Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Attorney

Sex Crimes and Their Penalties in Utah

Being accused of a sex-related crime is one of the most difficult and challenging legal matters you can face. Sex crimes are viewed as among the worst offenses you can commit. Allegations of this nature can stain your reputation long before you have had your day in court, making it an uphill battle to clear your name. These are crimes that carry a stigma well into the future; that stigma can have a ruinous effect on your life in terms of family, social, and professional relationships. Because of this and the many harsh criminal penalties associated with sex crimes, you need experienced legal representation as soon as possible.

Like any other crime, sex crimes are defined by law with specific elements that must be proven by a prosecutor to win a conviction. To help you better understand this, I will discuss the various aspects of several Utah sex crimes, including:

  • Rape
  • Sexual abuse of a child
  • Revenge porn
  • Juvenile sex crimes

Rape in Utah

Rape is defined under Utah Criminal Code 76-5-402 in the following way: “A person commits rape when the actor has sexual intercourse with another person without the victim’s consent. This section applies whether or not the actor is married to the victim.” This definition opens the door to spousal rape as well as rape of someone else.

Rape carries a prison term of no less than five years and may be punishable by up to life in prison. It carries 20 years up to life when a serious bodily injury was caused during the rape or when the defendant was under the age of 18 and had a previous grievous sexual offense. It carries a term of life imprisonment without parole if the defendant (over the age of 18) had a previous grievous sexual offense at the time of the rape.

Sexual Abuse of a Child

Sexual abuse of a child is defined under Utah Criminal Code 76-5-404.1. This offense consists of touching the intimate parts of a child under the age of 14 or taking or causing the child to take “indecent liberties” with you or someone else so as to cause substantial physical or emotional pain or to sexually gratify anyone.

Sexual abuse of a child is charged as a second-degree felony. Penalties include up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

This offense becomes aggravated if a dangerous weapon was used during the crime or if it was committed as part of a kidnapping. Other factors can aggravate this offense as well, such as the use of pornography during the crime, the crime being committed on two or more children during the same course of events, its having severe psychological damage to the victim, or the defendant having prior sexual offense convictions. When aggravated sexual abuse of a child occurs, the charge is elevated to a first-degree felony punishable by five years up to life in prison.

Revenge Porn

“Revenge porn” is the colloquial term for the crime of distributing an intimate image of another without his or her consent, with the intention of causing the victim distress. It is defined under Utah Criminal Code 76-5b-203. It involves sending images that show “sexually explicit” conduct, whether real or simulated. Sending a photo to all your friends of you and your partner having sex to upset and embarrass your partner would fall under this definition. An intimate image could be any photo, video, or depiction, even computer-generated.

This crime is charged as a Class A misdemeanor on a first offense. Class A misdemeanors in Utah are punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. A second or subsequent offense is charged as a third-degree felony carrying up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

If the intimate image distributed is of someone under the age of 18, it can be charged as child pornography which is a very serious crime in Utah.

Juvenile Sex Crimes

With the explosion of cell phones, computers, and streaming platforms that show sexually explicit material, children and teens are exposed more than ever before to both normal and criminal sexual behavior. For younger children, this material can be confusing and difficult to process. Even teens often have little understanding of the consequences of sexual-related actions. Many teens are unaware that sending sexually explicit images or messages to others via text is a crime known as “sexting.”

Unfortunately, those under the age of 18 can be found guilty of engaging in the same sex crimes as adults, from sexual assault to rape to lewd conduct. Most juvenile criminal cases are handled in the Juvenile Justice system, which seeks to rehabilitate as opposes to punish. What happens in this system will be based on the type of offense the minor committed. Juveniles who are found guilty of crimes may be required to spend time in a detention center or be put on probation with certain restrictions or requirements demanded by the judge.

In the most severe cases, a juvenile above the age of 14 charged with a serious felony may be sent to the adult court system to be tried as an adult. Also, any juvenile who is found guilty of a serious sex offense may then have to register with Utah’s Juvenile Sex Offender Registry. This registry is similar to the adult sex offenders’ registry and can have a serious negative impact on the juvenile’s life and future.

In the case of juvenile sex crime accusations, it is imperative that you seek experienced legal representation for your child to avoid such harsh consequences.

Contact Catherine Cleveland Attorney at Law for Help

A sex crime conviction can not only translate to harsh prison terms but, in the most serious of crimes, can lead to mandatory sex offender registration. This registration carries a social stigma that is tough to beat and can last a lifetime. In the face of such measures, you will need to fight hard for your freedom and future. As a criminal defense attorney with 20 years of experience, I can apply my vast legal knowledge, skills, and determination to help you fight for the best possible outcome.

Contact my office at (801) 448-0683 or through my online form for schedule a free, initial consultation about your sex crime case today.