If you've recently survived as the victim of a sexual crime, you may be wondering about your legal options through the criminal justice and civil court systems. Survivors and their families often struggle with questions like:
- Will the person responsible be arrested and incarcerated?
- Do we have legal options if the court fails to convict the perpetrator?
- Can third parties be held liable for enabling sexual abuse?
Our Montana sexual abuse victims' lawyers can help you get the justice you deserve.
Civil sexual abuse lawsuits are available to help victims find justice in ways the criminal justice system can't.
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Survivors of sexual violence respond in different ways. It’s normal to feel angry, frustrated, or a sense of despair in the aftermath of one of these traumatic experiences. For many survivors and their families, seeing the perpetrator brought to justice is the first part of moving on. Others may be fearful or hesitant to report the crime for any number of personal reasons.
Criminal Laws For Sexual Misconduct In Montana
If you or a loved one has recently become the victim of sexual assault or child sexual abuse in Montana, you may be wondering what penalties the perpetrator may face.
Montana has some of the more progressive sexual assault statutes in the nation, and recently updated an outdated law which had previously required prosecutors to prove that violence or threats were used in order for a crime to be considered rape. Now a lack of consent is all that is required for an offender to be charged with rape in Montana.
We’ve summarized the main Montana sexual crime statutes below. Be aware that these laws have been changing across the country, so it’s best to speak with an experienced Montana sexual assault victims lawyer if you want to get a better understanding of the criminal justice process for sexual offenses in your state. From Billings and Bozeman to Helena and Missoula, our sexual assault victims’ lawyers can help you understand both sides of the process and help you take legal action through a civil sexual abuse lawsuit.
Sexual Abuse Of Children
A person is guilty of sexual abuse of children if he or she knowingly engages in any of the following behaviors:
- Employs, uses, or permits the employment or use of a child in an exhibition of sexual conduct
- Photographs, films, videotapes, develops, or duplicates the photographs, films, or videotapes or records of a child engaging in sexual conduct
- Persuades or entices a child under 16 years old or person they believe the be under 16 years old to engage in sexual conduct
- Processes, develops, prints, publishes, transports, distributes, sells, exhibits, or advertises any visual or print medium depicting a child engaged in sexual conduct
- Possesses any visual or print medium in which a child is engaged in sexual conduct
- Finances any of the activities described in the above bullet points
- Possesses with intent to sell any visual representation of children engaged in sexual conduct
- Travels within, from, or to Montana with the intention of meeting a child under 16 years of age or a person the offender believes to be under 16 years of age in order to engage in sexual conduct
- Coerces, entices, persuades, arranges for, or facilitates a child under 16 years of age or someone the offender believes to be under 16 to travel within, from, or to Montana with the intention of engaging in sexual conduct
Sentences for sexual abuse of children range from 4 years to life in prison.
Mandatory Reporters Of Child Abuse & Neglect
In Montana, certain groups of professionals are legally required to report suspected child abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual) or neglect to law enforcement. People in the following occupations are considered mandatory reporters:
- Medical professionals
- Mental health care providers
- Teachers and school employees
- Daycare employees
- Social workers
- Members of religious clergy
- Foster care workers
- Law enforcement officials
- Peace officers
Mandatory reporters are required to report suspected abuse immediately. Failure to file a report is a misdemeanor. Those who fail to report also may be held liable in civil court for damages caused by a failure to report. If your child was sexually abused and you believe a mandatory reporter failed to meet their legal duty to report their suspicions of the act, you could have grounds for a lawsuit against that reporter, the offender, and possibly other third parties who could have done more to prevent or stop the abuse.
In Montana, a person is guilty of sexual assault if he or she knowingly subjects another person to any sexual contact or touching without that person’s consent. Sentences for sexual assault vary depending on circumstances:
- On a first conviction, the offender may be punished with a fine up to $500 and up to 6 months in county jail
- On second convictions, the penalty is a fine up to $1,000 and up to one year in county jail
- On a third and subsequent conviction, the offender faces a fine up to $10,000 and up to 5 years in prison
- If the victim is younger than 16 and the offender is at least 3 years older than the victim or if the offender injured anyone during the sexual assault, the offender may be punished either by life in prison or by a minimum of 4 years in state prison.
A victim is considered unable to consent to sexual contact if he or she is:
- Incarcerated or on probation and the offender has supervising authority over them
- Younger than 14 and the offender is at least 3 years older
- Receiving services from a youth care facility and the offender is an employee, contractor, volunteer, or supervisor at the facility
Sexual Intercourse Without Consent (Rape)
Any sexual intercourse which occurs without the consent of one of the people involved is considered rape in Montana.
Rape is punishable by either life imprisonment or a sentence of 4-100 years in prison and a fine up to $50,000. Like sexual assault, penalties are more severe under certain circumstances, including:
- If the victim is younger than 16 years old and the offender is at least four years older
- The offender injures anyone else during the crime
- Two or more people are convicted of an offense committed against the same victim
- The offender has a previous rape conviction
If the offender uses force to have sex with another person without that person’s consent or in a situation where that person is incapable of consent, the charge will be aggravated sexual intercourse without consent – punishable by life in prison or a state prison term of 10-100 years.
A person is guilty of indecent exposure if he or she knowingly or purposely exposes their genitals by any means (including through electronic communication) under circumstances where the person knows the exposure is likely to offend or alarm another person, with either of the following motives:
- Abuse, humiliate, harass, or degrade another person
- Arouse or gratify the person’s own sexual desire or the sexual desire of any other person
On a first offense, indecent exposure is punishable by a fine up to $500, up to 6 months in county jail, or both. For second convictions, the penalty is a fine up to $1,000, up to one year in county jail, or both. On third and subsequent offenses, the penalty is increased to a fine up to $10,000, 10 years in state prison, or both.
If the victim is under 16 years of age, the offender will be charged with indecent exposure to a minor. This offense is punishable by a fine up to $50,000 and a minimum of 4 years and maximum of 100 years in state prison.