Sexual assault, also called indecent assault, can be interpreted differently in different states. According to Florida Sex Crimes Attorney James Weick, the general legal definition, the act constitutes sexual touching or contact without the consent of the victim, by the use of threat, force, or violence. Sexual touching means to touch intentionally, the private or intimate parts of another person for sexual arousal. The touch could be direct or through clothing. Hence, unlike rape there is no penetration in sexual assault.
Any Type of Contact
The degree of force used in sexual assault will be different, and it can be just enough to make contact. The level of force will also depend on the person being touched and the circumstances. For instance, the force needed to touch an unwilling child will be minimal compared to an adult. Secondly, deliberately brushing against intimate parts of a person in a crowded place will still constitute sexual assault even though there is no apparent force involved.
Hence, the sexual touching need not be violent, nor the level of force used has to be extreme to constitute sexual assault. The main criteria are touching a person without his or her consent and in an offending way. Secondly, even when the victim is not in a position to give consent to the sexual touching, it is still sexual assault. For instance, sexually touching a person who is unconscious or under the influence of alcohol or some drug, or the person is having a disability that limits his or her capacity to communicate.
The touching performed by a medical or health professional for the purpose of clinical evaluation cannot be taken as sexual contact. Similarly, a parent touching a child while performing required domestic functions cannot be considered sexual contact.
Sexual Assault Under Florida Statutes
A range of sex crimes is covered under sexual battery, and lewd and lascivious conduct in Florida. The term “sexual assault” is often used to mean rape in mainstream communication in Florida. Secondly, rape also does not have a separate mention under Florida Statutes, but the crime is covered under sexual battery.
However, sexual assault as described above is covered under Indecent Assault under Florida Statute 3126.
The Statute defines indecent assault as the act of indecent contact with the victim or causing the victim to come into indecent contact with the perpetrator, or willfully causing the victim to come into contact with urine, feces, or seminal fluid for the purpose of sexual arousal.
The act is done:
• Without the consent of the victim
• The perpetrator forcibly compels the victim
• The perpetrator threatens to forcibly compel the victim, to prevent any resistance
• The victim is unconscious
• The victim is unaware of the occurrence of indecent contact
• The perpetrator takes control of the victim by administering intoxicants or drugs without the knowledge of the victim
• The victim is less than 13 years old
• The victim is less than 16 years old, and the perpetrator is four years older than the victim, and the two are not married.
Penalties and Punishment
According to Florida statutes, the offense of indecent assault can be graded in its severity by taking into account various circumstances of the crime. Depending on the severity, the charges can be second-degree misdemeanor, first degree misdemeanor, or third degree felony. The perpetrator can be charged with third degree felony for indecent assault when:
• The perpetrator is a repeated offender or the perpetrator’s past conduct shows a record of indecent assaults
• The perpetrator has touched the victim’s sexual parts with his or her intimate parts or the other way round.
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