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Sex Crimes FAQ

Late last year, public revelations of sexual misconduct by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein flooded newsfeeds around the world. Soon after, thousands upon thousands of women started coming forward with similar stories that they’ve been sharing with #MeToo. Of course, this led to much public and private discourse about the issue, and from what we’ve observed, people are confused and have many questions and misconceptions about what legally constitutes sexual assault, or more specifically, a sex crime. Nelson Defense Group decided to put together this short FAQ about sex crimes to try to bring some clarity to the discussion. It should be noted that sex crime laws vary by state, so the below information specifically applies to the State of Wisconsin.

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault in Wisconsin is committed when a person has sexual contact or intercourse either without consent, or with a person with whom they are legally prohibited from having sexual contact or intercourse, regardless of consent, e.g., a therapist and patient, a child under the age of 16, a prisoner, and so on.

Sexual assault in Wisconsin is separated into four different degrees, with first degree sexual assault being the most serious.

First Degree Sexual Assault:

There are three ways to commit first degree sexual assault against an adult:

(1) sexual activity with a person without his or her consent that causes pregnancy or serious injury,

(2) non-consensual sexual activity by use of a dangerous weapon, and

(3) being aided by another person where the sexual activity is accomplished by use of threat of violence.

There are five ways to commit first degree sexual assault against a child:

(1) sexual activity with a person under 13 years where great bodily harm occurs,

(2) sexual activity with a person under 12 years,

(3) sexual activity with a person under 16 years by use or threat of force or violence,

(4) sexual activity with a person under 16 years by use or threat of force or violence, if the actor is at least 18 years, and

(5) sexual activity with a person under 13 years.

The penalties for these offenses vary.

Second Degree Sexual Assault:

There are eight main ways to commit second degree sexual assault against an adult:

(1) use of threat of violence;

(2) causing injury, disease, reproductive impairment or mental anguish,

(3) with a mentally-ill, intoxicated or unconscious person,

(4) being added by one or more people,

(5) being an employee of an adult family home, community-based residential facility, an in-patient health care facility, or a state treatment facility who has sexual conduct with a patient or resident of the facility,

(6) being an employee of a child welfare agency, foster home, shelter or a direct care or treatment services hospital or home health agency who has sexual conduct with a client at the facility,

(7) being a corrections officer or prison volunteer who has sexual contact or sex with an inmate, and

(8) being a probation officer or parole officer who has sexual contact or intercourse with the individual on probation or parole, being supervised by them.

The only way to commit second degree sexual assault against a child is to engage in sexual activity with a child under 16.

Third Degree Sexual Assault:

There are two ways to commit third degree sexual assault against an adult:

(1) having sexual intercourse with a person without his or her consent, and

(2) sexual activity involving intentional ejaculation, urination, or defecation of either the defendant or victim on any part of either’s body for purposes of sexual humiliation or gratification.

Fourth Degree Sexual Assault:

Fourth degree sexual assault is a misdemeanor, and is committed by any person who engages in non-consensual sexual contact with a person involving intentional touching, directly or through clothing, when done for sexual humiliation of the victim or sexual gratification.

What is the Age of Consent?

Wisconsin has two ages of consent. The first is 16. People under 16 cannot consent to any sexual activity. At 16, a person can only consent to sexual contact. If a person is 16 or 17 and engages in sexual intercourse, even if it’s factually consensual, a prosecutor has the discretion to charge the other person with fourth degree sexual assault. Once a person turns 18, he or she can consent to any sexual activity. Any type of sexual contact or intercourse with a child under the age of 16 is a felony.

What is the Statute of Limitations?

Wisconsin law regarding statutes of limitation is very complicated. The simplest answer is “it depends.” Generally, however, prosecutors can charge a person with felony sexual assault for up to six years after the sexual activity is alleged to have occurred. Generally, misdemeanor sexual assault can be charged for up to three years after the sexual activity is alleged to have occurred. However, if the victim was under the age of 18 when the assault occurred, charges can be brought until the victim turns 35.

Can Men be Sexually Assaulted?

Yes. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation.

If you are facing charges related to sexual assault, we have the experienced team to help you. Contact us today.