The People’s Lawyer

What constitutes sexual assault and what the penalties are

On Behalf of | Oct 18, 2021 | Criminal Defense

While any allegation of a crime should be treated seriously, those accused of a sex crime should understand the severity of these allegations, as they could carry with them harsh penalties that could follow them for years, decades or the rest of their lives. Thus, it is important to understand what constitutes sexual assault and sexual abuse as well as the penalties associated with them.

West Virginia sexual assault laws

First-degree sexual assault is defined as forcing another to have sex by using a deadly weapon. An individual could also face this charge if they are over the age of 14 and has sex with an individual that is under the age of 12 and is not their spouse.

With regards to second-degree sexual assault, this occurs when a person forces another to have sex without their consent, having sex with a person deemed physically helpless and is therefore incapable of consent or an individual 16 years of age or older having sex with a minor under the age of 16 that is not their spouse and is at least 4 years younger than the accused.


The penalties associated with sexual assault charges can be harsh. For a first-degree sexual assault charge, which is a felony, one could face up to 35 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. If the accused is 18 years old or older and the victim in question was under the age of 12, this could result in a penalty of up to 100 years in prison and a fine up to $25,000.

A second-degree sexual assault charge is also a felony. If convicted of this crime, one could face up to 5 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. It should be noted that the penalties associated with sexual assault could be enhanced if the individual has a prior record of sexually violent offenses, especially if they involve children.

Defense options

In matters where consent is at issue, whether it is the result of one’s age, a mental defect or physical helplessness, which could be brought on by drugs or alcohol, the accused could use the defense that they had no knowledge of incapacity and was not reckless by failing to obtain this information. When age is at issue, proof of actual age could be useful in a defense.

Facing allegations of a sex crime can be a challenging and emotional predicament. Nonetheless, it is a situation to take seriously and those accused of such a crime should take the time to fully understand their matter. This could help them develop a strong defense, which could ultimately result in charges being reduced or even dismissed altogether.