Sexual Assault is a serious offence and a conviction will have a devastating impact on your future. The stigma of having a criminal record for any type of sex crime can affect your ability to get a job or housing for years, decades, and even a lifetime. It can also have severe social implications, leading to an increased risk of depression, mental health issues, and suicide.
But some people who are charged with sexual assault are innocent, and other times, charges are over-inflated due to a particular bias against sex crimes in certain jurisdictions. Regardless of your situation, it is critical to hire experienced legal counsel immediately if you have been charged with sexual assault in Ontario. A skilled sexual assault lawyer may be able to have your charges reduced, or dropped entirely.
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault occurs when someone uses force or the threat of force to commit an unwanted sexual act against another person. There is a wide range of severity with regard to sexual assault—from touching someone’s buttocks without their consent to forced penetration at gun point. But all sexual assault charges are serious and should be treated as such.
What Happens in a Sexual Assault Trial?
In order to convict you of sexual assault, the Crown Attorney must show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed the act in question. The court will consider the following criteria when determining if there is enough evidence to move forward with the charges against you.
Did you use force or threaten the use of force during the incident?
Were you or the victim under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident?
Are you in a position of authority which could have been used to persuade the alleged victim?
To be found guilty of sexual assault, the prosecution must be able to show the following:
- Sexual assault actually occurred;
- The person charged with sexual assault is the one who committed the act;
- The victim did not give consent or was legally incapable of giving consent.
An experienced Ontario defence lawyer will know how to look for weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, gather evidence to create a reasonable doubt about the charges against you, and position you for the most favourable outcome possible.
What are the Penalties for Being Charged with Sexual Assault?
As with all crimes, the penalties for sexual assault depend largely on the type and severity of the assault committed. For minor sexual assault offences, penalties may range from discharge to up to 18 months in jail, whereas an indictable case of simple sexual assault can carry a penalty of up to 10 years in jail.
If the crime involved a weapon, serious injuries, or a minor victim, penalties are significantly more serious, including up to 14 years in prison and inclusion on the National Sex Offender Registry for up to 20 years. In some cases, an offender may need to remain on the Registry for a lifetime.
How to Get Sexual Assault Charges Dismissed in Ontario
When the charges against you are for a fairly low-level sexual assault, you may be able to have your charges dropped by signing a peace bond or applying for a discharge. However, this will depend largely on the particulars of your case. In addition to the charges themselves being relatively minor, you should have no prior criminal record or only an older record with minor charges. The Crown will be much less likely to grant a discharge or peace bond if you have recent, multiple, or serious offences on your criminal record.
If a peace bond is offered, the charges against you will be withdrawn when it is signed. If you are given an absolute or conditional discharge, you will still be found guilty, but will avoid jail time, a permanent criminal record, and the need to be listed on the National Sex Offender Registry. While a peace bond is the preferred option, you may be deemed unsuitable due to past criminal history or the severity of your offence.
Absolute or Conditional Discharge
With a conditional discharge, you will remain on probation with certain conditions for a period of time, and the discharge will come off your record after three years. With an absolute discharge, you will be released with no probation or conditions, and the discharge will only remain on your record for one year. In both cases, it is important to follow up following the allotted one or three years to confirm that the discharge was expunged; purging this from your record is not always automatic.
If the nature of your offence was particularly serious, such as aggravated sexual assault with a weapon, rape, or sexual assault against a minor, you are unlikely to be eligible for a peace bond or discharge. With more serious charges, you will almost certainly face jail time, hefty fines, and a permanent criminal record, but there may still be alternative sentencing options to lessen the time you have to spend behind bars. Two of these options are intermittent sentences and suspended sentences.
Intermittent and Suspended Sentences
An intermittent sentence allows you to serve your sentence over the weekends so that you can spend the rest of the week outside of jail. This allows offenders to continue to work and earn an income while they complete their sentence. A suspended sentence, on the other hand, is similar to probation in that you are released from jail with certain conditions. But the conditions of a suspended sentence are typically quite strict, and the slightest violation of its terms will land you in jail.
Potential Defences Against Sexual Assault
The defences available to you in a sexual assault case will depend largely on the charges against you, but two of the most common defences are that the alleged victim consented to the act, or that you mistakenly believed the alleged victim had given consent. In either case, it is up to you—and your lawyer—to provide ample evidence to create a reasonable doubt about the charges against you.
Contact Vilkhov Law Today
If you have been charged with sexual assault, it is essential to seek legal counsel immediately. The highly-experienced and skilled legal team at Vilkhov Law will protect your rights and position you for the most favourable outcome possible. Having a conviction for any type of sex crime on your criminal record can literally ruin your life, negatively impacting your ability to get a job or housing for a lifetime. Now is not the time to cut corners or work with just any lawyer. Our criminal defence team has successfully defended countless clients against sexual assault charges, and we understand the sensitive nature of these cases. We are not here to judge. We will work tirelessly to protect your rights, reputation, and freedom. Contact Vilkhov Law today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.