Updated on February 14th, 2023 at 05:54 pm
Washington D.C. Sexual abuse crimes are divided into five different categories (first-degree through to fourth-degree sexual abuse and misdemeanor sexual abuse) depending on the severity of the offense.
Generally, adult sexual abuse is often called aggravated sexual assault or rape, while child sexual assault is called child molestation.
First Degree Sexual Abuse
First-degree sexual abuse is the highest level of felony sexual conduct. It’s when a person engages in or causes another person to engage in or submit to a sexual act:
- By using force against that other person
- By threatening or placing that other person in reasonable fear that any person will be subjected to death, bodily injury, or kidnapping
- After rendering that other person unconscious
- After administering to that other person by force or threat of force, or without the knowledge or permission of that other person, a drug, intoxicant, or other similar substance substantially impairing the ability of that other person to appraise or control their conduct.
This crime is a felony that may carry a life sentence and a fine of up to $125,000.
Second Degree Sexual Abuse
Second-degree sexual abuse differs in that it is when a person engages in or causes another person to engage in or submit to a sexual act:
- By threatening or placing that other person in fear (other than by threatening or placing that other person in reasonable fear that any person will be subjected to death, bodily injury, or kidnapping)
- Where the person knows or has reason to know that the other person is:
(A) Incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct
(B) Incapable of declining participation in that sexual act
(C) Incapable of communicating unwillingness to engage in that sexual activity
This crime is a felony that may carry up to a $50,000 fine and jail time for 20 years.
Difference Between “Sexual Act” And “Sexual Contact”
Third- and fourth-degree sexual abuse is the same as their more severe counterparts (1st and 2nd degree, respectively) but differ in that they are defined as when a person engages in or causes “sexual contact” with or by another person rather than a “sexual act.”
Sexual contact is the touching with any clothed or unclothed body part or any object, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.”
A Sexual act is severe, and defined as:
- Sexual intercourse where there’s penetration, however slight, of the anus or vulva of another by a penis;
- Contact between the mouth and the penis, the mouth and the vulva, or the mouth and the anus; or
- The penetration, however slight, of the anus or vulva by a hand or finger or by any object, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.
Other Sex Crimes
It is important to note that these crimes may be subject to enhanced sexual abuse penalties due to aggravating circumstances. These circumstances include:
- If the victim is less than twelve years old.
- If the victim is less than eighteen years old but bears a significant relationship with the offender.
- If the victim sustained bodily injury.
- If the offender had accomplices.
- If the offender was armed with a weapon.
Under such circumstances, the offender can be sentenced to up to 1.5X the maximum penalty prescribed for a particular sexual offense.
D.C. Code also lays out other sexual assault crimes involving someone in a position of power (i.e. staff members of hospitals/prisons, or teachers) committing sexual abuse against those under the staff member’s control.
Similarly, the Code includes sex offenses involving someone in a position of trust (i.e. a professional) committing sexual abuse against his or her client or patient.
Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault in Washington, DC
According to the law, most crimes cannot be prosecuted after a specific time has passed between when the crime was committed and reporting. In DC, the statute of limitations for first and second-degree sexual assault crimes was 15 years and 10 years for third and fourth-degree sexual assault.
However, the D.C. ACT 22.593 was amended on January 23rd of, 2019. Under the new Act, there’s no time limit for reporting sexual abuse. Moreover, the Act also requires police to retain sexual abuse-related evidence for 65 years following the reporting date.
Updates to section 12-301 of the Act extend civil SOL for victims to get compensation for damages caused by sexual abuse.
- Victims assaulted under 35 years can claim compensation any time before they clock 40 years or 5 years from when they were aware (or should have known) of the sexual abuse – whichever is later.
- Victims over 35 years have 5 years from the date they knew or should have known about the sexual abuse to file for claims.
- There’s a 2-year revival period for expired claims under the old Act. This means victims have a 2-year window to file claims under the new Act.
Importance of criminal defense
It is important to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you are accused of any sexual abuse crimes. Not only do these crimes carry serious penalties, but those convicted of sexual abuse often must register as sex offenders for life.
This can result in other consequences, such as difficulty obtaining employment. An experienced criminal defense attorney can argue the specific defenses necessary to dispose of your charges, or even negotiate a reasonable plea agreement that may result in a lighter sentence.
If you are facing sexual abuse charges, contact the experienced sexual assault lawyers at Bruckheim & Patel to help you handle your case.