Sexual assault charges are complicated and messy. Victims’ rights are often the focus, and accused individuals are sometimes judged in the court of public opinion before a case goes to court. However, just like others accused of a crime, people accused of sexual assault are innocent until proven guilty. If you’re accused of sexual assault, having an experienced attorney to plead your case and help you navigate challenges in and out of court is vital.
What Is Considered Sexual Assault?
Virginia prosecutes sexual assault under the Commonwealth’s rape and sexual battery laws.
- Virginia defines rape (18.2-61) as sexual intercourse with someone (whether or not their spouse):
- Against their will, by force, threat or intimidation
- Who is physically or mentally disabled
- Who is under the age of 13.
Rape is a felony punishable by five years to life in prison.
- Simple sexual battery occurs when someone touches another person’s intimate body parts against their will. Simple sexual battery is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail plus a fine of up to $2,500.
- Aggravated sexual battery involves actions beyond simple sexual battery with aggravating circumstances. The state may bring aggravated sexual battery charges when the victim is under 13 years old or mentally or physically disabled–or if the accused is the victim’s parent, grandparent or step-parent. Aggravated sexual battery is a felony and comes with a mandatory minimum prison sentence of one year with the possibility of up to 20 years, plus a fine of up to $100,000.
Who Is Required to Register with the Virginia Sex Offender Registry?
In many cases, the consequences of a sexual assault conviction go beyond jail time and fines. Some convictions can follow you for life. The Virginia Sex Offender Registry (Title 9.1) is a public database listing people convicted of sexual crimes as state law requires. You must register with the Sex Offender Registry if you are convicted of rape, aggravated sexual battery, or child pornography among other offenses. You must keep your address up to date and notify the local sheriff’s department and/or State Police when you move within Virginia or leave the state. The registry is sent to schools, daycare facilities, and other institutions working with children in your area and is easily accessible online. State law also requires the state police to check in with registered sex offenders every six months to verify their information.
Is Someone Accused of Sexual Assault Still Innocent Until Proven Guilty?
Because of high-profile sexual assault cases in the media, we often get the sense that people accused of sexual assault are presumed guilty before they get their day in court. Of course, innocent victims deserve justice. However, sexual assault cases are often complicated and nuanced. If you are accused of sexual assault, you are entitled to a vigorous and detailed defense. Having a skilled lawyer who can help you navigate the system, work to prove your innocence, and demonstrate any mitigating factors that can lead to reduced or dropped charges is essential.
What Happens If I’m Accused of Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault charges often take the accused individual by surprise and can turn your life upside down. It’s important to stay calm and listen to your attorney’s advice every step of the way. The court will consider your character and behavior and the character of your accuser, along with scientific and other evidence.
- Create a timeline and notes on your version of events as soon as you are charged.
- Work with your attorney to find mitigating evidence, including information about your character and the alleged victim’s character.
- Help create a witness list for your attorney–both about the events of the case and your character.
- Sexual assault cases often involve complicated scientific evidence. Full cooperation with your attorney is critical.
What if I’m Falsely Accused of Sexual Assault?
Studies show that false reports of sexual assault are statistically low, but they do happen. Alleged victims may file false reports motivated by revenge, financial gain, regret, or an effort to deny a consensual sexual encounter. However, even if accusations are false, they can significantly impact your life and tarnish your reputation. Treat false allegations seriously, and hire an attorney who will work tirelessly to clear your name. Crafting a solid defense against sexual assault accusations can help you avoid severe lifelong consequences.
Fighting Sexual Assault Charges: Your Legal Representation Matters
When you are accused of sexual assault, it can shake the very foundation of your life. Your reputation can take a severe hit before you get your day in court. When the nature of the charges is sensitive, it’s essential to have a skilled defense team on your side. The attorneys at Laurel Brigade Law Group in Leesburg VA believe every accused individual deserves the presumption of innocence and a fair trial. Even when the accusations are ugly, the state must prove that a crime occurred. Our skilled lawyers have a deep understanding of the law and the burden of proof required. In every case, our mission is to defend your innocence and protect your reputation for years to come.