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What Are the 3 Levels of Sexual Assault?

Feb 26, 2024

Sexual assault involves intentionally touching someone in a sexual manner without that person’s explicit consent. Alternatively, it entails coercing or forcing a person to engage in sexual acts against their will. Common forms of sexual assault include rape or attempted rape and unwanted sexual touching or fondling.

Anyone of any age can be a victim of sexual assault. Perpetrators can also include males and females of all ages. The majority of sexual assault perpetrators are individuals who are close to the victim, such as friends, partners, or caregivers. 

Sexual assault can be one isolated incident or repeated encounters. Regardless of the specifics, sexual assault can profoundly impact a victim’s life, including physically, mentally, and emotionally.

How Is Sexual Assault Classified in Different States?

Sexual violence against an individual is illegal in every state. However, states classify the crime differently. Therefore, it’s helpful to understand how your state defines sexual assault, including the levels of crime and potential penalties. 

Often, states have different “levels” or degrees of sexual assault. Many states have three levels, while some have four or more. 

Levels of Sexual Assault in New York

New York criminalizes several sexual acts constituting “sexual abuse,” which is defined as sexual contact without the victim’s consent. Sexual contact includes sexual touching of intimate parts for the gratification of either party. It also involves touching of the victim by the perpetrator or vice versa, whether directly or through clothing.

Other related sexual crimes in New York include persistent sexual abuse, forcible touching, and predatory sexual assault. Third-degree sexual abuse involves subjecting a person to sexual contact without their prior consent. This is a class B misdemeanor.

Second-degree sexual abuse is more serious. It involves sexual contact without consent when the victim is incapable of providing consent by a factor other than being under 17 or 14 years old. This is a class A misdemeanor.

First-degree sexual abuse refers to sexual contact that occurs:

  • Without consent because the victim is physically helpless
  • By forcible compulsion
  • When the victim is younger than 13 and the perpetrator is 21 or older
  • When the victim is younger than 11

This is the most severe level of sexual abuse, making the crime a class D felony. 

Levels of Sexual Assault in Minnesota

Unlike New York, Minnesota has five degrees of sexual assault, which the state refers to as “criminal sexual conduct.” Fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct involves some type of non-consensual sexual contact or certain lewd conduct. 

Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involves sexual contact. The details of a fourth-degree charge are similar to those of a third-degree charge, except the incident does not involve penetration. 

Third-degree criminal sexual conduct involves sexual penetration. It typically comes with an aggravating factor, such as force or victim mental incapacity or impairment.

Second-degree criminal sexual conduct is similar to a first-degree charge. The difference is that it does not involve sexual penetration — only sexual contact. 

First-degree sexual misconduct is the most serious offense. It involves sexual penetration with at least one aggravating factor, including the use of hazardous weapons or assistance of a forceful co-conspirator.

Seeking Legal Representation for a Sexual Assault Case

If you or a loved one have been the victim of sexual assault, do not wait to take action. Legal assistance is available to you. A sexual abuse lawyer can represent your best interests and seek justice on your behalf.