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Institutional Sexual Assault


In Pennsylvania, there are a variety of categories of sexual assault, all of which have different legal consequences. The type of sexual assault offense a person is charged with depends on certain factors, including the nature of the sexual contact and the identities of the alleged victim and assailant. For instance, when the individuals involved have a special relationship, an offense can qualify as institutional sexual assault, which carries especially severe penalties. If you have been charged with sexual assault, it is critical to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed.

Who can be Charged With Institutional Sexual Assault?

According to state law, individuals who fill certain occupations and engage in sexual contact with a resident, patient, detainee, or inmate can be charged with institutional sexual assault. This includes employees of:

  • The Department of Corrections;
  • Juvenile detention facilities;
  • Youth forestry camps and development centers;
  • Groups homes;
  • Mental health facilities; and
  • Licensed residential facilities that serve children and youth.

This offense can be charged as a third degree felony, which is punishable by a prison sentence of up to seven years and a fine of $15,000.

Students and School Employees

The institutional sexual assault law also prohibits sexual relationships between school employees and students, regardless of the student’s age or ability to legally consent to the act. A school employee is defined as any of the following individuals:

  • Teachers;
  • Supervisors;
  • Principals;
  • Vice principals;
  • Directors of vocational education;
  • Dental hygienists;
  • School counselors;
  • Child nutrition specialists;
  • School librarians;
  • School secretaries;
  • School nurses;
  • Substitute teachers;
  • Bus drivers;
  • Janitors;
  • Cafeteria workers;
  • Teacher aides; and
  • Any other employees who supervise, provide care, or offer guidance to students.

The term also covers independent contractors who have a contract with the school to perform a service, which includes:

  • Coaches;
  • Athletic trainers; and
  • Coaches or athletic trainers hired as independent contractors by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.

However, the law does not apply to any of the following individuals:

  • Students employed by the school;
  • Independent contractors who have no direct contact with students; and
  • Employees of independent contractors as long as they have no direct contact with students.

In addition to jail time and hefty fines, those who are convicted of committing institutional sexual assault are also required to register on the national sex offender registry. This can severely restrict a person’s ability to obtain employment or housing, while also causing irreparable damage to his or her reputation.

Call us Today to Speak With an Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney

Institutional sexual assault carries serious penalties in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, prosecutorial zeal often leads to innocent individuals being charged with and even convicted of this offense. Having the advice of an experienced defense attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of a case. If you were charged with sexual assault, please contact van der Veen, Hartshorn, and Levin by calling 215-515-6892 and we’ll help you set up a case evaluation with a member of our legal team.


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