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The limits of consent as a defense for sexual assault accusations

Prosecutors in California must meet specific criteria to prove allegations of sexual assault. The penal code defines an assault as separate from rape, which arises from intercourse without consent. An assault takes place when a person touches another person's intimate areas. Specifically, these can be one's sexual organ, anus, groin, buttocks or the breasts of a female. Direct contact with skin or contact through clothing both count as touching. The person touched must not consent to the action. In some cases, consent might not be clear, and a person charged with sexual assault might claim that consent was given.

Proof showing that the alleged victim gave consent to sexual touching might be difficult to produce. The consent defense entails some controversy because the conflicting testimonies of both parties might be the only available evidence. This defense strategy might also include revealing the person's past sexual history, which might be viewed unfavorably. If the supposed victim is a child or person with mental disabilities, consent cannot be used as a legal defense.

Even without attempting to illustrate consent, a defense strategy might succeed in limiting a prosecutor's ability to prove sexual assault. The law tasks a prosecutor with proving three elements. The victim must have been restrained without permission. Consent must be absent, and the intention of the defendant was to achieve sexual arousal or abuse the person.

Someone facing sexual assault charges might want the support of a criminal justice attorney. High fines and jail sentences could result from a conviction. A lawyer could evaluate the evidence and challenge areas of weakness. This might result in a reduction or dismissal of charges. Advice from an attorney could also help the defendant choose between going to trial or seeking a plea bargain.

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