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Rape and Sexual Assault of a Child: Understanding the Differences in Virginia

What are these crimes in Virginia?

Every state labels crimes differently. What is “indecent assault” in one state may be called “unlawful touching” or “unlawful assault” in another. In Virginia, each charge is unique and has a different specific type of action or intent that is required to convict. Likewise, each carries varying severity of sentencing. Therefore, Virginia criminal defense attorneys must be well versed in the terminology and the evidence required to convict a defendant. The Virginia Department of Social Services provides a great resource for understanding child abuse here.

Is sexual abuse the same as rape?

No. Rape is loosely defined as sex that occurs without consent. Since consent presumes the ability to consent, rape occurs when it occurs in one of three ways. These can be found at Section 18.2-61 of the Virginia Criminal Code. Rape is a felony and has no statute of limitations in Virginia, and may occur in the following three ways:

  • force, threat or intimidation of or against the complaining witness or another person;
  • use of the complaining witness’s mental incapacity or physical helplessness; or
  • with a child under age 13 as the victim.

What is sexual abuse of a child in Virginia?

Like rape and other related charges, the charge of sexual abuse of a child can be distinguished by the age of the victim. Under Virginia law, this occurs when a person of lascivious legal age (18 or older) to engage in sexual behavior with a minor. This is further defined by Virginia law as engaging in behavior designed to molest, arouse, or gratify” the offender. Therefore, the range of acts that qualify is quite broad. The key distinction, however, is that this offense occurs between an adult and a minor who is 13 or older, but not yet 15. Therefore, it is strictly limited to ages 13 and 14.  As one can readily see, sexual assault laws can be very specific and have widely different consequences, depending on just one year’s difference in the victim’s age.

This is a Class 1 misdemeanor. There is a one-year statute of limitations on class 1 misdemeanors in Virginia.

What to do if charged with a sex crime in Virginia

If you are charged with any sex crime in Virginia, regardless of whether it is a misdemeanor or felony, you absolutely must seek out the very best representation you can find. Your life depends on it. With dozens of complex statutes designed to ensure a conviction, you must know the precise elements of every charge against you in order to properly defend yourself. Many criminal defendants have been charged with a simple misdemeanor only to later discover that something they said or evidence they disclosed turned their charges into felonies.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a sex crime in Leesburg, Manassas or the northern Virginia area, contact Simms Showers, LLP for a consultation, and make sure you know your rights.

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