Sexual assault refers to situations where you had sexual intercourse with another person without their consent, and knowing that consent had not been given.
A sexual assault charge has the potential to have serious implications on your life – however, choosing the right team of lawyers can help protect your freedom and your future.
Your Options in Court
Being charged with sexual assault can be extremely stressful, but if you believe that you should be found ‘not guilty’ of sexual assault, you can ask your lawyers to fight your case in court.
In order to be found guilty of sexual assault, the prosecution must prove three things – if they are unable to prove these factors beyond a reasonable doubt, you will be found ‘not guilty’:
1. That you engaged in sexual intercourse with the other person at the time and place alleged
2. That no consent was given
3. That you knew no consent was given, or you were reckless as to consent
You may also be able to raise a defence in court to explain or justify your actions. If your defence is accepted, the charges against you may be dismissed. Click on each of the below defences for more information:
- Consent (will not be available as a defence where the complainant was under 16, or where they were intellectually disabled and could not give consent)
- Proper medical purpose
If you are considering pleading ‘guilty’ to sexual assault, you may want to know about the types of penalties that you may face.
Under s 61I of the Crimes Act, sexual assault carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment, with a standard non-parole period of 7 years.
However, it’s important to remember that this is a maximum penalty only, and you will often receive a more lenient sentence depending on the facts and circumstances of your case. The magistrate or judge will determine the type of penalty you will receive after you enter a plea of guilty, or you are found guilty of an offence following a hearing or trial. The types of penalties that may apply include:
- Section 10 Dismissal
- Conditional Release Order
- Community Correction Order
- Intensive Correction Order
Sexual assault is a serious offence which carries lengthy prison terms – so it’s imperative that you speak to a specialized sexual assault lawyer who has the skills and experience to help you get the best possible outcome.
The Crimes Act now contains many more ‘sexual assault offences’ then just a few years ago, and the penalties for many offences have increased significantly.
Many areas of sexual assault law has changed in recent years, including laws about ‘consent’, ‘prior sexual conduct’, ‘cross-examination of complainants’ and ‘accessing information about complainants’.
It is therefore vital to get specialist sexual assault lawyers who understand the laws and have the experience to achieve the right result.
If you’ve been charged with sexual assault, you may be questioning how a criminal charge will affect your life and future.
We have included some detailed information below to help you understand the charge of sexual assault, as well as the possible penalties that you could be facing.
What does the prosecution need to prove?
In order to be found guilty of sexual assault, the prosecution must prove three elements:
1. That the accused engaged in sexual intercourse with the victim at the time and place alleged:
Sexual intercourse under the Crimes Act does not only refer to genital penetration by a person’s body parts, but also includes penetration of a person’s genitals by objects manipulated by another person, and cases of oral sex performed on either a male or a female.
There is no need to prove that ejaculation or full penetration occurred, or that the intercourse was for sexual gratification.
2. That the victim did not consent:
Consent in relation to sexual assault involves the ‘free and voluntary agreement’ of each party, either verbally or through the victim’s actions.
In some cases, consent cannot be given, for example:
- Where the victim does not have the capacity to give consent due to their age
- or mental impairment;
- Where the victim is unconscious or asleep;
- Where the victim gives consent under threat or duress;
- Where the victim consents as they are being unlawfully detained;
- Where the victim is under a mistaken belief as to the identity of the offender, that the offender is their spouse, that the intercourse is for medical or hygienic reasons;
- Where the victim is severely intoxicated or affected by drugs;
- Where the offender is someone in a position of authority.
3. That the offender knew that the victim did not consent, or was reckless as to consent:
The prosecution must prove that you knew that the complainant didn’t consent to the act, that you were reckless as to consent, or that you had no reasonable grounds for believing that the complainant consented to the act.
In determining whether you knew that consent was not given, the court will consider your state of mind at the time of the offence, as well as any steps that you took to determine whether consent was given.
In situations where you genuinely, but wrongly believed that consent was given, this element will not be made out and the charges against you may be dismissed.
Recklessness will be established where you failed to consider whether or not consent was being given and acted regardless, or where you acted despite knowing that there was a possibility that consent was not given.
What penalties could I face?
While the Crimes Act imposes a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment for sexual assault cases, this will only be reserved for the most serious matters.
In fact, no offenders received the maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment between 2003 and 2007.
Statistics show that the most common penalty for sexual assault offences was imprisonment, with the average sentence being 5 years and 4.5 months. The average non-parole period was 3 years and 1 month.
The average sentence for offenders who pleaded guilty (4.5 years) was substantially less than those who pleaded not guilty (6.5 years).
While these statistics might seem harsh, it’s important to remember that with the right lawyers on your side, you can ensure that you get the best possible outcome – and in some cases, you may even be able to get the charges dismissed if you put forth an appropriate defence.
The Sydney Criminal Lawyers® defence team has an unmatched track record of winning sexual assault trials.
Our lawyers will ‘leave no stone unturned’ when preparing for your trial.
We will ensure that all relevant materials are obtained by issuing extensive subpoenae to all organisations that may be able to provide evidence that asists you.
In countless cases, we have uncovered material that has assisted us in having sexual assault cases dropped in the lead-up to trial.
We also regularly prepare ‘representations’; which are an extensive written document highlighting the problems in the prosecution case and requesting withdrawal.
There have been many instances of our clients coming to us after being dissatisfied with the performance of their previous lawyers – particularly where those lawyers have not fought hard enough for withdrawal.
We frequently ‘pick up the case’ and work hard to do what is required to give our clients the best chance of having the charges dropped, and thereby avoiding a lengthy, expensive and possibly risky jury trials.
If the case nevertheless proceeds to trial, rest assured that we will only brief the very best barristers in sexual assault cases, and your barrister will be instructed by an experienced sexual assault lawyer.
Choosing the very best lawyer for your sexual assault trial can be one of the most important decisions you ever make.
Have a look at our Recent Results on this website before making your choice.
See one of our experienced lawyers and let us show you what needs to be done in your case!
Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with.
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- Proven Track Record of Exceptional ResultsSydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases. Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial. Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.
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- All NSW CourtsFrom Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases. And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.
- Accredited SpecialistsOur entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists. All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005. An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field. Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.
- Results-Focused Law FirmOur team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet. The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’. Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.
- Team of Lawyers Behind YouOur clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide. Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes. A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.
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