There are multiple acts that could be charged as "sexual battery" in Virginia, including the charge of aggravated sexual battery. Like other sex offenses, a charge for sexual battery involves complex and serious consequences.
These consequences can have long-term effects on your life, including the potential penalties of high fines, a prison sentence, and sex offender registration. If you or someone you care for has been charged with aggravated sexual battery in Virginia, experienced attorney Bryan J. Jones can provide you with the advice you need to best protect your rights.
Elements of Aggravated Sexual Battery
A person may be charged with aggravated sexual battery when that person has committed the offense of sexual battery, also known as "simple sexual battery," and the person has committed one of four aggravating acts. The criminal law which applies can be found in Virginia Criminal Code § 18.2-67.3. A person is guilty of aggravated sexual battery if he or she sexually abuses another, and:
- The complaining witness is less than 13 years of age, or
- The act is accomplished through the use of the complaining witness's mental incapacity or physical helplessness, or
- The offense is committed by a parent, step-parent, grandparent, or step-grandparent and the complaining witness is at least 13 but not less than 18 years of age, or
- The act is accomplished against the will of the complaining witness by force, threat or intimidation, and
- the complaining witness is at least 13 but less than 15 years of age, or
- the accused causes serious bodily or mental injury to the complaining witness, or
- the accused uses or threatens to use a dangerous weapon.
If any of the four aggravating factors are present, the charge of sexual battery, otherwise a misdemeanor, raises the offense to the level of a felony. Virginia law also permits aggravated sexual battery to be enforced similar to a statutory rape charge. This means that this charge can be applied to cases in which the victim is younger than the Virginia age of consent, even if the victim engages willingly in sexual relations with the defendant.
Understanding these elements, and how they may apply to your charges is critical to mounting a proper defense of your case.
Possible Penalties for Conviction
If an accused person is convicted of aggravated sexual battery, he or she is guilty of a felony and may be sentenced to a prison term of a minimum of one (1) year to a maximum of twenty (20) years. The charge may also result in a fine up to $100,000.00.
Sex Offender Registration
Anyone convicted of aggravated sexual battery must register as a sex offender. Sex offender registration status significantly changes a person's life, and the requirements associated with it are strictly enforced. Failure to comply with the requirements of registration can result in further criminal charges and incarceration.
After serving an offender's period of incarceration as sentenced by the judge, the offender must register within three days of his or her release. Those subject to sex offender registration are also required to register upon moving, becoming homeless, or changing employment. At registration, the offender must provide fingerprints, an e-mail address, any instant messaging service the offender uses, palm prints, place of employment, and the registration information of any vehicle (including car, boat, ATV, etc.).
Every sex offender is required to re-register yearly. However, the charge of aggravated sexual battery is considered a sexually violent offense. As a result, those convicted of the charge are required to re-register every ninety days.
As a sex offender, individuals cannot live within 500 feet of a school, child care center, or certain public parks. Sex offenders are also prohibited from loitering within 100 feet of schools, child care programs, and may not have any contact with children not in their custody on any playground, athletic field, or gymnasium.
Defenses to Aggravated Sexual Battery
To be convicted of aggravated sexual battery, the prosecuting attorneys in your case must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each and every element of the charge. If the prosecuting attorneys fail to prove any one of the elements, you cannot be found guilty of the offense.
A defendant may first argue that the underlying elements of sexual battery were not violated. Many of the defenses associated with simple sexual battery may also apply to aggravated sexual battery. To mount a defense to the specific aggravating factors, defendants may challenge that the circumstances laid out by the factors do not exist in their particular case and that, therefore, the charge should remain a misdemeanor.
Age of the Victim
A defendant may be able to show, in certain circumstances, that the complaining witness was 13 years of age or older at the time of the offense. If this is the case, the victim's age does not necessarily require the aggravated sexual battery charge, and the charge may remain a misdemeanor.
Mental Disability or Physical Helplessness
A defendant may also be able to show that the complaining witness does not suffer from a mental disability or physical helplessness. Ultimately, the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is on the prosecutor to prove that the alleged victim fits the standard for the aggravating circumstance.
Force, Threat, or Intimidation
The Commonwealth of Virginia also has the burden of proof if it alleges that the conduct was the result of force, threat, or intimidation. If any of these elements fail to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the offense is likely one of simple sexual battery.
If the prosecutor is able to prove one of the above, they must also prove that the witness was at least 13 but less than 15, that the accused caused serious bodily or mental injury, or the accused used or threatened to use a dangerous weapon. A showing of one of these additional requirements is necessary if the prosecutor intends to use this aggravating factor to charge a felony.
Consult With Your Attorney
A felony conviction has serious consequences including substantial prison time, high fines, and sex offender registration. Every case is unique but experienced attorney Bryan J. Jones can protect your constitutional rights throughout the criminal process. Contact us today.