Someone concerned that their child may have been sexually assaulted is rightfully anxious, but they may not understand that there are different degrees in the legal system when it comes to child sexual abuse or molestation. How the offender is prosecuted and what the potential consequences will be if they’re convicted depends on the specific crime they’re charged with. Read on for what you need to know about aggravated child molestation.
What Is Indecent Assault?
Indecent assault is a sexual crime that doesn’t involve penetration but does involve someone touching someone else against their will. The end goal of the person doing the unwanted touching is to give themselves sexual gratification. (It could be referred to as unwanted groping.)
On its own, indecent assault is usually a misdemeanor crime unless it involves a minor, and then it becomes a felony.
What Is the Difference Between Indecent Assault and Aggravated Indecent Assault?
Aggravated indecent assault is a more serious crime. While indecent assault involves touching but no penetration, aggravated indecent assault does involve penetration or at least an attempt to achieve penetration. The penetration can be slight rather than full to be prosecuted as aggravated. However, it doesn’t include penetration done by law enforcement or medical professionals operating in good faith. Aggravated indecent assault is often prosecuted as a second-degree felony unless the victim is under the age of 13, in which case it can become a first-degree felony.
What Are the Consequences for a Conviction of Aggravated Indecent Assault Involving a Minor?
As discussed above, aggravated indecent assault is likely to be charged as either a second or first-degree felony. If convicted, judges in Pennsylvania work with something called the offense gravity score (OGS). The OGS is a scale judges use to determine the appropriate sentence for the convicted party. The highest scale on the OGS is 15, which would most likely be used in cases of first- or second-degree murder. The scale allows the judge to consider mitigating circumstances, such as whether or not this was a first conviction, etc.
A second-degree aggravated indecent assault has a maximum OGS of 10, and a conviction could lead to a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. First-degree aggravated indecent assault convictions have a maximum OGS of 12, which can result in a 20-year prison sentence.
In addition, someone convicted of aggravated indecent assault, whether first- or second-degree, will be placed on Megan’s Law Offender Registry as a known sexual offender. This is a permanent consequence, meaning they can’t be removed in their lifetime. It doesn’t matter if the perpetrator was a minor at the time of the crime.
Will My Child Have to Testify in a Trial?
The answer is: It depends. Because these are felonies and the law is clear that they must be proven beyond any reasonable doubt, there are times when the child victim will have to testify.
However, in certain situations, the judge may allow the minor to testify via what’s known as hearsay statements. These are often video testimonials where the victim is not in the courtroom facing the person they’ve accused of the crime. Initially, these hearsay statements, approved by the so-called Tender Years Act, only included victims up to the age of 12. But in 2021, the Pennsylvania legislature raised that age to 16.
This has been somewhat controversial since hearsay evidence isn’t usually allowed in court. The opponents of the legislation note that the defense attorneys aren’t offered the opportunity to cross-examine the victim. However, proponents note that for felonies, significant evidence must be presented for conviction. The courts can determine if the hearsay evidence from the minor is relevant, with the time, content, and circumstances of the testimony appear reliable.
The reason the government went in this direction is that while it’s traumatic for someone of any age to testify in a criminal trial, it’s especially traumatizing for minors to have to do so. Quite often, minor victims have been shamed into compliance by the offender or have been made to believe they’re at fault, and they’re not old or mature enough to work through why that’s incorrect.
Are Strangers Usually the Offenders in These Cases?
Even though parents have long been advised to teach their children about “stranger danger,” the reality is that most assaults suffered by children are perpetrated by someone they know. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that of children who were sexually abused in some form, only 7% were abused by strangers. In contrast, 34% were abused by family members, and 59% were abused by people the child knew.
It’s also not entirely the case that the offenders are always adult males. The same report found that nearly one-third of offenders were other minors, and more than 10% of offenders were women.
Another statistic to be aware of is that only 5% of assaults were done by someone listed on a sex offender registry–meaning 95% of assaults were done by someone not on the registry.
What Should I Do if My Child May Have Been the Victim of Aggravated Child Assault?
Call Andreozzi + Foote at 866-311-8640 for a free, confidential consultation. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable attorneys understands how difficult and frightening this is for you and your child. Every case is unique, and we’ll work with you to determine the best legal strategy to go after the perpetrator to the full extent allowed by the law.
Just like you, we want to see criminals who are guilty of these crimes convicted and removed from the public. Call us today, and know that we keep every detail confidential.