Tennessee Sexual Assault Laws & Statutes

Tennessee Sexual Assault Laws & Statutes2018-09-20T10:08:05+00:00
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If you've recently survived a sexual assault or child sexual abuse, you may be wondering how you can find justice through the legal system. Are you struggling with questions like:

  • Will the person responsible be arrested and convicted?
  • Are third parties liable for failing to prevent or report sexual abuse?
  • How can filing a civil sexual abuse lawsuit help survivors?

Our Tennessee sexual abuse victims' lawyers can help you hold abusers and enablers accountable in court.

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You're probably wondering how Tennessee's criminal justice system is likely to handle your case. Below, we've provided summaries on Tennessee's criminal laws on sexual assault and child sex abuse, so you can get a general idea of how criminal prosecutors in the State tend to approach cases of sexual misconduct.

Whether or not any of the laws we've listed will apply to your own case is an open question; prosecutors choose to pursue charges at their own discretion. At the same time, you should also be aware that criminal laws, like any other statute, are subject to change.

Tennessee's Criminal Code On Sexual Misconduct

Crimes that involve sexual victimization are among the most serious offenses imaginable. Most state criminal codes reflect that, by imposing harsh penalties on abusers. Tennessee is no exception, especially when the case involves a child victim.

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Criminal offenders who violate Tennessee's sex crime laws can be punished through lengthy prison sentences and extremely large fines. The State's criminal justice system, however, is not set up to support victims through their process of recovery. In order to secure full financial compensation, most crime victims will have to file a civil lawsuit, pursuing damages in a private action on their own initiative.

From Chattanooga and Knoxville to Nashville and Memphis, our dedicated sexual assault and abuse attorneys are here to help survivors step forward and pursue justice with confidence. Learn more about how we can help in a free, confidential consultation today.

Criminal Law In Tennessee: Basic Definitions

Every state has its own definitions for the key terms that you'll find in criminal law. Here are two important definitions to understand for Tennessee's criminal code:

Sexual Penetration

In Tennessee, the phrase "sexual penetration" applies to any intrusion into the genital or anal openings of a victim's body, regardless of how brief or minimal the intrusion may be. Such intrusions can be effected through the use of the offender's genital organs or any other object. Genital openings include the vagina and anus, but also the mouth. As a result, forcible or coercive cunnilingus and felatio (oral sex) are considered sexually-penetrative acts for the purposes of Tennessee criminal law.

Sexual Contact

The phrase "sexual contact," on the other hand, describes acts of sexual misconduct that do not involve penetration. Included in the definition are any intentional acts of touching the victim's genitals, or areas of clothing that cover the victim's genitals, for the purposes of sexual arousal or gratification. Sexual contact also includes crimes in which the victim is forced or coerced to touch the offender's genitals without having given their consent.

Aggravated Rape

In Tennessee, aggravated rape is a Class A felony, carrying a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison. Jail terms can rise to a maximum of 60 years in extreme cases. Convicted offenders are open to a fine of up to $50,000.

Aggravated rape is a charge used to describe any form of sexual penetration in which one of the following four conditions applies:

  • the offender used force or coercion, while armed with a weapon or something that the victim would reasonably believe was a weapon
  • the offender caused bodily injuries to the victim
  • the offender used force or coercion and was helped by one or more other people
  • the offender was helped by one or more other people and knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally disabled or physically incapacitated

Offenders who are convicted of aggravated rape can also be subjected to life-long community supervision (probation or parole).

Rape

Tennessee's criminal code defines rape as an instance of sexual penetration in which any one of the following four conditions are satisfied:

  • the offender used force or coercion
  • sexual penetration is perpetrated without the victim's consent and the offender knows or has reason to know that the victim did not consent
  • the offender knew or had reason to know that the victim was mentally or physically disabled at the time of sexual penetration
  • the sexual penetration is perpetrated through fraud (willful misrepresentation and / or deception)

Rape is a Class B felony in Tennessee, with imprisonment sentences between 8 and 30 years, along with a maximum fine of $25,000.

Aggravated Sexual Battery

The charge of aggravated sexual battery in Tennessee involves any instance of sexual contact in which one of the following conditions apply:

  • the offender used force or coercion, while armed with a weapon or something that the victim would reasonably believe was a weapon
  • the offender caused bodily injuries to the victim
  • the offender used force or coercion and was helped by one or more other people
  • the offender was helped by one or more other people and knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally disabled or physically incapacitated
  • the victim was younger than 13 years old

Aggravated sexual battery is a Class B felony. Convicted offenders can be punished through prison sentences between 8 and 30 years. The maximum fine is $25,000; offenders could also be subject to community supervision, generally probation or parole, for life.

