The charge of Unlawful Sexual Contact (USC) is a sexual assault in Maine. The statute for sexual assault in Maine is broad. The charge can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on various factors. For an Unlawful Sexual Contact charge, these factors include things like:
- the age of the victim
- whether there was consent to the sexual contact
- whether there was abuse of authority or influence
Unlawful Sexual Contact Conviction Impacts
If convicted of felony sexual assault charges, you would become a felon. Having a Felon status is permanent and has life long constraints such as:
- Being prohibited from ever owning or possessing firearms.
- Facing an uphill road in being able to find and keep a job.
- Impeding limitations in their ability to travel abroad.
Sex Offender Registry
A major collateral consequence for being convicted of some sexual assault offenses is that you would become a sex offender under Maine’s SORNA law. SORNA is Maine’s Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act. Most importantly, sex offenders are required to register with the State for as few as 10 years, up to a lifetime. For more information about SORNA registration, please see my related article.
Even a misdemeanor conviction for sexual assault can be problematic. In some professions, criminal background checks look for all criminal convictions. Being labeled a sex offender still carries negative social stigma, even if the offense is a misdemeanor. So a sexual assault conviction can ruin your good name, regardless of how serious the charge.
For all of these reasons, it is paramount to have a strong criminal defense attorney in your corner to represent you at Court. Do not take any undue risks with your freedom. The Nielsen Group represents Unlawful Sexual Contact cases all across Maine, and we are ready to listen to and advocate for you. Contact The Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation appointment with one of our attorneys.
What are the myths about Sexual Assault?
Sexual Assault is a crime that brings with it many myths and assumptions. Here, I want to clarify some of these mistaken assumptions:
The victim must be lying about the incident.
- While the defendant might recall things one way, the victim’s story may be very different. Attacking the victim outright can backfire at Court. If you are busy trying to prove the victim is lying, then a Jury might take that to mean you are guilty. At trial, remember that you are the one under scrutiny. You need an attorney who knows how to defend these cases effectively.
Sexual Assault requires penetration.
- Not so. As you will read below, there is a broad range of conduct that is considered to be Unlawful Sexual Contact. The contact does not have to require penetration in order to be charged as a sexual assault.
There cannot be a Sexual Assault if the parties were married.
- Not true. Again, the Statue below recognizes specific conduct as criminal. The conduct does not depend on whether the parties were or were not married.
What is the Maine Statute for Unlawful Sexual Contact?
According to Maine Statute 17-A M.R.S.A. Section 255-A, the first element of a criminal charge of Unlawful Sexual Contact is that a person “intentionally subject another person to sexual contact.” The law defines “sexual contact” as “any touching of the genitals or anus, directly or through clothing” and is done for the purpose of sexual gratification, or for causing offensive physical contact or injury on the other person. In other words, sexual contact does not require penetration, but the defendant’s state of mind is an important factor.
Unlawful Sexual Contact can be as serious as a Class A felony, similar to Gross Sexual Assault. Or, Unlawful Sexual Contact can be a low level misdemeanor. It all depends on the unique circumstances of the case.
What is the punishment for a Class E misdemeanor Sexual Assault?
Let’s start with what a low level misdemeanor conviction would look like for Unlawful Sexual Contact. There is only one situation in which sexual contact would be a sexual assault under the statute:
- When the victim is a student less than 18 years old, and the defendant is a teacher who is at least 21 years old. The parties are specifically not married. There is no penetration involved.
If convicted of a Class E misdemeanor, the maximum penalties include up to $1,000.00 in fines, and up to six (6) months jail time. This type of conviction will not trigger SORNA registration.
Assuming the student is a 17 year old high school senior, and the teacher is a 23 year old recent college graduate, a dating relationship is not out of the ordinary. But, it is the teacher-student relationship that makes sexual contact in that relationship a crime. If the 23 year old teacher is looking for a dating relationship, then he should be looking outside the school community if they wishes to avoid being charged with a crime.
What is the punishment for a Class D misdemeanor Sexual Assault?
A sexual assault is a Class D misdemeanor when the sexual contact occurs without the victim’s consent, or when the sexual assault is committed against vulnerable populations. Here, penetration is not contemplated. And the parties are considered to be not married or in any committed relationship.
The penalties upon conviction for a Class D misdemeanor offense include up to $2,000.00 in fines and up to 364 days jail time. Certain sexual contact in this section can trigger SORNA.
Situations triggering a Class D misdemeanor sexual assault include:
Lack of consent:
- The victim does not consent to the sexual contact.
- The victim is unconscious or physically incapable of resisting.
The age of the victim:
- The victim is 14 or 15 years old, and the defendant is at least ten (10) years older.
- The victim is a student less than 18 years old, and the defendant is a teacher or other school personnel who is at least 21 years old. The parties are not married. The sexual contact includes penetration.
