In the wake of the #Metoo movement, some very important questions are being raised, particularly in regard to how consent is defined and interpreted. While sexual consent laws can vary, individuals should remain cognizant of the laws in their area to not only ensure everyone’s rights are respected, but to avoid scenarios that could result in sex crime allegations.
If you or a loved one is accused of a sex crime in Virginia that involves consent, it is vital to seek guidance from a skilled attorney. To speak with an experienced Roanoke sex crimes lawyer, call Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico at (540) 343-9349 or submit a request online.
Sexual Consent in Virginia
Non-consensual sexual activity is illegal in Virginia. Depending on the nature of the sexual activity, you could be charged with serious crimes like rape, forcible sodomy, or sexual object penetration if there is evidence that you acted without your partner’s consent. There is no specific statutory definition of consent in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Rather, the law recognizes sets of circumstances where consent does not exist.
The lack of consent is inferred when there is evidence that you accomplished the sexual conduct through:
- Physical force
- The other person’s young age, impaired mental capacity, or physical disability
If a prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that sexual activity occurred under one or more of the above circumstances, you may be convicted of a life-shattering sex crime. The meaning of physical force, threats, and intimidation–especially in the context of sexual activity–is fairly straightforward. However, lack of consent due to age, physical disability, to mental capacity requires further explanation.
Incapacity and Intoxication May Undermine Consent
Virginia law recognizes two kinds of incapacity that can destroy another person’s ability to consent: physical and mental. Physical incapacity exists where victims are unable to realize the sexual activity is occurring, or unable to physically or vocally resist. This state of physical helplessness exists when the alleged victim is asleep, paralyzed, in a coma, or under the effect of sedatives.
Mental incapacity may be either a temporary or permanent state. Victims might be unable to provide consent because a developmental disorder affects their cognitive abilities to the extent that they cannot understand the nature of the consequences of the sexual activity. Alternatively, this inability to understand and consent to the sexual activity may be caused by intoxication–whether it has rendered the victim unconscious or severely uninhibited. Basically, if a person’s disability, injury, or consumption of drugs or alcohol is a significant source of physical or mental impairment, it is unlikely they can provide consent.
The Age of Consent in Virginia
The age of consent for intercourse is 15 years old in Virginia; however, there are other sex acts that set the age at 18. These acts include cunnilingus, fellatio, and anal intercourse, which means that minors cannot legally consent to certain sexual activity. Additionally, if you are an adult and have sex with a person under 18 years of age, you may be prosecuted for statutory rape. Statutory rape is generally charged as a Class 4 Felony, but the exact charge and penalties will depend on all the factors and ages involved.
If You’re Charged, Speak to a Lawyer Immediately
The consequences of a sex crime conviction can be devastating: prison, fines, and a destroyed reputation are virtually certain if you plead guilty to your charges. But decisive legal action can enable you to mitigate or avoid the penalties and collateral consequences of a conviction.
At Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico, we know the ambiguity and confusion involved with these situations can be difficult to deal with, but we excel in providing our clients with a swift and resolute defense to sex crime charges. There are options to consider and by partnering with an experienced attorney, you can present your version of events. To schedule an appointment at our Roanoke office, call us today (540) 343-9349.