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Sex and consent: A continuum from full consent to no consent

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When I interview candidates to work for me, I inform them that a passion for civil liberties heavily drives my choice of cases. That means that I have never rejected a client merely because s/he is accused of a heinous act, even when I strongly believe s/he has committed the alleged act. The allegations against my clients sometimes get very ugly.

Some of the most heinous allegations I have defended against are sexual offenses, not least of which is my client prosecuted for breaking into his grandmother’s home and raping her. As if that was not stomach-turning enough, I have had my stomach turn reviewing explicit photos in child pornography prosecutions, often depicting children well before puberty. Representing clients at the post conviction stage, I have read criminal complainant testimony of hours-long sexual assault terror by my clients at their own homes.

I have defended clients accused of putting their hands where they do not belong — short of penetration sex — and without consent, for sexual pleasure. I have defended alleged voyeurs.

People should be well-advised to beware of any sexual activity beyond fully-consensual activity in a committed relationship. Sometimes people delude themselves about whether the sexual activity is fully consensual. Consent usually is a continuum from full consent; to giving into pressure; to impairment by alcohol, drugs or sleep; to not consensual; to sex extracted by beating, weapons, threats of violence, or all three. Sometimes people cry rape not because there was a rape, but out of feeling used or betrayed, which highlights the risk of casual one-time sexual activity.

Where I practice criminal defense in Virginia, having sex with a minor who looks to be over the age of consent and even presents a fake identification will not shield a person from a statutory rape prosecution. Propositioning a minor of a certain age level for sexual activity — even if there is no intention to carry out the act — can bring severe criminal consequences in the jurisdictions where I practice criminal defense.