I Was Charged with Sexual Battery. What is That?

When accused of sexual battery, or any other crime for that matter in Winston-Salem, it is important to understand the charges and legal options fully. A Winston-Salem criminal defense firm can build a strong case to give you a fighting chance and possible acquittal against the accusations.

Sexual battery refers to unwanted contact with an intimate part of someone’s body for the purposes of sexual gratification, sexual arousal, or sexual abuse. Sexual battery is considered to have occurred when intimate body contact is made: 

  • Against the will of the other person and by force
  • With someone who is mentally incapacitated, mentally ill, or physically helpless, and the person committing the act knows this

Sexual battery laws differ from state to state. Under North Carolina law, sexual battery is a class A1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 150 days in jail. If found guilty, your details will have to be recorded in the Sex Offender Registry.

Is sexual assault the same thing as Sexual battery?

Simply put, sexual assault constitutes of other sex crimes, including sexual battery. In some states, sexual assault and sexual battery are used interchangeably. However, North Carolina separates the two and treats each as a crime on its own.

What Must a Prosecutor Prove for a Conviction of Sexual Battery?

For this article, we’ll focus on the first way through which a person can be charged with sexual battery i.e., by making unwanted contact with an intimate part of another person’s body. 

For someone to be convicted of sexual battery, the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offense. To do this, the prosecutor must provide the court with strong evidence that shows the accused engaged in sexual contact for the purposes of sexual gratification, sexual arousal or sexual abuse, against the will of the other person and by force.

Let’s look at all the key components of the requirement.

a) Engaged in sexual contact

To prove this point, there must be contact between the two parties involved, and it must be sexual. North Carolina law defines sexual contact as:

  • Touching and/or fondling the buttocks, anus, groin, sexual organ, or breasts of another person
  • Touching someone with your breasts, groin, sexual organ, anus, or buttocks
  • Emitting, ejaculating, or placing urine, semen, or feces on someone’s body

Touching is the physical contact between the victim and the accused. Touching may happen directly either through the offender’s clothing or through the victim’s clothing. Therefore, an offender can be convicted of sexual battery even if there was no penetration involved.

By the above definition, sexual battery can occur whether the victim is clothed or not.

b) Sexual contact with another person

For sexual battery charges against the accused to hold, the act has to be committed with another person.

c) Contact for the purposes of sexual gratification, arousal or abuse

Here, the prosecution must prove the intended purpose for the offense. Usually, the prosecutor will use the statements made by the accused person.

When talking to the police, keep in mind that anything you say can be used against you. Any statements you made about sexual gratification, sexual arousal, and sexual abuse will help the prosecution prove the intended purpose.

The prosecution will have a hard time proving this component if you did not make any statements. However, sexual battery cases involving adults may allow the prosecution to infer the intended purpose from the act itself. For example, in the case of the State vs. Connell, 127 N.C. App 685, 690 (1997), the court allowed the evidence showing that the defendant touched the victim’s genitals and that the former’s latter statements supported the inference that he had intended to satisfy his sexual desires. 

d) Against the will of the other person and by force

For this component, the prosecution side must prove that the sexual contact was against the victim’s will. Here, they would have a valid defense based on whether or not the victim consented to the contact. 

The prosecution must also prove the use of force in the act, which they can do using actual, constructive or physical force.

Possible Penalties for a Sexual Battery Conviction?

Should the accused be convicted of sexual battery, the court may decide on one of three penalties available for Class A1 misdemeanors. These are:

a) Active Punishment

This entirely constitutes of serving time in jail. The sentence may be up to 150 days, depending on whether or not the defender is a first-time offender.

b) Intermediate Punishment

This could involve jail time together with supervised probation or supervised probation only. Other forms of punishment administered together with supervised probation include community service, house arrest, and enrolment in a drug treatment program run by the state.

c) Community Punishment

Community punishment involves either supervised or unsupervised probation. The convict may also be required to do some community service, pay a fine, undergo house arrest, or face several alternative punishments as determined by the court.

Since sexual battery is a Class A1 misdemeanor, active punishment following a conviction is administered in the worst-case scenario. For first-time offenders of a misdemeanor, active punishment involves a sentence that lasts one to 60 days. However, repeat offenders may face a sentence of up to 150 days. 

Regardless of whatever punishment is administered, a sexual battery conviction will require that the convict registers with the Sex Offender Registry. This, coupled with the attention the case brings about, taints the offender’s reputation. As such, it is important to get a good criminal defense lawyer to reduce the chances of a conviction.

Contact Us for Winston-Salem Criminal Defense

Sexual battery allegations can have huge negative impacts on the accused’s life. A conviction poses even greater threats, such as jail time and participation in the Sex Offender Registry. These will have a life-long effect.

At the Law Offices of J. Scott Smith, PLLC, we understand how much is at stake when you are facing sexual battery charges and possible conviction. We want to help you. Our criminal defense team is well-qualified to argue out your case in court and prove your innocence or win an acquittal. Get in touch with us today to find out your legal options.

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