- The victim is a student, and the defendant is a teacher or other school personnel with “supervisory or disciplinary authority” over the victim.
- The victim is mentally disabled, making then unable to understand that the sexual contact is an assault. The defendant is aware of the victim’s mental disability.
- The victim lives in a residential home funded by DHHS. The defendant owns, or is employed by, the organization running the residence.
- The victim is on probation, or in jail. The defendant is supervising the victim, such as a probation officer.
- The victim is a mental health patient. The defendant is, or claims to be, a mental healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.
- The victim is an older adult, sick, or, disabled requiring care for daily living. The defendant is employed as a caregiver.
What is the punishment for a Class C felony Sexual Assault?
While most of the Class D misdemeanor offenses above did not contemplate penetration, a Class C felony crime for Unlawful Sexual Contact, can contemplate penetration.
Conviction for a Class C felony include penalties of up to $5,000.00 in fines and up to five (5) years jail time. These offenses will often also trigger SORNA registration as well as felon status.
Issue of Consent (may or may not be penetration):
- The sexual contact, which included penetration, occurred without consent.
- The sexual contact included penetration, and the victim was unconscious.
- The sexual contact occurs as a result of compulsion used against the victim to submit to the act.
Issue of Age of Victim (penetration not required):
- The victim is less than 14 years old, and the defendant is at least 3 years older.
- The victim is less than 18 years old, and the defendant is the victim’s parent, stepparent, foster parent, or guardian.
Issue of Vulnerable Populations (involving penetration):
- Mental disability.
- Intellectual disability.
- Students attending school.
- Those requiring long term caregivers.
What is the punishment for a Class B felony Sexual Assault?
Class B felonies are serious crimes. Under this classification, the victims tend to be younger minors of a certain age. Or physical force was used in the commission of the crime. Penetration is often an element, but not in all Class B felony sexual assaults.
If convicted of a Class B felony, the penalties include up to $20,000.00 in fines and up to ten (10) years jail time. SORNA registration is also a significant collateral consequence in many listed below.
Class B felonies include the following situations:
- The sexual contact occurs as a result of compulsion used against the victim to submit to the act. The sexual contact involves penetration.
Age of Victim:
- The victim is less than 12 years old, and the defendant is at least 3 years older. Penetration is not an element of the offense.
- The victim is less than 14 years old, and the defendant is at least 3 years older. Penetration is required.
- The victim is less than 18 years old, and the defendant is the victim’s parent or guardian. The sexual contact involves penetration.
What is the punishment for a Class A felony Sexual Assault?
There is one situation in which Unlawful Sexual Contact is the most severe class of crime in Maine, and it includes very young victims.
- The victim is less than 12 years old, and the defendant is at least three (3) years older, and the sexual act includes penetration.
If convicted the maximum penalties for a Class A felony include up to $50,000.00 in fines and up to thirty (30) years jail time. This also will trigger a lifetime SORNA requirement.
What is the Impact of SORNA in these Matters?
As you can see, a charge for Unlawful Sexual Contact runs the gambit of criminal classifications from a Class E misdemeanor to a Class A felony under Maine’s Criminal Statute. Therefore, the potential SORNA impact for a conviction also runs the gambit from a 10-registration requirement to a lifetime obligation on the sex offender registry. Avoiding a SORNA registration should be prioritized in any case fending off an allegation of sexual assault.
How Can a Sexual Assault Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
The State takes all sex crimes seriously. The State does not dismiss these cases. If you try to handle the case yourself, the State will just tell you to plead guilty as charged. Your freedom and good name are on the line. If charged with a sexual assault, you are looking at not only jail time and fines in the short run, but also potential felon status and sex offender registration for the long term.
You need an aggressive criminal defense attorney to help. When meeting with a criminal defense attorney for the first time, things you might discuss include:
- Your concerns about how this charge will impact you. A sexual assault charge can be stressful, as well as potentially life-changing. How will this charge change your life? Will this charge change your ability to work? Will this charge impact your family relationships?
- Whether any experts might be helpful. Certain experts can explore issues to address the State’s concerns. Experts used in a sexual assault case can include sex offender counseling, private investigators, and mitigation experts.
- What evidence does the State have? In many sexual assault cases, it really is a he said, she said situation. The State will have the victim’s statement that is the basis of the criminal charge. Depending on whether the defendant exercised Miranda rights, the State might have some form of statement from the defendant. Are these enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime as the State has charged?
- Being mentally prepared to defend your case. Every now and then, I meet a client who just wants the case to be over as soon as possible. They do not want to wait until the next court date. In a case for Unlawful Sexual Contact, you do not want to be in a rush. Being in a rush means you plead guilty to a worse outcome that you are likely to regret later on.