The 4 Degrees Of Sexual Assault

The 4 Degrees Of Sexual Assault

by | Mar 19, 2019

Sexual assault of any type is a serious offense. While many people understand the basic concepts of what constitutes sexual assault, the law differentiates between various degrees the crime in order to more effectively prosecute offenders. In total, there are four degrees of sexual assault in California.

First degree sexual assault is the most severe type of offense, while fourth degree is the least. In some cases fourth degree sexual assault may be charged as sexual battery, and it’s up to the prosecutor to make that decision.
 

First Degree Sexual Assault

First degree sexual assault (sometimes referred to as aggravated sexual assault) is the most severe degree of the crime.

To be convicted of first degree sexual assault, the prosecution must prove that:

  1. Sexual penetration occurred
  2. One of the following situations:
    • The victim was under the age of 13
    • The victim ranges in age from 13-18, and one of the following:
      1. A member of the same household as the perpetrator
      2. A relative of the perpetrator
      3. The perpetrator was in a position of authority over the victim
    • The perpetrator was aided by another person or assailant, and one of the following:
      1. The victim was incapacitated
      2. The perpetrator used some form of force or coercion to assault the victim
  3. The perpetrator was armed with a weapon
  4. The victim was injured
  5. The assault occurred while another crime was being committed by the perpetrator

Punishments for first degree sexual assault, while ultimately up to the judge, can result in a life sentence to prison.
 

Second Degree Sexual Assault

Second degree sexual assault differs slightly from first degree in that it doesn’t include sexual penetration. However, from a legal standpoint, it is considered equally as damaging as first degree assault due to the violent nature of the crime and/or the victim’s inability to consent.

To be convicted of second degree sexual assault, the prosecution must prove that:

  1. Sexual contact occurred
  2. Any of the situations listed in the requirements for first degree sexual assault (other than sexual penetration) occurred.

Convictions for second degree sexual assault typically do not result in life imprisonment, but sentences of up to fifteen years are common.

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Third Degree Sexual Assault

Third degree sexual assault, while less violent that first and second degree, is still a very serious crime.

To be convicted of third degree sexual assault, the prosecution must prove that:

  1. Sexual penetration occurred
  2. One of the following circumstances:
    • The victim was a minor
    • The victim was forced and/or coerced
    • The victim was incapacitated at the time

Third degree sexual assault also carries a sentence of up to fifteen years in prison.
 

Fourth Degree Sexual Assault

To be convicted of fourth degree sexual assault, the prosecution must prove that:

  1. Sexual contact occurred
  2. One of the following circumstances:
    • The victim was a minor
    • The victim was forced and/or coerced
    • The victim was incapacitated at the time

Punishments for fourth degree sexual assault vary more widely than the first three degrees, and heavily depend on the circumstances of the case.
 

Sexual Penetration vs Sexual Contact

The definitions for sexual penetration versus sexual contact are as follows:

Sexual Penetration: Includes sexual or anal intercourse, fellatio, cunnilingus, or the intrusion of any body part or any foreign object into the vaginal, anal or oral cavities.

Sexual Contact: Includes intentional touching of another person’s intimate parts (groin or buttocks, or the breasts of a female), or the clothing covering the intimate parts of another person with the aim of sexual gratification or arousal.
 

Defending Against Sexual Assault Charges

Although the above descriptions of the degrees of sexual assault are neatly laid out, it is important to remember that in reality, assault is never neat and tidy. Each sexual assault case is completely different, and thus it is important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you’ve been charged with this type of crime.

At Quinnan Law, we have extensive experience defending clients from charges of sexual assault at all levels. To request a free phone consultation to review your case, please contact us today.

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