Sexual offences are among the most serious crimes that the British Columbia justice system deals with on a daily basis. For a person accused of sexual assault or a similar offence, the consequences of a formal accusation alone can be devastating, to say nothing of a possible conviction. That is why it is important to understand how the Criminal Code defines these offences so you can understand what you need to do if you find yourself under investigation.
How the Criminal Code Defines Sexual Assault and Other Sexual Offences
Unlike many other countries, such as the United States, Canada no longer defines “rape” as a distinct offence. Under current law, reflected in Section 271 of the Criminal Code, such acts are incorporated into the much broader category of “sexual assault.” There is no specific definition in the Code for what constitutes sexual assault, and it has therefore been broadly interpreted by B.C. courts to mean any physical application of force that is not consensual and is done in circumstances of a “sexual nature.” So in theory, a person could be charged with sexual assault simply for slapping another person on their buttocks without their consent.
That said, Section 271 provides that sexual assault can be prosecuted as either an indictable or a summary offence. A summary offence is the less serious of the two and carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison. Conviction of the indictable offence, in contrast, can lead to a prison term of up to 10 years.
There are, however, a number of caveats and conditions that can lead to additional charges or more serious punishments:
- If the alleged victim of the sexual assault is under 16, the summary offence carries a mandatory prison term of between 6 months and 2 years, while the indictable offence has a specified prison term of between 1 and 14 years.
- If the sexual assault involved the use or threat of a weapon or involved any sort of bodily harm, that is an indictable offence subject to a maximum prison term of 14 years.
- If the sexual assault involved the wounding, maiming, or disfigurement of the victim, or endangered the victim’s life, that is considered aggravated sexual assault, which can lead to life imprisonment.
In addition to sexual assault, there are a number of other sex offences that can lead to charges under the Criminal Code. Some of the more common ones include:
- publication of materials considered “obscene”;
- making, printing, publishing, accessing, or possessing child pornography;
- communicating with a person under the age of 18 for the purpose of facilitating a sexual offence (i.e., “child luring”).
Speak with a British Columbia Sexual Assault Defence Lawyer Today
As you can see, a sexual assault or similar charge can seriously upend your life and potentially lead to serious jail time. So it is important that you work with an experienced Vancouver sex offence lawyer who can zealously represent your interests before the B.C. courts. Contact N.J. Preovolos Law Corporation today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our practice.