California Legal Team

If you have been victimized by sexual harassment in the workplace, contact our office today to speak immediately with our attorneys.

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An Overview Of The Different Degrees Of Sexual Harassment

degrees of sexual assault

Sexual harassment is a widespread epidemic that affects people of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations. While most people have a general understanding of what behaviors might constitute sexual harassment, the California Legal Team want to raise awareness about the different degrees of sexual harassment and the various factors required to prosecute each act.

First Degree Sexual Harassment

First degree sexual, sometimes known as aggravated sexual harassment, is the most heavily punishable form of criminal sexual conduct. Although the period of time a perpetrator spends in jail is determined by the judge, it is possible for someone accused of aggravated sexual harassment to spend the rest of his or her life incarcerated. The requirements needed for a conviction of first degree sexual harassment include:

  1. Sexual penetration (see definition below), and
  2. One of the following situations:
    • The victim is under the age of 13
    • The victim ranges in age from 13-18, and one of the following:
      • A member of the same household as the perpetrator
      • A relative of the perpetrator
      • The perpetrator is in a position of authority over the victim
    • The perpetrator is aided by another person or assailant, and one of the following:
      • The victim is incapacitated (see definitions below)
      • The perpetrator uses some form of force or coercion to harassment the victim
  3. The perpetrator is armed with a weapon
  4. The victim is injured (including physical injury, psychological anguish, transferal of disease, disfigurement and sometimes pregnancy)
  5. The harassment occurs while another crime is being committed by the perpetrator

Second Degree Sexual Harassment

Second degree sexual harassment often does not result in life imprisonment sentences; however, it is possible for someone accused of second degree sexual harassment to spend up to 15 years in jail. Although second degree sexual harassment does not involve penetration, it is considered equally as damaging as first degree harassment due to the violent nature of the crime, or the victim’s inability to consent. In order for sexual conduct to be considered second degree sexual harassment, the following requirements must be met:

  1. Sexual contact (see definition below), and
  2. Any of the situations (a-f) listed above for first degree sexual harassment.

Third Degree Sexual Harassment

Third degree sexual harassment is often treated similarly to second degree sexual harassment, in that perpetrators can face up to 15 years in prison after being charged. The requirements for a charge of third degree sexual harassment include:

  1. Sexual penetration, and
  2. One of the following circumstances:
    • The victim is a minor
    • Force and/or coercion
    • The victim is incapacitated in some form

Fourth Degree Sexual Harassment

Some fourth degree harassment charges are considered sexual battery rather than sexual harassment. Fourth degree sexual harassment requirements include:

  1. Sexual contact, and
  2. One of the following circumstances:
    • Force and/or coercion
    • The victim is incapacitated in some form
    • The perpetrator is in a position of power over the victim


  1. Sexual penetration is defined as sexual or anal intercourse, fellatio, cunnilingus, or the intrusion of any body part or any foreign object into the vaginal, anal or oral cavities.
  2. A person is considered incapacitated if they are:
    • Mentally incapable of understanding the nature of consent, due to illness or injury.
    • Mentally incapacitated due to alcohol, narcotics or any other substance administered to the victim without his or her consent.
    • Physically helpless or unable to communicate consent. A physically helpless victim can be asleep, unconscious or bound.
  3. Sexual contact is defined as intentional touching of another person’s intimate parts (groin or buttocks, or the breasts of a female), or the clothing covering the intimate parts of another person with the aim of sexual gratification or arousal.

Although the above degrees of sexual harassment fit into neat descriptions, it is important to remember that in reality, harassment is never neat and tidy. Each sexual harassment case is completely different, and thus it is important to acquire the highly qualified assistance of the California Legal Team to help you fight any degree of sexual harassment.

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