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What Is Sexual Assault In Pennsylvania?

August 03, 2021

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Recently, a man was arrested after sexually assaulting a woman in the bathroom of a super market in York Township. The man allegedly pushed the woman into the bathroom and tried to force himself on her before running away on foot. He is now facing charges of indecent assault, attempted rape, and sexual assault.

As for the last charge of sexual assault, it is one that is largely misunderstood in the state. It is also not surprising that the man in the recent story was charged with indecent assault as well, as these two offenses are very similar and often charged together. So, what are the crimes of sexual assault and indecent assault in Pennsylvania?

Defining Sexual Assault in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law defines sexual assault as engaging in sexual intercourse or deviant sexual intercourse with another person and without that person’s consent. Sexual assault is a felony of the second degree in the state and punishable by up to ten years in state prison. High fines are also sometimes imposed, depending on the severity and nature of the crime.

Defining Indecent Assault in Pennsylvania

State law defines indecent assault as indecent contact with the victim, or causes the victim to have indecent contact with them or with their bodily fluids. In order for indecent assault charges to apply, the case must involve several factors, and they include:

  • The victim did not consent or could not consent, such as if they were unconscious
  • The assault was done by force
  • A reasonable person would not have been able to resist the forcible compulsion
  • The victim was involuntarily intoxicated
  • The victim was under the age of 13 years old
  • The victim was under the age of 16 years old and the offender was at least four years older, and the victim and offender were not married to each other

Indecent assault can be charged as either a first or second degree misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case. If convicted of indecent assault, a person may face up to five years in state prison. In certain instances, such as when a person is convicted and has a prior history of indecent assault, the charge can be upgraded to a third degree felony, which is punishable by up to seven years in state prison.

Defenses to Sexual Assault and Indecent Assault

Both sexual assault and indecent assault are very serious crimes in Pennsylvania and if convicted, they could impact your future for years to come. Fortunately, there are defenses available, and they are as follows:

  • The victim consented to the act
  • Mistaken identity
  • Age, but only in cases of statutory rape
  • Involuntary intoxication
  • Insanity

While there was once a martial exemption for sexual assault and indecent assault, that is no longer the case.

Our Sexual Assault Lawyers in Allentown Can Help with Your Charges

If you or someone you love has been charged with a sex offense, it is critical that you speak to an Allentown sex crimes lawyer today. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we know the devastating impacts a conviction will have, and will build a strong case to give you the best chance of avoiding criminal consequences. Call us now at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.



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