One crime that has particular consequences is the crime of sexual assault. In Pennsylvania, a majority of forms of sexual assault are covered under a single statute, and they are met with harsh and swift punishments. Punishments can be worse if a person has been the defendant of a PFA, or if the situation involves domestic violence.
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is a sexual act committed without a person's consent. Sexual assault is defined in Title 18, Chapter 31 of Pennsylvania's criminal statutes. Sexual assault has several different iterations defined through the laws.
Rape 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3121
The criminal act of rape is committed when a person engages in forced sexual intercourse (without the victim's consent) and the following circumstances apply:
- They physically forced or forcibly compelled the victim to do so
- They threatened the victim to do so
- The victim was unconscious
- The victim was mentally incapable of consenting
- The defendant used intoxicating drugs or alcohol to impair the victim's judgement
Rape is a first-degree felony charge.
Sexual Assault 18 Pa. C.S.A § 3124.1
Sexual assault is a broad statute that covers forms of nonconsensual sexual acts that are not covered under the statute for rape. The statute reads:
"a person commits a felony of the second degree when that person engages in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with a complainant without the complainant's consent."
Sexual assault is a second-degree felony offense. There are also different provisions for persons in positions such as sports officials, volunteer workers, or employees of nonprofit organizations.
Indecent Assault Pa. C.S.A. § 3126
A person commits indecent assault when they engage in any lewd or indecent contact, such as contact with genitals or bodily fluids, with the victim under the following circumstances:
- The person has done so without the victim's consent
- The person has done so through forcible compulsion
- The person has done so through threat of forcible compulsion
- The victim is unconscious
- The defendant has used drugs or alcohol to eliminate the victim's ability to consent
- The victim is under 13 years of age
- The victim suffers from a mental disability that renders them incapable of consent
- The victim is under 16 years of age and the defendant is over four years older, and the parties are involved are not married
Indecent assault can be first or second-degree misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. In rare cases, indecent assault can be a third-degree felony as well.
What are the Penalties for Sexual Assault Charges in Pennsylvania?
Because of the various degrees of sexual assault, there are varying degrees of penalties. First-degree felony charges are punishable by up to 20 years of jail time, and fines up to $25,000. Second-degree felony offenses can be met with up to 10 years of jail time, and fines up to $25,000. A third-degree felony charge can be punished by up to 7 years of jail time and fines up to $15,000. First degree misdemeanors will be met with potential punishments of 5 years and fines up to $10,000. Second-degree misdemeanor offenses are punishable by up to 2 years of jail time and fines up to $5,000. In addition to their sentencing and their criminal record, a person must also maintain registered as a sex offender in the state of Pennsylvania.
How Can I Defend Against Sexual Assault Charges?
Sexual assault charges can be difficult for a person to defend against in court. These situations are often complex, and many times the situation boils down to the victim's word versus the defendant's claims. This can put the defendant in a difficult situation. Many times, a jury, prosecutor or judge will already have a skewed opinion of the defendant before they even step foot into the court room. Providing the defendant's version of events is key to making defenses to these claims. Having evidence or facts that show inconsistencies in a victim's account, or what is contained in a police report can turn the tide of a case.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
When a person faces charges of sexual assault, or variants of sexual assault, such as rape or indecent assault, they may feel as though the world is against them. These charges are not only punished severely but also damaging to a person's name and reputation. Many times, a court may treat this as a simple case and take the victim and police at their word. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania, contact defense attorney Joseph D. Lento today.