Pittsburgh Sexual Assault Lawyer
If you have been arrested for sexual assault, the only way you can avoid criminal conviction and harsh punishments is to retain the most experienced Pittsburgh sexual assault lawyer.
In Greater Pittsburgh, Gary E. Gerson is the defense lawyer who fights for you, in and out of court. He knows the challenges you face — including the prospects of imprisonment, heavy fines and a criminal record — and does everything in his power to help you overcome them.
Types of Sexual Assault Charges
An accused individual could face one or more different sexual assault charges depending on the nature of a situation. The law classifies most sexual assault charges in Pennsylvania as felonies, while some may only lead to misdemeanor charges. Even misdemeanor sexual assault charges can lead to prison time, heavy fines, and other penalties. The state still requires someone with a misdemeanor conviction to register as a sex offender. The age of the victim and the activities that took place during the incident could lead to several charges, including:
- Statutory sexual assault. Engaging in sexual intercourse or other sexual acts with minors younger than the age of 16 can lead to a charge of statutory sexual assault, even if the underage person consented to the activity.
- Indecent sexual assault. This charge describes any instance of forcing another person to come into contact with bodily fluids or excrement for the purpose of sexual arousal or otherwise making sexual contact with another person without his or her consent.
- Rape. Forcing another person into sexual intercourse against his or her will is rape, which is a first-degree felony.
- Institutional sexual assault. Any instance of a person of authority in an institution, correctional facility, mental health facility, or other similar organizations using his or her position of authority to coerce sexual activity from people under the supervision and/or care of the organization.
- Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. This charge describes any unwanted sexual activity performed on an individual younger than 13 years old who suffers bodily injury from the unwanted contact. This may also apply to unwanted sexual acts performed on people who suffer from mental disabilities, who are unconscious, or anyone drugged or incapacitated at the time.
The “age of consent” comes into play in many sexual assault cases. The state of Pennsylvania recognizes 16 as the age of consent, and anyone who engages in sexual activity with a minor younger than 16 who is at least eight years older than the minor faces statutory sexual assault charges, a second-degree felony charge. If the defendant was 10 or more years older than the plaintiff, it will be a first-degree felony charge and carry a much harsher sentence.
Age can complicate sexual assault allegations, and other factors may also come into play. For example, mental health and intoxication can lead to more significant penalties. Compelling a mentally handicapped person into a sexual act or performing a sexual act on an intoxicated or unconscious person will lead to more severe charges.
Another term that often appears in sexual assault charges is the qualifier “aggravated,” a legal term that indicates forceful conduct. For example, indecent assault typically carries a lighter sentence than most other sexual assault crimes, but if the perpetrator used violence or forceful compulsion during the act, he or she faces aggravated indecent assault charges and much more severe penalties. Sexual crimes that lead to bodily injury to the victim typically lead to aggravated sexual assault charges.
Pennsylvania Sexual Assault Laws and Sentencing
Sexual assault in its many forms is one of the most heinous crimes possible and as such carry very harsh penalties. Lesser charges, such as like indecent assault, may lead to first- or second-degree misdemeanor charges, but it is far more likely for defendants in these cases to face first or second-degree felony charges. Nearly every type of sexual assault charge in Pennsylvania will lead to heavy fines and prison time. The maximum punishments for sexual assault charges in Pennsylvania include:
- Aggravated indecent assault can lead to as many as 20 years in prison and $25,000 in fines for a first-degree felony charge. A second-degree felony charge for aggravated indecent assault carries a sentence of as much as 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
- Indecent assault (without the qualifier “aggravated”) carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years and as much as $15,000 in fines for a third-degree felony or statutory charge. A first-degree misdemeanor charge can lead to up to five years in prison. Finally, a second-degree misdemeanor (or statutory) charge can result in up to two years in prison.
- Sexual activity between blood relatives is a crime in Pennsylvania, and carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
- Institutional sexual assault carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years and up to $15,000 in fines.
- Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
- Rape carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
Judges may decree other penalties in addition to the typical punishments at their discretion based on the facts of the case. Depending on the victim’s injuries or the severity of the defendant’s actions, a judge may order additional fines, psychiatric counseling, community service, and other penalties.
Considering the severity of these penalties, any individual facing any kind of sexual assault charges in Pennsylvania needs the services of a reliable, experienced criminal defense attorney. If the charged individual is guilty to some extent, a criminal defense lawyer will help argue the facts of the case to reduce the defendant’s sentence. If the person is not guilty of such charges, a criminal defense attorney will be indispensable for protecting the accused’s rights.
