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Sexual Assault Laws and Penalties

The term sexual assault, in lay person terms, usually refers to an attack on a person that is sexual in nature. The legal definition of this term actually differs, however, from province to province. In some provinces, sexual assault is synonymous with rape – forced sexual intercourse or sexual contact without consent – while other provinces have no crime known as sexual assault and instead define sexual conduct without consent as rape, criminal sexual penetration, criminal sexual contact and sexual battery.

Forms of Sexual Assault

Provinces differentiate between rape and other types of illegal sexual contact.

Rape and criminal sexual penetration

Whether a province’s laws call forced sexual intercourse “sexual assault,” “rape,” “sexual battery,” or “criminal sexual penetration,” the criminal conduct usually is designated as sexual penetration or sodomy without consent. Sexual penetration normally is defined as penetration of the vagina with a body part or an object and sodomy normally is defined as oral sex – contact between the mouth and penis or female genitalia – or penetration of the anus with a body part of object.

Sexual battery and criminal sexual contact

Most provinces criminalize sexual conduct that does not include penetration, oral sex or sodomy, but that is conduct that is sexual in nature and occurs without the other person’s consent. This conduct usually is referred to as sexual battery or criminal sexual contact. (Note: Some provinces define sexual battery as sexual penetration while others define it as only sexual touching.) A common definition for sexual battery is touching of an intimate part of the body (clothed or unclothed, depending on the province) for the purpose of sexual arousal or pleasure, without the other person’s consent; or forcing another person to touch an intimate part of the offender’s body.

Federal Sexual Assault Sentencing and Penalties

Federal law directs judges to examine a number of factors, including the defendant’s criminal history and his or her acceptance of responsibility, when setting a punishment. The federal law criminalizing sexual assault sets a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and also provides for fines. In addition, federal law provides that those convicted of sexual assault must compensate their victims for any expenses directly related to the crime. This can include costs for medical care, physical or occupational therapy, attorney’s fees, and other related expenses.

Getting Legal Help with Your Sexual Assault Case

Sexual assault is a very serious crime with significant penalties. If you’ve been charged with the crime, you have the constitutional right to legal representation and you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as early in the process as possible. After all, an attorney can help to sort out, and challenge, any evidence against you.