Are There Any Defenses to a Sex Crime?
September 20, 2018
Although different states have slightly different definitions, sexual assault generally refers to any crime in which the victim has been subjected to unwanted or offensive sexual touching by the offender.
Though the elements are essentially the same, the wording and scope may vary considerably from state to state.
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault consists of involuntary sexual actions occurring through an individual’s use of force or coercion, or due to the victim’s incapacitation. Victims are considered to have been incapacitated if they lacked the mental ability to understand the nature of the acts, such as the use of alcohol; or if the victim was physically incapable of demonstrating his or her objection, such as with the use of date rape drugs.
Sexual Assault in New Jersey is applied as the legal term for rape. It is defined by law as, “the penetration, no matter how slight, in which physical force or coercion is used or in which the victim is physically or mentally incapacitated.” The law applies to a wide range of force and intimidation, as well as sexual contact, and severely punished. N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2
Under modern law, sexual assault also refers to nonconsensual sexual contact between individuals of any sex or age. In most states, like New Jersey, sexual assault is used as a broader term to describe other crimes such as rape.
Some jurisdictions distinguish between crimes that involve penetration and those involving coerced or nonconsensual touching, holding crimes involving penetration as an aggravated or first-degree offense.
Most states now have laws which extend to protect spouses from sexual assault. Marriage used to be a defense to sexual assault, though that has changed.
Defenses to Sex Crimes
Although there are not many, there do exist some defenses to the accusation of a sex crime. Like other crimes, a defendant may claim innocence to sexual assault. Alternately, he or she may claim that the act was consensual; or may state that he or she did in fact commit the crime, but cannot be held responsible due to insanity or other mental incapacity.
The most basic defense against all crimes is a claim of actual innocence. They may claim false identification, and that they have been misidentified as the perpetrator of the crime. Demonstrating that they were not physically present to commit the crime may prove innocence by offering an “alibi.” Alibis must be supported by credible evidence. Similarly, false identification must also be established using credible evidence.
The prosecution holds the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt. If the defendant can establish reasonable doubt, the jury should acquit them.
Since a lack of consent is necessary for committing a sexual assault crime, if the defendant can argue and prove that the act was consensual, there can be no crime.
It is important to note that those who lack the mental capacity to give consent cannot do so. This includes minors, for which the act is considered statutory. States differ in terms of whether specific efforts to establish age are enough to defend consent.
Insanity or Mental Incapacity
Defendants may claim that they lacked mental capacity at the time of the assault, and should be removed of all criminal liability. This “insanity defense” is applied differently from state to state. Many states will treat an offender more leniently upon a showing of their mental disease or defect, as it is believed to have prevented them from understanding the criminal nature of their actions.
A Camden County Sex Offense Lawyer from The Law Office of Thomas J. Gossé is Here to Help
If you have been charged with a sex crime, it is important to understand that these charges can carry serious penalties, including prison time. That is why you need to speak with an experienced Camden County sex offense lawyer at the Law Office of Thomas J. Gossé. We can help you to understand your rights. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 856-546-6600. Proudly serving Hadden Heights, Camden County, Cherry Hill, Moorestown, and Haddonfield, we have your best interest at heart.