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What is the difference between sexual assault and sexual contact?

Rape and sexual assault are both crimes in Colorado. Instead of having these crimes divided into levels, they are divided into categories of sexual assault or sexual contact. The difference is in whether or not any kind of penetration took place.

Aggravating factors may affect the level of criminal responsibility in a case. For example, if you are accused of rape, you may face fewer punishments than if you face a charge of rape and the use of date-rape drugs.

Non-consensual sexual assault is defined as knowingly sexually penetrating a person against his or her will, when the victim thought it was his or her spouse or when the victim thought it was for medical treatment. A victim may also claim sexual assault if they couldn't consent due to being asleep or unconscious, were incapable of understanding what the sexual conduct was or were under 14 years old and not married to the person committing the alleged crime. A non-consenting person is also identified as a victim and can claim sexual assault if he or she is a 15 or 16-year-old person and the defendant is at least 10 years older and not his or her spouse.

Unlawful sexual contact is different, because penetration does not take place. The touching must be done for sexual gratification. So, if you're a doctor and must touch a patient for an exam, you would not be doing so for sexual gratification and shouldn't be charged with a crime. On the other hand, someone touching a person to encourage him or her to participate in sexual acts against his or her will would be participating in unlawful sexual conduct.

The differences between these crimes may seem slight, but they can have an impact on your case. Your attorney can help you develop a defense to protect yourself as you defend your side of the case.

Source: FindLaw, "Colorado Rape and Sexual Assault Laws," accessed Sep. 01, 2016

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