Sexual Battery

Sexual battery in Tennessee is a Class E felony. Convicted offenders can be sentenced to between 1 and 6 years of prison. A maximum fine of $3,000 can also be applied.

In Tennessee, sexual battery is defined as any form of sexual contact in which one of the following four conditions holds:

  • the offender used force or coercion
  • sexual contact is perpetrated without the victim's consent and the offender knows or has reason to know that the victim did not consent
  • the offender knew or had reason to know that the victim was mentally or physically disabled at the time of sexual contact
  • the sexual contact is perpetrated through fraud

Aggravated Statutory Rape

Tennessee defines aggravated statutory rape as sexual penetration when the victim is between 13 and 17 years old, while the offender is 10 or more years older than the victim.

Since children below the age of 18 are considered incapable of providing consent to sexual activity, the charge of statutory rape does not require any finding of force or coercion.

As a Class D Felony, aggravated statutory rape comes with a prison sentence between 2 and 12 years and a maximum fine of $5,000.

Statutory Rape

As in the case of aggravated statutory rape, the charge of statutory rape assumes that people under the age of 18 ("the age of consent") are unable to provide their consent to sexual activity. Neither force nor coercion are required. In fact, a minor can consent to sexual intercourse with an older party, but the activity can still be considered a criminal offense.

In Tennessee, statutory rape is the sexual penetration of a victim between the ages of 13 and 14, when the offender is anywhere between 4 and 9 years older than the victim. Also included are crimes in which the victim is between 15 and 17 years old and the offender is between 5 and 9 years older than the victim.

Statutory rape is a Class E Felony, carrying a prison sentence between 1 and 6 years, along with a maximum fine of $3,000.

Statutory Rape By An Authority Figure

In Tennessee, statutory rape, when committed by someone in a position of authority, is its own criminal charge. The crime is defined as any form of sexual penetration in which:

  • the victim is between 13 and 17 years old; and
  • the offender is at least 4 years older than the victim; and
  • the offender "was, at the time of the offense, in a position of trust, or had supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the defendant's legal, professional, or occupational status and used the position of trust or power to accomplish the sexual penetration; or
  • the [offender] had, at the time of the offense, parental or custodial authority over the victim and used the authority to accomplish the sexual penetration."

Statutory rape by an authority figure is a Class B Felony, with a minimum sentence of 8 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years. Convicted offenders can be fined up to $25,000.

Mitigated Statutory Rape

A lesser offense, mitigated statutory rape applies when the victim is between 15 and 17 years old and the offender is at least 4, but no more than 5, years older than the victim.

Mitigated statutory rape is a Class E Felony in Tennessee, which can lead to prison sentences between 1 to 6 years and a fine of up to $3,000.

Rape Of A Child

Rape of a child, a Class A Felony, involves any form of sexual penetration when the victim is between 4 and 12 years old. Convicted offenders can be sentenced to between 25 and 60 years in prison, along with a maximum fine of $50,000.

Aggravated Rape Of A Child

An aggravated rape of a child charge applies to cases in which an offender sexually penetrates a child 3 years old or younger. Though a Class A Felony like rape of a child, aggravated cases carry a lengthier minimum sentence. People convicted of aggravated rape of a child can be sentenced to between 40 and 60 years in prison, in addition to the maximum fine of $50,000.

Sexual Contact With A Minor By An Authority Figure

Sexual contact with a minor by an authority figure occurs when the offender intentionally touches (and / or kisses) the victim's lips with their own lips and the following conditions apply:

  • the victim is under the age of 18; and
  • the defendant is at least 4 years older than the victim; and
  • the offender "was, at the time of the offense, in a position of trust, or had supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the defendant's legal, professional, or occupational status and used the position of trust or power to accomplish the sexual penetration; or
  • the [offender] had, at the time of the offense, parental or custodial authority over the victim and used the authority to accomplish the sexual penetration."

As a Class A misdemeanor, sexual contact by an authority figure is punished through a maximum prison sentence up to 11 months and 29 days in jail. The crime also comes with a mandatory fine of $1,000, which can be increased to a maximum of $2,500.

Sexual Battery By An Authority Figure

Tennessee's charge of sexual battery by an authority figure involves any form of sexual contact in which the following requirements is satisfied:

  • the victim is between 13 and 17 years old; and
  • the offender was in a position of trust, or had supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the defendant's legal, professional, or occupational status and used the position of trust or power to accomplish the sexual penetration; or the offender had parental or custodial authority over the victim; or
  • the victim was mentally or physically disabled, irrespective of their age, and the offender used their position of trust and / or authority to accomplish the sexual act

A Class C Felony, sexual battery by an authority figure comes along with a prison sentence between 3 and 15 years, along with a maximum fine of $10,000.

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