From a legal standpoint, there are big differences between sexual abuse, assault, and harassment. A specific sex crime has a corresponding punishment. Some offenses, like rape, carry much more severe penalties than others, like harassment. While the legal definition of these crimes can vary by state, it is generally accepted that sexual misconduct is any unwanted sexual act directed at another person.
It also refers to a sexual act conducted without the person’s consent, often through violence or intimidation. The severity of the consequences for a sexual offense conviction varies greatly depending on the crime. Some crimes may be punishable by parole, jail time, or fines. However, one thing that all these convictions have in common is that you must register as a sex offender, which can have lifelong consequences.
Legal Definition of Sexual Assault
The terms “sexual assault” and “rape” are often used interchangeably. However, legally speaking, sexual assault can refer to any kind of unwanted sexual contact or behavior. Examples of such behavior can include:
- Forcible intercourse (rape)
- Attempted rape
- Forcible sodomy
Sexual Assault vs. Sexual Violence
People often confuse sexual assault and sexual violence. However, under the law, there is a distinction. While all sexual assaults are a form of sexual violence, the latter term is much broader and includes verbal and psychological acts such as:
- False promises
- Catcalling or whistling
- The sharing of explicit images
While all forms of sexual assault and violence may be considered criminal, the legal definition can make all the difference when mounting a defense against sexual assault allegations. An attorney who has handled sexual assault, harassment, and abuse cases will understand the different ways that actions and words can be interpreted and how these distinctions can affect your case.
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Sexual Harassment Categories
Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances or requests, as well as unwanted physical contact or verbal statements of a sexual nature. While unwanted sexual attention may sound like a mild crime, it can be quite serious. There are three main categories that sexual harassment tends to fall into:
- Coercion (intimidation or pressure)
- Unwanted sexual attention
- Gender harassment
Unwanted sexual attention and coercion are commonly reported in the workplace. Another type of sexual harassment to take note of is gender harassment. This behavior might not involve any sexual contact or advances whatsoever. Instead, it focuses more on demeaning remarks based on gender.
Regardless of the target or intent, sexual harassment is considered a crime in California and many other states. If you face sexual harassment allegations or criminal charges, you would be well served to consult with a criminal defense attorney who has handled sexual harassment cases. Such an attorney will be familiar with sexual harassment statutes and cases. Armed with this information, they can defend your legal right to a fair trial before the law.
Sexual Abuse Involves Children
The term “sexual abuse” is most often used to describe conduct toward children rather than adults. Every state in the country has laws regarding a child’s inability to consent to a sexual act. The age of consent varies by state, but the range is between 16 and 18 years of age.
Someone who is charged with sexual abuse may be accused of many different crimes, including:
- Touching the victim in a sexual way
- Forcing the victim to touch him or her in a sexual way
- Forcing the victim to look at or watch a sexual act
- Forcing the victim to look at intimate body parts
Sexual abuse, harassment, and assault are all crimes that can be punishable under California law. If you are accused of sexual misconduct of any sort, even if charges have not been made against you, speak with a criminal defense attorney to discuss your legal options.
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Penalties for Sex Crimes
The penalties for sexual harassment, assault, and abuse vary greatly depending on the severity of the offense and the state in which the crime was committed. Even for more mild offenses, you will likely be facing potential jail time. For more serious crimes, you could end up spending the rest of your life in prison. You will also likely be facing financial penalties, including fines, fees, and damages in civil court. The punishments for these types of crimes are not limited to incarceration and fines.
Anyone convicted of sexual misconduct is required to register as a sex offender with their local government. This requirement can affect where the offender lives and works for the rest of their life. Convicted sex offenders are also viewed negatively by society. Having a conviction for a sexual offense can haunt every aspect of your life on a personal and professional level. Even if you are convicted of a minor offense for which you are innocent, the designation as a sex offender can severely damage your relationships and long-term life prospects.
It can prevent you from obtaining a home, maintaining adult relationships, having a family, or advancing your professional career. It is therefore critical to seek legal assistance from a criminal defense attorney if you have been accused of sexual harassment, assault, or abuse. A lawyer who specializes in criminal defense can explain how to defend yourself against allegations or charges of sexual misconduct.
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Possible Defenses Against Accusations
Most sex crimes occur in areas where there are no witnesses. As a result, it is often difficult to prove that a defendant was guilty of the crime for which they were accused. A defense attorney will know where many prosecutors fall short, whether it is in evidence, testimony, or legal tactics. They will use this knowledge to build a solid defense and reduce the effectiveness of the prosecution’s case.
Some of the most common legal defenses used in sex crime cases are:
- Mistaken identity
- Disputes about consent
- Biased interviews
- False accusations
Your lawyer will examine the prosecution’s case and evidence to determine which defense is best suited to your case.
Certain Evidence May Be Inadmissible
A criminal defense lawyer may also be able to get evidence dismissed if it was obtained illegally. We use a variety of strategies that can result in your evidence being inadmissible in court, including:
- Questioning evidence relevancy
- Asking whether the evidence has a reliable foundation
- Asking if a witness is credible
- Determining if the evidence is protected by privilege
- Examining whether evidence or testimony is hearsay
- Establishing if the evidence was gathered according to established rules and procedures
- Determining if the evidence was provided to the defense in accordance with state law
- Proving that a statement or testimony is considered character evidence and therefore inadmissible
Understanding the difference between sexual assault, harassment, and abuse is key to knowing how to approach your case. Each type of case will require different evidence, which in turn requires a different analysis for admissibility.
Your defense attorney will review all the evidence for admissibility to try and give you the best chance for a case dismissal or charge reduction. While no outcome is guaranteed, a criminal defense attorney will represent your best interests from the initial consultation through trial and sentencing.
Fight For Your Freedom if You’ve Been Accused
Have you been charged with sexual assault, abuse, or harassment? At Simmrin Law Group, we understand that your reputation is on the line, in addition to your freedom. You may have been charged with a crime you didn’t commit, but the system is not on your side. Our criminal defense attorneys understand the unique challenges faced by defendants in sexual misconduct cases.
Our criminal defense lawyers have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you fight these types of charges. If you’re thinking about finding legal representation for a sexual misconduct case, don’t delay. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to get the charges against you dropped or reduced. Contact our legal team today to discuss how we can assist with your case.