There are many types of relationships that people may see as unacceptable – but many of them are not illegal.
However, anyone in a position of trust who has a sexual relationship with a child is not only participating in something unacceptable but against the law as well. And it happens more than you may think.
A girls’ basketball coach from a Colorado Springs high school is facing charges of felony sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust. The mother of the victim found nearly 500 pictures on the phone of the victim from the coach, many of them sexual in nature and completely inappropriate. She turned it over to the police and he was placed under arrest, as well as on leave from his position with the school.
What does it mean to be facing charges of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust? To say it’s serious is an understatement. Here’s what you need to know about charges like this and the potential penalties that can be faced if convicted.
Sexual Assault on a Child By One in a Position of Trust Defined
Under Colorado law, sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust is perpetrated when:
- Someone engages knowingly in sexual contact with a child under 18
- The person is responsible for a child’s welfare, health, supervision, or education
To perpetrate sexual assault, there doesn’t have to be intrusion or penetration. Sexual contact counts as sexual assault on a minor. It can consist of acts such as touching the genitals, buttocks, or breasts for the purpose of sexual gratification, abuse, or arousal. It applies in both the situation where the perpetrator touches the minor and the minor touches the perpetrator.
Under the law, it’s not even necessary for the victim or perpetrator to be nude in order for sexual assault to take place. Touching over clothing is enough in regards to fulfilling the purpose of sexual gratification, abuse, or arousal under the law.
A Position of Trust
Occupying a position of trust under the law in Colorado means that you are in charge of a child’s health, welfare, supervision, or education. That can be a parent or someone acting as a parent, a guardian, a babysitter, a tutor, a teacher, an employee at an institution, or a medical professional.
This law applies to all children under the age of 18, regardless of the age difference between the victim and the person accused of the crime.
Penalties Associated with Sexual Assault on a Minor By One In a Position of Trust
This crime is considered a Class 4 felony when the child is between the ages of 15 and 17. If convicted, a person can face as many as six years in prison and fines of as much as $500,000.
If the child is under age 15 or the incident was one in a pattern of sexual abuse on behalf of the defendant, then it is a Class 3 felony in Colorado. The penalties for this class of felony include as many as 12 years in prison and fines of as much as $750,000.
There is no statute of limitations on this offense if it is a pattern of abuse. So someone can be charged with this crime decades after it occurred if there is sufficient evidence to bring a case against them.
Registration as a Sex Offender
Anyone convicted of sexual assault on a child will be required to register with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation as a sex offender. Failure to register as required is a crime in itself – a Class 6 felony, to be precise. It can result in penalties, i.e. up to 18 months in prison and fines of $100,000.
Is There a Defense to These Charges?
Every person is innocent until proven guilty in the United States. No matter what the accusations, you are entitled to defend yourself against charges. Some of the most common defenses to sexual assault on a minor by one in a position of trust include:
- No touching took place on the part of you or the child
- Any touching that did take place was accidental
- There was no touching of intimate parts as outlined by the law
- The touching that took place was not for sexual gratification or arousal
- A position of trust was not occupied by you with respect to the child
- The conduct occurred on behalf of law enforcement who investigated your case
Of course, the circumstances surrounding your specific case will inform the best defense for you.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.