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What is Fourth Degree Sexual Assault?

By Leigia Rosales
Updated May 16, 2024
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Each jurisdiction determines its own definition of a crime. As a result, what is considered fourth degree sexual assault in one jurisdiction may not be the same in another jurisdiction. This type of sexual assault, however, is usually an assault of the lowest level or severity.

In most jurisdictions, crimes are divided into two broad categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are the more serious crimes. The possible penalty for conviction of a felony is usually a year or more in prison, while the possible punishment for a misdemeanor is generally a year or less in jail. Depending on the severity of the crime, sexual assault may be a felony or a misdemeanor.

Within the felony and misdemeanor categories, crimes may be further divided into degrees and levels of severity by dividing the crimes into class A, B, C, and D felonies or misdemeanors. A crime charged as class A felony will carry a harsher possible penalty than a crime charged as class D felony. The degree will generally directly correspond to the level of felony or misdemeanor that the crime is charged as. For instance, in most jurisdictions, a fourth degree sexual assault makes the crime a class D felony or a class A misdemeanor.

Sexual assault may be charged as first, second, third, or fourth degree sexual assault, with first degree being the most serious and fourth degree being the least serious. The prosecutor and district attorney or equivalent will determine with what degree of assault the defendant will be charged. What makes a crime a fourth degree sexual assault will vary by jurisdiction. A sexual assault in the first degree, as an example, may be defined as sexual intercourse with someone without his or her consent and with the use of a weapon or causing serious bodily harm. Fourth degree sexual assault might be simply sexual contact without consent or with consent that was obtained as a result of a position of authority the offender had over the victim.

The penalty for a conviction for fourth degree assault will be determined by the jurisdiction in which the charges were filed. In most jurisdictions, a fourth degree sexual assault is a class A misdemeanor or a class D felony. In addition to any length of incarceration or probation, a conviction for fourth degree assault may also require the offender to register as a sex offender.

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Discussion Comments

By Phaedrus — On Aug 05, 2014

@Reminiscence- I also had an experience with a co-worker who couldn't keep his hands off female co-workers, or sometimes even customers. He'd act like he "accidentally" brushed up against their chests or backsides while walking past them in the halls, but it was deliberate. I thought it was just a matter of time before he got called on it.

One female customer finally complained to the manager after she was sexually groped by that co-worker as she was leaving the building. He held the door open for her, but as she passed him she felt something brush between the back of her legs. It was his hand, although he claimed it was accidental contact. The investigator felt like the man intended to touch her genitals through her clothes, so it became fourth degree sexual assault.

By Reminiscence — On Aug 04, 2014

When I worked in a restaurant with a lot of younger employees, I would occasionally witness some unprofessional behavior between assistant managers and servers. I tried to warn one manager that joking around and slapping female employees on their butts would get him in trouble some day.

Sure enough, he started aggressively with a new server who was barely out of school. He allegedly made a joke about her breasts and grabbed them briefly. She immediately filed a complaint with the police, and they actually charged him with fourth degree sexual assault. Some of the other servers told me later that they were glad he was fired.

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