Sexual assault is defined by the Criminal Code of Canada as an assault of a sexual nature that violates the sexual integrity of the victim. These charges are taken very seriously and are pursued aggressively by the police.
When investigating a sexual assault case, police look at several factors such as which body part was touched, the nature of the contact, the situation, words and gestures accompanying the act, and any threats that were accompanied by force.
Common Charges Related to Sexual Assault
When it comes to sexual assault charges, here are some related charges:
- Sexual assault with a weapon
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Sexual battery
- Sexual harassment
Punishment for Sexual Assault
- Maximum 10 years in prison for an indictable offence (more serious crimes)
- Maximum 18 months for summary conviction (less serious crimes)
- Possible inclusion on the National Sex Offender Registry
Frequently Asked Questions About Sexual Assault Charges in Alberta
1. What are the best defences for a sexual assault charge?
There are two common defences to an allegation of sexual assault: the complainant consented or that you were honestly mistaken and believed that the complainant had consented.
You can be acquitted of sexual assault charges if you can demonstrate that there was consent, or the suggestion of consent, in the situation. This involves showing that you took reasonable steps to determine if the complainant had given their consent – which must be communicated clearly and not revoked during the act.
2. Can I get my sexual assault charges dropped?
In more minor cases of sexual assault, your lawyer may be able to negotiate with the Crown prosecutor to have your charge dropped if you enter into a peace bond. Peace bonds must be consented to by the Crown prosecutor, and your eligibility will be dependent on the circumstances of the case and your background (past convictions, criminal record, etc.).
If you are not a candidate for a peace bond, you may be able to apply for a discharge by pleading guilty and receiving a conditional or absolute discharge.
Your charge may also be dropped if the Crown determines that there is no reasonable likelihood of conviction, or no public interest in continuing the prosecution. However, sexual assault allegations are treated very seriously by Crown prosecutors and the police, and the early, outright withdrawal of these types of charges is uncommon. If you are facing sexual assault charges it is important to hire a lawyer and prepare yourself for potentially lengthy legal proceedings.
3. What can I do if I’ve been falsely accused of sexual assault?
While many people believe that if there is no direct evidence against them then they cannot be convicted of sexual assault, the reality is that convictions do still happen with little to no objective evidence. In these cases, the Crown Prosecutor and police still treat allegations of sexual assault very seriously.
If you are falsely accused of sexual assault and face a trial, it is your word against the complainant. This is why it’s imperative that you seek the aid of a criminal defence lawyer who, through skilled cross-examination, can weaken the case against you.
4. How does the court determine whether or not consent was given?
The court will look at the words, conduct, and reasonable steps taken by the accused to determine consent. However, the court will not accept silence or passivity on the part of the complainant as a form of consent.
The issue of consent can be a grey area, since your and the complainant’s recollections of the events may vary. They will look at consent from the complainant’s point of view but also consider whether or not your belief in the complainant’s consent was reasonable in the circumstances.
I’ve Been Charged with Sexual Assault. What Do I Do Now?
DDSG Criminal Law has a number of expert lawyers with years of experience in this area. Contact us today to learn more.