Question: What is sexual assault under the law? What are the four degrees and their penalties?

Answer: In Wisconsin, the term “sexual assault” covers a wide area or range of behaviors. So to start with, pretty much every type of sexual assault requires either sexual intercourse or sexual contact with another person. So if you’re talking about two adults, the least serious charge would be fourth degree sexual assault, and that charge is somebody having sexual contact—which means touching of some sort—without that person’s consent, and that can carry up to nine months in jail.

Third degree sexual assault is the next most serious, and that basically is sexual intercourse or having sex with another person without their consent. That can carry up to 10 years in prison. Then you get into the second and the first degree sexual assaults, which are the very, very serious ones. And those are really complicated, but basically second and first degree requires that there is some type of aggravating factor.

So for example, second degree sexual assault could be an allegation of the use of force or of sexually assaulting somebody who was incapacitated by drugs or alcohol or somebody who was unconscious. And those types of things could carry up to 40 years in prison. And then first degree sexual assault includes things like using a dangerous weapon, or inflicting great bodily harm upon the victim.

And that can carry 60 years in prison. But this is just an extremely brief overview of the general types of sexual assault. Wisconsin has very complicated sex crime statutes, so if you are suspected of a sexual assault or have any questions about it, you should not make assumptions. You should talk to an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible.

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