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What is Aggravated Sexual Assault?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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As its name suggests, aggravated sexual assault is a sex crime in which aggravating factors add to the heinousness of the assault. Although the precise criteria for aggravated sexual assault differ by jurisdiction, the crime is frequently distinguished by the amount of bodily harm caused, the number of assailants, and the use of a deadly weapon or the age of the victim. It should be noted that some jurisdictions use different terminology, calling such a crime aggravated rape or first-degree sexual assault.

The term sexual assault may itself have different meanings in different jurisdictions, in many places referring to a sexual crime in which the mouth, vagina, or anus of the victim is penetrated. When an aggravated sexual assault takes place, the sexual violation is combined with other circumstances that make it a more serious crime. For example, if a victim is severely beaten, impregnated, or threatened with a gun, the sexual assault is said to be aggravated, and the crime, along with its penalties, is treated much more seriously by law enforcement and the justice system. If a victim is kidnapped or more than one assailant violates the victim, the rape may also be defined as aggravated, even if a weapon or extreme physical violence are not used against the victim.

Some sexual assault laws automatically consider some sexual activity, even if it is seemingly consensual, to be aggravated sexual assault. This includes sexual relations involving a very young person or someone who is mentally unable to give consent to sexual activity. In cases where the consensual sexual activity took place with an older teenager but the perpetrator is related to or in a position of power over the victim, such as a teacher or clergy person, the law may still classify the crime as aggravated sexual assault. In some jurisdictions, the crime of marital rape can be prosecuted only if it meets the criteria for aggravated sexual assault.

The penalties for aggravated sexual assault can be much more severe than the penalties for other sex crimes, and in many cases include mandatory prison sentences. Individuals who are convicted of multiple or extremely vicious offenses may even find themselves facing life in prison. In some areas of the world, aggravated sexual assault can result in the perpetrator receiving the death penalty. As the penalties for the crime are so severe, those who are accused of this crime should seek out the services of a defense lawyer who specializes in defending clients against sexual crime charges.

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