Defenses Against Sexual Assault Charges in Pennsylvania
A defendant facing sexual assault charges of any kind in Pennsylvania should know the possible viable defenses against such charges. The most common defenses against sexual assault charges include:
- If the defendant can prove he or she was mentally unstable and not in coherent control of his or her actions at the time of the incident, the defendant can often secure a lighter sentence focused on restitution to the victim and mental health care instead of prison time. Defendant will still likely face fines and possibly prison time after they conclude their court-ordered mental health care. The defense attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was or is insane, which typically requires expert witness testimony or mental health care records.
- Mistaken identity. Some sexual assault crimes happen between strangers, in dark places, or in other situations in which the victim cannot positively identify the attacker. In these scenarios, a victim may mistakenly accuse an individual who looks like the attacker. The accused will need to establish an alibi that proves he or she was not near the victim at the time of the attack or otherwise establish innocence.
- Involuntary intoxication. The defensive effort may be helped if someone else drugged the accused or was otherwise drugged or incapacitated against his or her will.
- In statutory cases, defendants must be able to prove they were an acceptable age at the time of the incident or prove the plaintiff was older than the age of consent. Depending on the age difference between the plaintiff and the defendant, the defendant may be able to argue to lesser charges.
- If the defendant can somehow prove the plaintiff consented to the sexual activity in question, this can be a viable defense or may help the defendant secure lesser charges.
Defending Against False Claims
It is an unfortunate fact that some people make false claims of sexual assault for many reasons. Some may do so to exact revenge on a past lover or spouse while others may simply see a false allegation as a means of securing an easy lawsuit settlement or case award.
False rape and sexual assault allegations are damaging in many ways. An innocent defendant will typically face ostracism and a damaged reputation, even if a judge dismisses a case or an attorney can prove the defendant is innocent. False allegations harm real victims of sexual assault by diverting legal resources and law enforcement away from actual victims. False claims tarnish the public perception of true victims of sexual assault.
It’s important to make the distinction between a baseless claim and a false claim. A baseless claim is one that has no evidence to support it, but many people believe it to be true. Law enforcement and investigators may be unable to prove whether a baseless claim happened for many reasons. A false claim is one that law enforcement or other investigations have proven false.
If an accused individual can prove that his or her accuser has made false allegations of sexual assault, this person may file a countersuit for defamation if the false claim resulted in any actual harm. This could include legal fees, lost business, or other financial effects of lost claims. A criminal defense attorney should be able to help the accused prove the allegations false and may help lay the groundwork for a countersuit.
Sex Offender Status
Anyone convicted of any kind of sexual assault crime in Pennsylvania will face the aforementioned penalties and must also register as a sex offender for life. Registering as a sex offender can lead to several types of lifestyle restrictions. A registered sex offender may be restricted in terms of the places he or she may live, work, and spend time. For example, a registered sex offender with a history of attacking children will typically be barred from coming within a certain distance of schools, daycare centers, playgrounds, and other locations frequented by children.
Registered sex offenders will also face social difficulties because most will have to notify their neighbors of their status before moving into the area. They may also face restrictions for the type of employment they may seek. Sex offender registration lasts for life, and the sex offender registry is open to the public. Anyone can go online and look up the sex offenders in their area to ensure the safety of their families.
More Than 25 Years Of Experience, Track Record Of Success And Personal Service
At your free initial consultation, sexual assault attorney Gerson explains your rights as a criminal defendant. He will detail how he intends to protect your rights during every phase of your case’s preparation, including investigation of charges, negotiations with prosecutors and at trial, if necessary. He welcomes your ideas, listens carefully to your version of events and acts swiftly on what he learns.
This laser-like focus on your legal needs, combined with broad knowledge of state and federal courts, are just some of the reasons for Mr. Gerson’s recognized track record of success.
Collection and analysis of evidence – evidence that may be suppressed if gathered illegally – can play pivotal roles in sex crime cases. Gary E. Gerson knows how to represent clients mired in “He said, she said” situations and allegations of assaults on underage persons. He gets to the facts when alcohol plays a role in an incident at a bar or on a college campus. Whether you met the complainant at your job, on the street or on the Internet, you can have complete confidence that attorney Gerson safeguards your interests.
Start building that confidence today by contacting The Law Offices of Gary E. Gerson. Our Pittsburgh sexual assault lawyer can speak with you at our law firm or in the privacy of your own home or office. Phones are answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at (412) 567-0644 in Pittsburgh, or toll free at (888) 675-6101. We always respond promptly to email messages.