Sex crime charges in Virginia include rape, child molestation, and other sex offenses against minors or adult victims. The punishment for committing these sex offenses can be harsh and depend on the age of the victim, the age of the defendant, the type of sexual conduct involved, and the defendant’s prior criminal history.
Virginia law criminalizes a variety of sexual conduct against adults. Under Section 18.2-61, for example, a person commits the offense of rape when they have sexual intercourse with a person against that person’s will, by force, or by threatening that person or another person. A person can also be convicted of rape if they have sex with a person while that person is mentally incapacitated or physically helpless.
The mandatory minimum sentence for rape is five years in prison and up to life in prison, and the sentence must be imposed consecutively to any other sentence. Rape charges are serious, but one can raise a defense based on the lack of the victim’s credibility if it is undisputed that the defendant and the victim had sex but the victim claims there was no consent. DNA evidence can be used in other cases to show the defendant never had sex with the alleged victim.
Forcible sodomy under Section 18.2-67.1 occurs when a person “engages in cunnilingus, fellatio, anilingus, or anal intercourse” with another person against their will, by force, or by using threats or intimidation. A person can also be charged under Section 18.2-67.2 if they penetrate a person’s vagina or anus with an object without that person’s consent or by force or threat of force.
The penalties for forcible sodomy or object penetration are the same as for rape—a mandatory minimum of five years and up to life in prison. If you are convicted of any of these offenses, you will likely have to register as a sex offender. Moreover, most of these offenses are not eligible for expungement or record sealing under Section 19.2-392.2.
There are defenses available to these charges, however, or an experienced attorney can try to negotiate a plea to lesser charges. In many of these cases, the prosecution’s case will depend on the victim’s credibility or DNA evidence establishing the victim and the defendant actually had sex. There are also lesser charges, such as misdemeanor sexual battery under Section 18.2-67.4, which applies when one sexually abuses a person against their will. Aggravated sexual battery under Section 18.2-67.3 is a felony where a person commits sexual abuse against a minor less than 13 years old, a person who is mentally or physically incapacitated, the defendant is a parent or other family member, the defendant uses a deadly weapon, or the defendant causes serious bodily or mental injury. The punishment for aggravated sexual battery is 1 to 20 years in prison.
Under Virginia law, there are several different ways to charge a person accused of sexually assaulting a minor. For example, a person commits the crime of rape under Code Section 18.2-61 if they have sexual intercourse with a minor who is under 13 years old. A person commits forcible sodomy against a minor under Section 18.2-67.1 if they engage in conduct with a minor under 13 years old that includes cunnilingus, fellatio, anilingus, or anal intercourse. Object sexual penetration under Section 18.2-67.2 occurs when a defendant penetrates a person’s vagina or anus with an object.
If the defendant is over 18 years old and the victim is under 13 years old, the mandatory minimum sentence is life in prison. Consent is not a defense against any of these charges if the victim is a minor, and it is usually not a defense that the defendant did not know the victim’s age.
There are other charges for sexual assault against a minor that do not carry harsh mandatory minimum sentences. Under Code Section 18.2-63, for example, a conviction for “carnal knowledge” with a minor between 13 and 15 years old is a class 4 felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, with no mandatory minimum. Having “carnal knowledge” of a minor includes having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a minor or object penetration.
Aggravated sexual battery involving a minor under Section 18.2-67.3 applies to sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 13, but which involves touching as opposed to the more serious acts described above. It carries a maximum penalty of 20 years but has no mandatory minimum sentence. Under Section 18.2-67.4:2, it is a misdemeanor for an adult to commit an act of sexual abuse against a minor between the ages of 13 and 15 years old.
A conviction for any of these offenses usually comes with a requirement that the defendant register as a sex offender. Moreover, a conviction for these offenses generally cannot be expunged under Section 19.2-392.2.
There are many ways to defend yourself if you are charged with sexual assault of a minor under one of these laws. For example, most of these cases involve a “forensic interview” of the alleged victim, where the alleged victim is asked to describe what happened to them. There are strict protocols for how these interviews should be conducted, since interviewers do not want to influence the alleged victim’s narrative. A smart defense attorney will have an expert review that forensic interview to see if the alleged victim was “coached” regarding the allegations or if the forensic interviewer’s tactics influenced the child’s story.
In other cases, the case comes down to a “credibility contest,” where the evidence is mostly based on the alleged victim’s testimony. In these cases, it is extremely important to conduct a counter-investigation to uncover any motives for the alleged victim to lie or fabricate her testimony. In some cases, the defendant may avoid prosecution if they show they have autism or another intellectual disorder under Section 19.2-303.6.
Even in cases where the evidence of guilt is strong, there are several “lesser charges” that a lawyer can negotiate as part of a deal in order for the defendant to avoid the harshest mandatory minimum sentences. In these cases, mitigating evidence like polysexual evaluations, polygraphs, and background information can be very important.
Our criminal defense lawyers in Virginia understand sex crime charges and how best to challenge serious sexual assault charges. We have helped dozens of people successfully resolve serious sex crime charges in Virginia with pretrial dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and reasonable plea deals.
If you or someone you know is facing a sex crime charge in Virginia, contact us now for immediate help.