What is the Difference Between Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault in Utah?

Sexual abuse and sexual assault are serious offenses in Utah. There are distinctions to each crime that offenders should know about. For example, various circumstances can trigger a sexual assault offense and different penalties corresponding to each circumstance. If you were charged with sexual abuse or sexual assault, you should contact an experienced Salt Lake City sex crimes defense lawyer. Overson Law understands the fear of being charged with a sexual offense, and we are here to fight for you. Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson has handled several sex crime cases in his 16-year legal career and will provide you aggressive legal representation. Darwin is here to describe the difference between sexual abuse and sexual assault in Utah.

Utah Forcible Sexual Abuse Laws

Utah’s sexual abuse offense is called “forcible sexual abuse.” Title 76 of Utah’s Criminal Code §76-5-404 states how an individual can be charged with forcible sexual abuse. Forcible sexual abuse occurs when a person that is 14 years old or older is touched by another person on:

  • “[T]he anus, buttocks, pubic area”
  • “[A]ny part of the genitals”
  • The breast, if the victim is female
  • Or “takes indecent liberties” while touching a victim

The offender must intend to cause “substantial emotional or bodily pain” to the person or intend to sexually arouse the person without their consent, regardless of the person’s sex. In Utah, forcible sexual abuse does not mean that an individual was “raped, object raped, sodomized,” or was the subject of “attempted rape or sodomy.”

The penalty for sexual abuse may be increased if a person was injured in the commission of the crime.

Utah Aggravated Sexual Assault Laws

Utah Criminal Code §76-5-405 names the requirements for aggravated sexual assault offenses. Utah does not separate sexual assault offenses but does have prerequisites for being charged with aggravated sexual assault. For example, a person cannot commit sexual assault if they are not in the course of, or attempting, a “rape, object rape, forcible sodomy, or forcible sexual abuse.” An individual will be charged with sexual assault if, during the commission of the crimes mentioned above, he or she:

  • “[U]ses, or threatens the victim with the use of, a dangerous weapon”
  • “[C]ompels, or attempts to compel, the victim to submit to rape, object rape, forcible sodomy, or forcible sexual abuse, by threat of kidnapping, death, or serious bodily injury to be inflicted imminently”
  • “[I]s aided or abetted by one or more persons”

If the offender attempts to rape, object rape, or sodomize another person, and they cause that person serious injuries, they could be charged with aggravated sexual assault. These circumstances and the ones named above also apply when the offender attempts forcible sexual abuse.

In Utah, the primary difference between sexual abuse and sexual assault is that sexual assault is a more invasive offense. To be charged with forcible sexual abuse, an offender only has to perform some form of minimally invasive unwanted contact. Aggravated sexual assault means the offender attempted to commit or committed additional offenses on top of another offense. Utah law reflects this by making aggravated sexual assault carry the most severe penalties possible.

Penalties for Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault

Forcible sexual abuse is normally a second degree felony. In Utah, second degree felonies carry penalties of up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. However, if the offender caused serious bodily injury during the sexual abuse, they may be charged with a first degree felony. First degree felonies impose a sentence of at least 15 years or up to life in prison.

Aggravated sexual assault can be charged as a first degree felony. However, some conditions could cause an offender to face life without parole. For example, if the judge or jury discovers that the offender has a previous conviction for a “grievous sexual offense,” they could receive life without parole.

Both of these penalties can be reduced if the court finds that it would be “in the interest of justice” to reduce the penalties. This means a person can receive a sentence as low as six years in prison if the court deems it just.

Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Attorneys Will Fight Your Sex Crimes Case

If you or a family member is facing charges for a sex offense, you should consult with an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer today. Darwin Overson has represented clients in Salt Lake City and across Utah in several complex criminal cases. Overson & Bugden will provide you with experienced sex crime defense and pursue a favorable outcome for your case. To schedule a free consultation for your case, call us at (801) 758-2287 or reach us online.