Some of the most serious charges I see as a Washington, D.C. criminal defense lawyer, involve sexual misconduct. In the District of Columbia, there are four degrees of sexual abuse.

First Degree Sexual Abuse (“1st DSA”) is the most serious offense charged.  This offense is usually charged for acts of forcible and violent rapes.  To be convicted of 1st DSA, the government must prove that (1) the defendant caused the victim to engage in a sexual act, by (2) using force against the victim; or by (3) threatening to kill, harm, or kidnap the victim; or by (4) rendering the victim unconscious; or by (5) drugging the victim.  An individual convicted under 1st DSA can face up to 30 years in jail.


Second Degree Sexual Abuse (“2nd DSA”) is similar to 1st DSA but it does not involve an element of force and it is more concerned with the victim’s capabilities.  To be convicted of 2nd DSA, the government must prove that (1) the defendant caused the victim to engage in a sexual act, by (2) threatening the victim other than by death, injury, or kidnapping; or (3) where the defendant knows that the victim is incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct, incapable of declining participation in the sexual act, or incapable of communicating unwillingness to engage in that sexual act.  An individual convicted under 2nd DSA abuse can face up to 20 years in jail.

The elements of Third Degree Sexual Abuse (“3rd DSA”) and Fourth Degree Sexual Abuse (“4th DSA”) are exactly the same as 1st and 2nd DSA respectively, with one exception:  1st and 2nd DSA are both concerned with sexual acts like penetration, whereas 3rd and 4th DSA are both concerned with sexual contact like touching.  The penalties for 3rd and 4th DSA are also different than their counterparts because they are less serious offenses.  An individual convicted under 3rd DSA can face up to 10 years in jail and an individual convicted under 4th DSA can face up to 5 years in jail.

In addition to the four degrees of sexual abuse, D.C. also has a misdemeanor sexual offense.  To be convicted of Misdemeanor Sexual Abuse (“MSA”), the government must prove that (1) the defendant engaged in a sexual act or contact with the victim, and (2) the defendant knew or should have known that the victim did not give permission to do so.  An individual convicted under MSA can face up to a year in jail.

For each D.C. sex offense, a longer jail sentence can be imposed if certain aggravating circumstances exist, such as whether the victim was under the age of 18 or over the age of 60, whether the defendant was armed, whether the victim sustained serious bodily injury, or whether the defendant is a repeat offender.

Consent is the most commonly employed defense against a sex offense charge.  If a defendant provides any evidence that the victim consented to the sexual acts or contact, the government bears the burden of proving that (1) the victim did not voluntarily consent to the acts or that (2) the defendant did not reasonably believe the victim was consenting.  Consent may be express or implied, either by action or inaction.  If the government cannot prove the absence of consent beyond a reasonable doubt, a defendant cannot be convicted of a D.C. sex offense.

Any charged sex offense can have serious consequences, and your Washington, D.C. criminal defense lawyer should have experience defending these types of cases. If you have been charged with a sex crime in Washington, D.C., contact attorney Jay Mykytiuk for a consultation.