual assault” is listed in state statutes as a second-degree felony. This offense is punishable by a 10-year imprisonment term - an incredibly long time to be away from your family and friends. Clearly, going forward in a sexual assault case, you need the guidance of an attorney.
In light of the provided definition of sexual assault, there are multiple criminal offenses, aside from the actual crime itself, that is characterized as a form of sexual assault. These crimes include statutory sexual assault and rape.
Statutory sexual assault
Statutory sexual assault is pretty distinguished from sexual assault despite their similar names. Pennsylvania law provides that an accused person has committed this crime when he or she has engaged in a sexual intercourse with a person who is under the age of 16 that they are not married to and is either:
- Four years older but less than eight years older than a victim (second-degree felony)
- Eight years older but less than 11 years older than a victim (second-degree felony)
- 11 or more years older than the alleged victim (first-degree felony)
One of the most important and misunderstood elements of the prosecution of this crime is consent. Even when consensual, engaging in sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 16-years-old is legally deemed statutory sexual assault. As indicated above, this offense can be charged as either a second-degree felony or a first-degree felony. A second-degree felony carries penalties of 10 years in prison, while a first-degree felony warrants an imprisonment term of 20 years.
Although the terms “rape” and “sexual assault” are oftentimes used interchangeably, they differ. Rape is a form of sexual assault, the circumstances in which one experiences the assault is what constitutes each crime. Rape will always fall under the realm of sexual assault, but not all instances of sexual assault will be defined as rape.
Pennsylvania law provides that a person commits the act of rape when he or she engages in sexual intercourse with a complainant:
- By forcible compulsion
- By threat of forcible compulsion (in order to prevent resistance by a person of reasonable resolution)
- Who suffers from a mental disability
- Who is incapacitated
- Where a victim has been drugged, intoxicated, for the means of preventing resistance
Rape is one of the most severely charged crimes in Pennsylvania, which is a first-degree felony. This offense carries an imprisonment penalty of up to 20 years. If the courts discover that an intoxicating or debilitating drug was used in the commission of this crime, the sentence will be extended for an additional 10 years.
It's no surprise that the legal ramifications of fiercely stigmatized crimes like sexual assault are harsh. However, lest we forget that the collateral consequences are also ones to fear. The conviction of any of the crimes mentioned above will require placement on the state's sex offender registry - an easily searchable and widely accessible database. For up to 25 years, your full name, address, license plate number, place of business, photograph and other personal identifying information will be plastered onto a site and within community notifications for the sake of public safety. You'll have to endure the humiliating experience of being a sex offender, a label that restricts employment opportunities, benefits, residency options and more.
To convict, criminal trials require that a prosecutor prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Skilled criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento's approach would be to invalidate the main elements of the prosecutor's case and expose inconsistencies in the evidence provided against you. The applicable defenses an attorney may utilize on your behalf depending on the individualized circumstances of your case.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
The sensitive nature of sex crimes invokes the aggressive and severe prosecution of alleged perpetrators. If you have been arrested and charged with this crime, you need the help of a skilled attorney to protect your rights and defend your case in court. With over 15 years of experience advocating for clients who've acquired such charges, attorney Joseph D. Lento truly believes that people are innocent until proven guilty. He maintains a judgment-free atmosphere devoid of assumptions to provide you with the legal counsel you rightfully deserve. Contact him today at 215-535-5353 for a consultation.