In Canada, unwanted sexual contact can be a criminal offence. The charges for this type of crime depend largely on the particulars of the case. For example, if there is a threat of force and the victim is an adult, the offender can be charged with sexual assault, whereas if the victim is under the age of 16, even more serious charges may follow.
The crime of sexual interference always involves sexual assault, but it specifically applies to sexual assault against a minor victim. Read on for more information about the differences and similarities between sexual assault and sexual interference, their respective punishments, and how you should proceed if you’ve been charged with any type of sex crime.
Sexual assault occurs when someone uses force or the threat of force in a sexual act against another person, without that person’s consent. Although there is a great deal of ambiguity around the word assault, it is important to note that even a threat of force is enough to constitute assault. Furthermore, only minimal touching is required to result in a charge of sexual assault. An example of sexual assault could involve threatening to harm someone if they don’t allow you to touch their buttocks.
Section 271 of the Criminal Code of Canada provides a range of punishments for the crime of sexual assault, which vary depending on the type and severity of the assault in question. If the offence was particularly serious, the Crown Attorney may prosecute the case by indictment, which carries a maximum jail sentence of 10 years. On the other end of the spectrum, less serious cases may be prosecuted as a summary conviction, which carries a maximum of 18 months in jail.
The above example of threatening to harm someone if they don’t allow you to touch their buttocks would probably result in a summary conviction, whereas threatening someone with a knife and then raping them would likely result in an indictment of up to 10 years. If you have been charged with any type of sexual offence in Ontario, it is in your best interest to seek immediate legal counsel.
What is Sexual Interference in Canada?
Another crime involving sexual assault is sexual interference. But there is a very important distinction—sexual interference only applies when the victim is under the age of 16 (age of consent).
The punishment for sexual interference varies depending on multiple factors, but the Criminal Code of Canada holds that:
Every person who, for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of a person under the age of 16 years:
- is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of one year;
- is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years less a day and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of 90 days.
Depending on the specifics of the case, a charge of sexual interference may lead to a summary conviction or an indictment, and the Crown may impose a mandatory minimum jail sentence for sex crimes involving minors.
Common Defences to Sexual Assault and Sexual Interference
Sexual assault and sexual interference are serious crimes, and a conviction of either offence carries more than just fines, jail time, and a criminal record. The stigma attached to sex crimes can literally ruin a person’s life. You may find yourself unable to get work, housing, and loans for years, decades, or a lifetime.
But what if no crime occurred? Some of the most common defences against sexual assault and sexual interference include:
- No sexual activity occurred;
- The sexual activity was consensual;
- The offender mistakenly believed that consent was given;
- The offender’s insanity or mental incapacity contributed to the assault;
- There was contact or an invitation to touch, but it was not sexual in nature;
- The touching was accidental;
- The offender mistakenly believed that the victim was 16 or older.
Not surprisingly, the courts take allegations of sexual assault and sexual interference extremely seriously. Generally speaking, courts are less inclined to work out a deal with someone believed to have committed a sex crime than for many other offences. This is especially true when the nature of the offence is particularly egregious and/or involves a minor.
Contact Vilkhov Law Today
If you have been charged with any type of sex crime, the highly-skilled and knowledgeable legal team at Vilkhov Law can help. When it comes to charges for sexual assault and sexual interference, it is essential to hire a professional criminal lawyer, and to do so quickly. The right legal counsel can be the difference between a dismissal of charges and years behind bars. We understand the social stigma surrounding sex crimes, and we understand that mistakes and misunderstandings are often at the core of these offences. Our criminal defence team will work night and day to protect your rights, reputation, and freedom, and to position you for the most favourable outcome possible. Contact Vilkhov Law today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.