criminal defense attorney speaking to jury

Are There Defenses to a Sex Crime Charge?

By Joel Hancock

Sexual assault is a very serious criminal offense. While states vary slightly in how they define it, the elements of the crime remain the same. Sexual assault generally refers to a crime in which someone is subjected to unwanted sexual contact by another. These involuntary sexual interactions usually occur as a result of force or coercion. They may also occur when the victim is incapacitated. Incapacitation can occur in a couple of different ways: mental and physical.

Mental incapacitation occurs when an individual cannot understand the nature of the acts. This could be either their normal mental state if they suffer from certain mental disabilities or an altered mental state, such as intoxication due to alcohol. Physical incapacitation can occur when someone is restrained or is physically incapable of showing his or her objection, as is the case with date rape drugs. 

The term sexual assault is usually used to describe other crimes such as rape, though some jurisdictions differentiate between crimes involving coerced or consensual touch and those involving penetration, the latter of which is commonly held as a first-degree offense. Additionally, most states now provide protection against sexual assault to spouses. While it used to be that one could not commit sexual assault against his or her spouse, this is no longer the case. 

Defenses to Sex Crimes

Sex crimes are very serious and being accused of committing one should be taken very seriously. While there aren’t very many, there are a few defenses to such an accusation: he or she is innocent; he or she engaged in consensual sexual activity, or he or she can’t be held guilty due to mental disease or defect. 

1. Actual Innocence

Like all crimes, the most widely used defense is innocence. To prove innocence, an individual must generally be able to prove that it would be a physical impossibility to be guilty since they were at another location at the time or by providing a credible alibi. It’s the burden of the prosecution to prove that a defendant is guilty. The defendant will want to establish reasonable doubt. If he or she can do so then under the law the jury should acquit him or her.

2. Consensual Act

If a defendant can prove that the act was consensual, a crime does not exist. However, it’s important to understand whom – and who cannot – provide legal consent. Those without legal capacity cannot consent no matter what. This includes minors. If an individual engages in sexual activity with a minor, it is statutory and there can be no legal consent – even if there is verbal consent. 

3. Insanity or Mental Incapacity

When an individual is found to have had a mental disease or defect at the time that he or she engaged in a crime, he or she cannot be found guilty. For a successful insanity defense the defendant must demonstrate that while the defendant did commit the criminal activity, he or she suffered from a mental disease or defect at the time, which prevented them from understanding the criminal nature of their actions. 

Attorney Joel Hancock at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Sexual Crime

If you or a loved one has been charged with a sexual crime, it is a very serious matter. An individual convicted of a sexual crime can face numerous serious consequences. It often leads to lengthy jail sentences and hefty fines and will continue to impact you even after your sentence has been served. A felony can affect your ability to obtain or keep certain jobs and can permanently impact your reputation. That’s why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that he or she can work to reduce or even dismiss these charges. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

About the Author
Joel Hancock is a native of Carteret County, NC. He devotes 100% of his practice to defending those accused of traffic infractions, DWI, misdemeanors, and felonies in Carteret County, NC.