Being charged with sexual assault is one of the most significant blows to an individual’s career, family life, and image in society. Unlike other infractions, such as impaired driving, which are quickly forgotten, sexual assault accusations have long-term consequences, the most serious of which is a ruined reputation. If convicted, you will always be looked down upon as someone untrustworthy and dishonourable. This is because society treats sexual assaults as a susceptible and inexcusable matter.
If you are charged with sexual assault, the wisest way forward would be to hire a reputable and adept assault lawyer to defend you against this complex charge.
Besides being a sensitive topic, a sexual offense is also a highly complex legal matter. Over our years of practice in Edmonton, we have seen numerous accused individuals struggle to understand what the term sexual assault encompasses, which ultimately leads to their inability to adequately prepare their defense against such allegations.
For this reason, this blog post will explore some of the basic elements of sexual assault charges, including what falls under the umbrella of this offense, the related laws, possible penalties/sentences, and the best defenses.
Legal Definition Of Sexual Assault
First of all, let us debunk the widespread misconception that sexual assault solely constitutes forced sexual intercourse (popularly referred to as rape). In truth, the term covers numerous other actions which do not necessarily involve physical contact. Thus, you can not use mere lack of physical contact as a defense against a sexual assault charge.
While the definition of this offense varies from country to country, the Edmonton Police Service broadly defines the offense as any action or offense that desecrates the sexual integrity of the victim. Thus it may or may not include physical contact. For your information, even a mere threat to sexually assault a person actually constitutes as a sexual assault. For example, a simple statement like, “ I will rape you.” uttered in a fit of rage or despair, might be considered sexual assault.
Thus, sexual assault has different categories and levels, and the resulting convictions also depend on these.
Sections 271-273 of the Criminal Code of Canada present the three main categories under which a sexual offense may fall.
Categories Of Sexual Assault As Per The Criminal Code Of Canada
The severity of the conviction charges, including jail sentences and relevant penalties, will primarily depend upon the nature of the assault and its category. To determine the category under which an offense falls, law enforcement authorities usually investigate the following factors:
- The nature of physical contact (if any)
- The parts of the body touched
- Surrounding circumstances
- Accompanying verbal remarks and gestures
- Nature of the specific situation
- Evidence of use of threat or force
As mentioned earlier, the conviction will depend upon whether the offense was a summary (less serious) or indictable (more serious). Hence, obtaining the services of assault offense lawyers when charged with assault offenses is crucial.
For better comprehension, let us explore the three relevant sections of the above-mentioned code:
This section covers the most basic and typically less violent sexual assaults. It includes actions like forced physical touch, kissing, intercourse, or any other non-consensual action that compromises the victim’s sexual integrity.
The penalties for this sections violations include:
If the victim is over the age of sixteen;
- Imprisonment for a maximum period of ten years if the offense is indictable
- Imprisonment for a maximum period of eighteen months in the case of a summary conviction.
For a victim under the age of sixteen;
- Maximum fourteen years of imprisonment if the assault is indictable
- Maximum imprisonment of two years if the offense is summary
This section covers everything mentioned in the previous section and also includes the additional offense of using the threat of a weapon to force the victim into any sexual activity.
The offenses that fall under this section are indictable and can result in:
- Imprisonment for a minimum of four years and a maximum of fourteen years,
Lastly, this section covers all types of sexual assaults that are aggravated and cause bodily harm to the victim. If, as a result of the assault, the victim is disfigured, maimed, or wounded, the accused will be considered to have violated this section.
If you are charged with an offense under this section, you may:
- Receive a penalty of a minimum of four years of imprisonment or a life sentence.
Consent As Defense
When a victim is under the age of sixteen, consent can not be used as a form of defense as falsely perceived by many people. If the victim is under the age of sixteen and you are five years older than them, they cannot give you consent. Similarly, if the victim is under the age of fourteen, you can not obtain consent from them if you are two years older than them.
The Right Course Of Action When Charged With Sexual Assault
The best way to handle an assault charge is immediately seeking legal help from reputable criminal defense lawyers. For years, we have successfully defended our clients against simple assault charges to the most complex ones, including murder and sexual assault offenses. Learn more about Slaferek Law and its areas of expertise.
Contact us now for more information.