Sexual Assault and the Law
Sexual assault covers a range of activity including unwanted touching, groping, battery and attempted rape. The common thread between these cases is coercion on the part of the offender or the incapacitation of the victim. This includes cases where the victim’s judgment or cognitive ability has been diminished to the point where he or she does not understand what’s occurring. The use of date rape drugs or alcohol to render a victim incapable of granting informed consent are examples of this scenario.
If you’ve been the victim of sexual assault, it’s critically important that you seek out the guidance of experienced counsel. To help you better understand your rights under the law, let’s take a closer look at the legal issues surrounding sexual assault.
The scope of sexual assault
Sexual assault remains a significant criminal justice problem in the United States. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, roughly 323,000 Americans were the victim of a sexual assault in 2016. It should be noted that this estimate may be conservative, as statistics also show that sexual assault is one of the more underreported of all crimes.
The legal approach to sexual assault varies throughout jurisdictions, though most of these differences are limited to nomenclature and sentencing guidelines. In California, sexual assault covers the “unwanted touching” of any intimate parts. These crimes may be charged under California law as misdemeanor sexual battery or felony sexual battery, depending on the severity of the incident. When sexual assault rises to the level of forced intercourse, it is charged as rape.
Penalties for sexual assault in California run the gamut from six months in jail for misdemeanor sexual assault to multiple decades in prison, depending on the severity of the crime and mitigating factors. Under federal law, state judges are required to consider the defendant’s criminal history, expressions of remorse and other factors when calculating a sentence. Federal law also dictates that offenders reimburse victims financially for medical care, counseling and other expenses.
Sexual assault victims may also pursue legal remedies in civil court. One example: Our firm recently won a $7.5 million recovery for a woman who was sexually assaulted at a southern California hotel. The woman was victimized by a criminal intruder who entered the building. The legal concept underpinning the verdict is known as “premises liability.” This means that the property owner is liable for negligent actions that result in the victimization of a guest or visitor.
Whether a sexual assault occurs in a workplace, a place of business or a home, civil suits play an integral role in protecting the legal and financial rights of victims. Sexual assaults often have devastating psychological consequences that inhibit the victims ability to work and live as they once did.
By partnering with an experienced advocate, victims can ensure that their rights remain protected.
Choosing the right attorney
Sexual assault cases are often both sensitive and complex, so the choice of an attorney is an important one. If you’ve been the victim of such as assault, we encourage you to reach out to us for legal help.