Sexual Assault: What Makes This Offense “Aggravated?”

Sexual assault can be devastating, both for the victim and the perpetrator if charges are brought against him or her. False allegations can also be very damaging, even if they are ultimately withdrawn or dismissed by the court. Knowing the difference between a regular sexual assault and an aggravated sexual assault can help you come to terms with what has happened, and to understand your rights and responsibilities in the matter.

What Is a Sexual Assault?

A sexual assault or rape is unwanted sexual contact involving penetration. It doesn’t matter where the victim was penetrated, or with what, and the “unwanted” aspect can be shown if any of these methods took place:

  • Lack of consent
  • Physical force
  • Mental or emotional coercion
  • Threats of violence
  • Manipulation, such as blackmail

Regardless of how severe the coercion was (or not) if any of these exist then the charge qualifies as a sexual assault. Allegations of sexual assault occur on a regular basis, even among married couples. They are particularly rampant in places where young people gather such as college campuses, and are often fueled by consuming alcohol or drugs. Whether an allegation is true or false, it can have devastating consequences for both parties’ lives and careers.

How Is Aggravated Sexual Assault Different?

In the state of Texas, an aggravated (non-sexual) assault is used to refer to any assault in which the perpetrator causes bodily injury to the victim, or uses a deadly weapon to commit the assault. Even if the weapon is just exhibited, this makes it an aggravated assault.

In terms of a sexual assault, it becomes an aggravated case when any of these conditions apply:

  • The victim is younger than 14 years old.
  • The victim is physically or mentally unable to defend him or herself, such as an elderly or disabled person.
  • The victim is injured in the process.
  • The assault takes place during the commission of another crime, such as a robbery, kidnapping or criminal escape.
  • The perpetrator is armed with any type of weapon, or uses an object convincingly enough that the victim believes he or she is in physical danger.
  • The assault is committed with the help of others or the use of physical force.
  • There are other factors that can lead to a charge of sexual assault being upgraded to an aggravated charge, including if the defendant has any form of power or authority over them. This could be a parent or guardian, a teacher, a care-giver, an employer or a relative.

Defending the Charges

In the cases of any charges of sexual or aggravated sexual assault being laid, it’s important to determine all the factors that come into play in order to ensure justice is served for everyone involved. In some cases, the defendant can make use of certain strategies in their defense, such as being temporarily under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or having a low IQ or a history of mental illness. Even in situations where the accused is helped by others to commit the assault, it may be possible for the other parties to argue that they were forced to do so against their will.

What Punishment Can be Expected?

The final outcome of the trial will determine the punishment given to the defendant, so it’s essential that all these factors are taking into account. Penalties can range from prison terms for between 5 and 99 years, fines of up to $10,000 and addition to the sex offender registry.

In addition, a conviction for aggravated sexual assault can result in the defendant being added to the registry of sex offenders, which is a record that lasts for his (or her) lifetime and affects every aspect of his life.

First Steps

The first thing you should do if you believe you have been the victim of a sexual assault is to contact your nearest police. For anyone accused in either a regular or aggravated assault, contact a board-certified criminal lawyer who specializes in sexual crimes to give you the strong legal representation you need for the best possible outcome.


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About the Author

Law Office of James Alston. serves people who need legal assistance in their Criminal Defense Cases in Texas.

Houston Criminal Lawyer James Alston represents clients in the Houston area, including Pasadena, Sugar Land, Missouri City, Channelview, Conroe, Galveston, Angleton, Richmond, Rosenberg, Beaumont, Galveston County, Ft. Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Harris County and Jefferson County in Texas.