Sexual Charges FAQ
In Tennessee, there are many different types of sex offenses that an individual can be charged with, and the penalties can be extremely severe — including being listed in a state sex offender registry. Many of these sex offenses can be aggravated by certain factors such as the age of the victim or whether the suspect is an authority figure.
No matter what the charges you face may be, hiring a Tennessee criminal defense lawyer with sufficient experience and legal capability is absolutely crucial if you wish to avoid the serious repercussions of a sex crime conviction.
Rape and Statutory Rape
Rape is defined as the unlawful sexual penetration of a victim by the defendant. The sexual act is considered unlawful if it is accompanied by force or coercion; lack of consent; if the defendant knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless; or if the penetration is accomplished by fraud. Rape is considered a Class B felony in the state of
Tennessee and could carry fines up to $25,000 and between eight and 30 years in state prison.
Statutory rape is defined in three separate ways. Mitigated statutory rape is the unlawful sexual penetration of a victim who is at least 15 but less than 18 by an individual who is at least four but not more than five years older. Statutory rape is the unlawful sexual penetration of a victim who is at least 13 but less than 15 by an individual who is at least four but less than 10 years older. Finally, aggravated statutory rape is the unlawful sexual penetration of a victim who is at least 13 but less than 18 by an individual who is at least 10 years older. Mitigated and statutory rape are Class E felonies while aggravated statutory rape is a Class D felony.
Sexual battery is defined as "unlawful sexual contact" accompanied by force or coercion; lack of consent; if the defendant knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated or physically helpless; or if the penetration is accomplished by fraud. It is considered Class E felony. Conviction could lead to fines up to $3,000 and between one to six years in state prison.
Indecent exposure can be charged if a person in a public place and knowingly or intentionally, "(i) engages in sexual intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, bestiality, oral copulation, flagellation, excretory functions or other ultimate sex acts; (ii) appears in a state of nudity; or (iii) fondles the genitals of the person, or another person." A first offense is a Class B misdemeanor.
Just a few years ago, the state of Tennessee passed the "Tennessee Sexual Offender and Violent Sexual Offender Registration, Verification and Tracking Act of 2004." The details of this act can be found in T.C.A. § 40-39-201 et seq. Within this act, the Tennessee General Assembly observed that it is a "compelling and necessary public interest that the public have information concerning persons convicted of sexual offenses…to allow members of the public to adequately protect themselves and their children from these persons."
The act further states that "persons convicted of these sexual offenses have a reduced expectation of privacy because of the public's interest in public safety." The General Assembly concluded: "in balancing the sexual offender's and violent sexual offender's due process and other rights against the interests of public security, the general assembly finds that releasing information about offenders under the circumstances specified in this part will further the primary governmental interest of protecting vulnerable populations from potential harm." Because of this act, sex offenders must now register with local law enforcement agencies or face serious consequences — including new the felony charge of "failure to register."
While these laws are in place to protect the public, can law enforcement and legislative bodies go too far? For example, on July 1, 2006, Georgia House Bill 1059 was passed preventing sex offenders from living within 1000 feet of a school bus stop. This law effectively banned sex offenders from living essentially anywhere within Georgia. Fortunately, the provision was never enforced because school bus routes were constantly changing and a Federal Judge enjoined its enforcement. In 2010, Georgia passed a new law. What happens if a park or daycare opens nearby to where you live, or a law prevents you from taking part in church activities, or if you are homeless and have no fixed address?