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Sex crime penalties higher for authority figures

Many recent news stories have included stories of teachers, coaches and spiritual leaders who have had sexual relations with their students and athletes. The media coverage for these crimes can be intense. Those who are accused of these crimes can face felony charges, an aggressive prosecution and public backlash.

Under Tennessee law, those who are considered "persons of authority" can face heightened penalties when it comes to charges of sex crimes committed against minors. Persons of authority include teachers, principals, coaches, religious leaders or anyone who has supervisory or disciplinary power over a minor.

Tennessee law has special charges for those who are persons of authority and engage in sexual relations with minors. Sexual battery by an authority is a charge that includes unlawful sexual contact with a minor between the ages of 13 and 17 or of a person who is mentally incapacitated, regardless of age. This crime is considered a Class C felony.

Statutory rape is defined as sexual intercourse with a minor who is between ages 13 and 17 with the defendant being more than 4 years older. If the defendant is found to have been in a position of authority over the minor at the time of the offense, the charge is more serious. Statutory rape by an authority figure is a Class C felony.

In addition to these specific charges, the penalties are increased for many other types of sex crimes if the defendant is considered to have been a person in authority.

Whatever the specific accusations, sex crime charges can ruin a person's personal and professional reputation. Those who are facing these charges need the help of professionals with experience building a defense in this sensitive type of case.

Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, "Statutory Definitions of Tennessee Sexual and Violent Sexual Offenses with Related Codes," accessed Nov. 6, 2014

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