What is Third Degree Sexual Assault?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2020
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Third degree sexual assault is a crime in which a person has sexual contact with another party without the victim's consent. In many places, there are varying degrees of sexual assault, with a first degree charge being the most serious. A third degree charge is less severe and may carry fewer or lighter penalties, but is still considered a serious type of crime. The actions that lead to a charge of third degree assault may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In many places, however, a person is guilty of third degree sexual assault if he has sexual intercourse or contact with a person without consent, but the circumstances of the crime do not translate into a first or second degree charge — sexual assault that does not involve the use of a deadly weapon, for example, may result in this lesser charge.

Often, sexual assault results in a third degree charge when it does not involve the severe physical harm of the victim. While any type of sexual assault harms the victim in some way, there are some cases in which a victim is severely beaten or hurt enough to impair the proper functioning of his body. Likewise, some victims suffer harm that requires surgical treatment. In the absence of this level of harm, a criminal may be charged with third degree sexual assault if other jurisdiction-specific conditions are met.

In many cases, first and second degree charges are assessed if a person commits sexual assault with a weapon that is deadly or capable of causing severe bodily harm. For example, these charges may apply if a gun is used while committing this crime. Interestingly, a person may be charged with first or second degree assault if he uses a makeshift weapon and his victim thought it was capable of killing him or inflicting severe bodily harm. In the absence of such weapons, a sexual assault incident may result in a third degree charge.

A person may also be charged with third degree sexual assault in the event that his crime involves a minor who is above a certain age. For example, in some cases, sexual assaults that do not meet the criteria for first or third degree charges and involve children over the age of 12 result in third degree sexual assault charges. Likewise, these charges may apply if the victim lacked the mental capacity to give consent. Additionally, a person may be charged with third degree sexual assault if he sexually assaulted a member of his household, a relative, or a person over which he has some type of authority.

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