The People’s Lawyer

What constitutes sexual abuse and what are the penalties?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2021 | Criminal Defense

In this blog, we often discuss sex offenses, including child abuse and assault. Indeed, last week, we explored what qualifies as sexual assault in West Virginia, including penalties. And, in this blog, we will analyze sexual abuse.

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is a lesser charge than sexual assault, though it is still a punishable offense. First degree sexual abuse is forcible sexual contact with another without their consent, including one who is incapable of consent, like they are physically helpless. First degree sexual abuse also occurs if a teenager of 14-years-old or older has sexual contact with another child that is under 12-years-old.

Second-degree sexual abuse occurs when the sexual contact is with someone who is mentally incapacitated or defective, and thus, unable to consent to the sexual contact. Finally, third-degree sexual abuse is sexual contact with a minor under 16-years-old because they are incapable of legal consent.

What are the penalties?

For first degree (a felony), if the convicted person was 18 or older, and the victim under 12, the maximum penalty is 25 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. For second and third degree, the crimes are considered misdemeanors. And, for second degree, the penalty is up to one year in prison and up to a $500 fine. For third degree, it is prison for up to 90 days and up to a $500 fine. Of course, these penalties increase for additional convictions, especially those that relate to sexual violence.

What about a defense?

The most basic defense for our Charles Town, West Virginia, clients is factual. This is that the crime alleged did not occur, but there are also defenses built into the crime itself. Specifically, where incapacity to consent is alleged, the charged individual can argue a lack of knowledge without being reckless in obtaining such knowledge. And, for third degree, if the alleged perpetrator was also under 16 (or less than 4 years older than the reported victim), this can be a defense.