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What do all the degrees of sexual assault mean?

On Behalf of | Oct 26, 2016 | Firm News

No one should think that facing a criminal charge of sexual assault of any degree is something to take lightly. Arkansas, like every other state, prosecutes sexual assault suspects vigorously.

The mere leveling of an allegation can result in destruction of your reputation. Jobs opportunities could disappear. The accusation alone can negatively affect entire families. This can happen despite the legal tenet that says innocent until proven guilty. This post seeks to unpack the various degrees of sexual assault charges available to prosecutors.

Generally speaking, sexual assault occurs when someone feels they have been the victim of unwanted sexual activity. However, there are cases when charges are brought when sex was consensual. This might happen in cases where the individuals are minors and deemed by law to be capable of giving consent.

Degrees of felony charges

Topping the list of possible assault charges is rape. This may be alleged if prosecutors believe a defendant forced sexual intercourse on another physically, by threat or some other pressure. This is considered a class Y felony that could result in a life sentence.

It might seem odd to some, considering the alphabetical jump, but the next most serious charge under the sexual assault umbrella is a class A felony. This would be first-degree sexual assault. Typically leveled if the victim is 18 or younger, not the spouse of the suspect, or the suspect held some form of caretaker position over the victim. The penalty upon conviction could be a 30-year sentence.

Second-degree sexual assault is a class B felony. State law allows for a prison term of up to 20 years if a person is convicted of this crime. Here again, forced intercourse is typically an element of the crime.

Stepping down the ladder, we have third-degree sexual assault. This class C felony could result in a prison term of up to 10 years. A minor who has sex with someone younger than 14 might find themselves charged with this.

Fourth-degree sexual assault is the least serious of the charge levels. It might be brought if the offender is an adult and the victim is 16 or younger. A conviction at this level could lead to a prison term of up to six years.

Clearly, a person facing any such charge should be in contact with an experienced attorney immediately.


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