Have you Been Charged with Sexual Assault in Georgia?
Sexual crimes come with serious negative connotations. Often, people assume you are guilty before you even have a chance to speak. The Georgia Sexual Assault Attorneys at Lawson and Berry will never assume your guilt! We have over 50 combined years of criminal defense experience. Call now if you or a loved one has been charged with sexual assault in Georgia.
Georgia Sexual Assault Laws
Many people use the terms “rape,” “sexual assault,” and “sexual battery” interchangeably but that is a mistake. Each of the offenses has separate sections in the Georgia code and must be defended differently.
Sexual assault occurs when a person who has supervisory or disciplinary authority over another individual engages in sexual contact with them. O.C.G.A. §16-5-5.1(b)
O.C.G.A. §16-6-5.1(a)(4) defines sexual contact as “any contact between the actor and a person not married to the actor involving the intimate parts of either person for the sexual gratification of the actor.” Essentially, it is any sexual contact that involves intimate body parts between two unmarried people.
Who Has Supervisory of Disciplinary Authority?
- Teacher, principal, assistant principal, or other school administrators
- Probation officer, or other employees that have authority over parolees or probationers
- Employee or agent of a law enforcement agency with a person detained or in custody
- Employee or agent of a hospital who has sexual contact with a patient while being treated
- Employee or agent of a correctional or juvenile justice facility, or disability facility; or
- Psychotherapists with their patients
Any of these people will have committed sexual assault when they engage in sexual contact with an individual that the actor knew or should have known they have authority over.
The Court of Appeals ruled in Sharma v. State that this statute does not include the relationship between clergyman and parishioners. 294 Ga. App. 783, (2008).
Georgia Case Law
The Georgia Court of Appeals found sufficient evidence to convict Eugene Ellis of sexual assault. Ellis was a respiratory therapist at Kennestone Hospital. Ellis would assess patients and determine what kind of respiratory treatments would be used and perform procedures on the patients. Three victims reported Ellis to detectives after they felt violated during a session. During the trial, Ellis argued that there was insufficient evidence proving that he had supervisory authority over the patient-victims. However, the Court found that Ellis directly supervised the respiratory treatments based on the patient's needs, physician's orders, and protocol. Further, the sexual contact occurred during the procedures. One of the patient victims testified that Ellis was performing a cupping percussive treatment when he began to touch her breasts and buttocks. Another patient testified that during her breathing treatment, Ellis told her to roll over and penetrated her vagina with his finger. In sum, the Court found there was ample evidence proving that Ellis had supervisory authority over the victims and that he engaged in sexual contact with them. 324 Ga. App. 497, (2013).
The suspect was acquitted of sexual assault in the case of Whitehead v. State. Whitehead was a teacher at the school that the alleged victim attended. The evidence showed that the alleged victim was 17 years old which was over the age of consent. She testified that no force was used in any of the sexual contacts between them. Further, she stated that the relationship was mutual. Therefore, Whitehead was acquitted of the sexual assault charge. 300 Ga. App. 504, (2009).
Penalty for a Sexual Assault Conviction in Georgia
A person convicted of sexual assault in Georgia will be guilty of a felony. The consequences will include a prison term between one and twenty years, a fine up to $100,000, or both.
There are enhanced penalties when they other party involved is less than 16 years of age. The prison term increases to at least twenty-five years but no more than fifty.
However if the victim is between 14 and 16 years old and the defendant is 18 years old or younger or no more than four years older than the victim, then the penalties are lessened. The crime will be treated as a misdemeanor instead of a felony. The misdemeanor punishment in Georgia is up to one year in jail, up to $1,000 in fines, or both.
Another implication of a sexual assault conviction is that they must register as a sex offender. The defendant will appear on the Georgia public offender database as well as the national sexual offender database. Sex offenders are prohibited from living near churches, schools, or other areas where minors congregate such as parks or pools.
Furthermore, the implications of a felony conviction extend beyond jail time and fines. It will show up on any background check and can hinder people from obtaining housing, credit, or employment.
Because of the seriousness of the potential consequences, it is critical that you hire a sexual assault lawyer in Georgia immediately.
Defenses to Sexual Assault in Georgia
The other party was over the age of consent: As seen in the case of Whitehead v. State, the defendant was acquitted of sexual assault when the evidence demonstrated that the alleged victim was over 16 and no force was used. 300 Ga. App. 504, (2009).
The accused was not in a supervisory or disciplinary role over the victim: Sexual assault requires that the defendant have authority over the victim in some way. A failure to satisfy this element of the statute will result in the suspect being acquitted of a sexual assault charge. However, they could be charged with another crime, so it is still important to contact a Georgia Sexual Assault Lawyer.
What Does Not Constitute a Defense
Consent: While consent may be a defense to other sexually based crimes, it is not a defense to sexual assault.
I was unaware that I was in a supervisory position: The statute states that if the accused knew or should have known that they were in a position of authority. Even if you did not explicitly know, it there is evidence that a reasonable person would have known, then you could still be convicted.
The sexual assault lawyers in Georgia at Lawson and Barry will work to create a robust defense strategy in your case! You have rights and defenses available to you so call us now, and we can discuss your situation. Every second counts when charged with a crime of this nature. Call now to speak with a Georgia Sex Crimes Attorney.