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Pennsylvania Sexual Assault Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Sexual Assault Laws

Sexual assault is a crime in Pennsylvania and is defined as a person engaging in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with another person without their consent. The defendant may have committed statutory sexual assault if the victim was under 16 years of age, and the defendant is more than four years older than the victim, and they were not married to each other at the time of the offense.

Pennsylvania also has a separate charge titled "indecent assault." Indecent assault is similar to sexual assault in some ways. It involves indecent contact with the victim, including the victim's contact with the defendant's seminal fluid, urine, or feces for the purpose of arousing sexual desire in either the victim or defendant, and it is done without the victim's consent, forcibly or under threat of force, or performed under some severe incapacity of the victim (i.e. unconsciousness, mental incapacity, intoxication of the victim, youth of the victim).

Additional details of Pennsylvania's sexual assault laws are listed in the table below.

Statutory Definition of Sexual Assault A person commits a felony of the second degree when that person engages in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with a complainant without the complainant's consent.  
Statutory Definition of Indecent Assault

A person is guilty of indecent assault if the person has indecent contact with the complainant, causes the complainant to have indecent contact with the person or intentionally causes the complainant to come into contact with seminal fluid, urine or feces for the purpose of arousing sexual desire in the person or the complainant and:

  1. the person does so without the complainant's consent;
  2. the person does so by forcible compulsion;
  3. the person does so by threat of forcible compulsion that would prevent resistance by a person of reasonable resolution;
  4. the complainant is unconscious or the person knows that the complainant is unaware that the indecent contact is occurring;
  5. the person has substantially impaired the complainant's power to appraise or control his or her conduct by administering or employing, without the knowledge of the complainant, drugs, intoxicants or other means for the purpose of preventing resistance;
  6. the complainant suffers from a mental disability which renders the complainant incapable of consent;
  7. the complainant is less than 13 years of age;  or
  8. the complainant is less than 16 years of age and the person is four or more years older than the complainant and the complainant and the person are not married to each other.


Defenses to Sexual Assault Charges

There are several defenses to rape and sexual assault charges. It is important to note that although the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, two defenses listed below (involuntary intoxication and insanity) require the defendant to prove evidence of those facts by a preponderance of the evidence. Some recognized defenses include:

  • Consent
  • Mistaken Identity
  • Age (Only in the case of statutory rape)
  • Involuntary Intoxication (Such as when the accused's drink is "spiked" or he or she is otherwise drugged without knowledge or consent)
  • Insanity

While "marital exemption," used to be a viable defense, the law no longer distinguishes between married and unmarried persons. Anyone, regardless of their marital status, can be raped or sexually assaulted if they do not consent.

Penalties and Sentences

Rape carries a severe penalty including a fine of up to $25,000, up to 20 years in prison, or both. Sexual assault is considered a second degree felony in Pennsylvania. This is punishable by up to ten years in prison. Discretionary fines may also be imposed by the court depending on the nature of the crime and its severity. In the event of insanity, the judge may recommend counseling or psychiatric treatment as necessary.

In the event that the crime is charged as an indecent assault, then the charge will be either a first or second degree misdemeanor depending on the specific nature of the offense. This can be punishable by up to five years in prison. However, if it is the defendant's second offense or there has been a repeated course of this type of conduct, or if the assault was committed by touching the victim's sexual parts with those of the defendant, then it can be a third degree felony. This is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Registering as a Sexual Offender

If a defendant is convicted of rape, sexual assault, or a handful of other sexually-related crimes, he or she will have to register as sex offender for life.

Pennsylvania Criminal Laws Related Resources:

Get Professional Legal Help With Your Sexual Assault Case

If you or someone you know has been accused of a sex crime in Pennsylvania, you should consult with an attorney right away. Sex crimes carry some of the harshest penalties on the books and the consequences of a plea or conviction can have lasting effects upon your life including your ability to get a job, harm to your reputation and more. Get in touch with a Pennsylvania defense attorney today.

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