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:
Our Tennessee sexual abuse attorneys can help you hold abusers and enablers accountable in court. Schedule your free consultation today by giving our local office a call, or filling out the contact form.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
Offenders who are convicted of aggravated rape can also be subjected to life-long community supervision (probation or parole).
Tennessee's criminal code defines rape as an instance of sexual penetration in which any one of the following four conditions are satisfied:
Rape is a Class B felony in Tennessee, with imprisonment sentences between 8 and 30 years, along with a maximum fine of $25,000.
The charge of aggravated sexual battery in Tennessee involves any instance of sexual contact in which one of the following conditions apply:
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 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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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, 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.
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 occurs when the offender intentionally touches (and / or kisses) the victim's lips with their own lips and the following conditions apply:
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.
Tennessee's charge of sexual battery by an authority figure involves any form of sexual contact in which the following requirements is satisfied:
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.