Sexual Assault: Definition and Defenses. Temecula, Murrieta and Hemet Criminal Defense Attorney

While every state has its own definition of sexual assault, the Department of Justice defines it as "any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient." A person can commit sexual assault even if the victim gives consent but is legally incapable of doing so, by reason of being below the age of consent or because of a mental or physical disability. An even more serious form of sexual assault can occur when force or some kind of threat is used to coerce the victim.

There are a number of defenses against a charge of sexual assault.

First, the defendant can claim that he or she is innocent. The defendant can claim to have been in another location when the offense occurred, perhaps calling up witnesses to verify the alibi. The defendant can claim to have been misidentified and that the perpetrator was someone else entirely. Modern DNA testing has been quite useful in identifying who the perpetrator of sexual assault is.

Second, the defendant can claim that the victim gave consent, the idea being that consent negates any charge of sexual assault. This can be tricky to prove without witnesses. In times past a defendant would try to bring up the victim's sexual history as evidence that he or she was likely to have given consent, but this gambit has a tendency to backfire with modern juries. And, in any case, minors or people with physical or mental impairments as defined by the law are incapable of giving consent.

The final defense is to assert some kind of mental impairment (e.g. under the influence of alcohol or drugs) claiming that the defendant was incapable of understanding what was being committed. Various states have their own definition of what constitutes insanity or a mental impairment, but courts are likely to treat a defendant more leniently if the defense is successful.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for sexual assault in Temecula, Murrieta, Menifee, Wildomar, Perris, Banning, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Corona, Winchester or Riverside, please contact us for a free consultation. We can help!

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