Alcohol and Consent: What Percentage of Sexual Assaults Involve Alcohol?

Alcohol and Consent What Percentage of Sexual Assaults Involve Alcohol

Sex is a natural and enjoyable part of life, but being sexually active comes with great responsibility. While there is a need to keep yourself safe and healthy, the greatest risk involved comes from the legal side of a sexual encounter. All it takes is for you to do something that the other person does not like or want, and you could be facing a life-changing criminal case. 

The mere allegation of being accused of a sex crime is damaging enough to ruin your reputation and cause serious consequences for your future. Now, add in alcohol and sexual assault together and complications and risks are compounded. Due to the serious nature and protection against these crimes, the state of Arizona aggressively pursues charges to the full extent and if you’re facing a sex crime charge, you need to arm yourself with the best defense possible to reduce or eliminate the potential outcomes. 

What is sexual consent? 

To start, let’s make sure that the understanding of consent is clear — consent is the voluntary agreement of one person to engage in sexual activity. The biggest emphasis is placed on the voluntary aspect of this definition. There are several cases where “consent” does not hold up in the eyes of the law:

  • The person is coerced by immediate or threat of forces against a person or property.
  • The person is intentionally deceived of the nature of the act.
  • The person is incapable of providing legal consent by reason of mental disorder, drugs, sleep deprivation, alcohol, or any other cognitive impairment that should reasonably be known to the defendant.

Alcohol and sexual consent

Consent is a very fine line, as you can see, because a conviction can be achieved if any of the above-mentioned factors take place, and they can be extremely hard to disprove. The law is on the side of the victim, especially when alcohol is involved. 

It may be surprising to learn that alcohol and consent can complicate things greatly. Because of the mental impact that alcohol has on judgment, inhibitions, and other cognitive functions, the law is meant to protect individuals from being taken advantage of. Whether you meet someone out at a club or party, it is important to understand the situation completely prior to engaging in any sexual activities. One too many drinks and things become exceptionally more complicated regarding sexual consent. 

Sexual assault, as defined by Arizona law, is defined as intentionally engaging in sexual activity with any person without their consent. Sexual assault is purely based on explicit and unimpaired consent, which is why sexual assault and alcohol are highly correlated. 

What percentage of sexual assaults involve alcohol?

To give you a better perspective of how serious things become when alcohol is involved, let’s answer the obvious question of, “what percentage of sexual assaults involve alcohol?” The prevalence of alcohol in reported sexual assault and rape cases is very high; conservative estimates put the percentage at 50% and that means either the victim, perpetrator, or both consumed alcohol.

Alcohol can increase the chances of sexual assault by impacting both individuals differently. The reasons why alcohol might increase the likelihood of sexual assaults include:

  • Exacerbating other risk factors
  • Stereotypes about women drinking 
  • Impact on sexual desire — can lower personal inhibitions, which can result in an increase in desire for sex.
  • Impact on aggressive behavior — for some, alcohol can increase behavior that can contribute to forceful or involuntary actions.
  • Impact on cognitive and motor skills — judgment, personal inhibitions, and even speech/other motor skills are directly impacted by alcohol, which makes it easier for someone to take advantage of or to give impaired consent when it really isn’t what is wanted. 

You may be asking, “Is alcohol a date rape drug?” Because of the mental impairment, unfortunately, some perpetrators will utilize alcohol as a type of “date rape” drug.

While situations involving sexual activity and alcohol can become very serious, it does not mean that all sexual activity is nonconsensual when alcohol is involved. But, it does become harder to gain and convey voluntary consent. 

What to do when faced with a sexual assault accusation?

If you find yourself facing a sexual assault accusation, it can be an extremely scary time. Even if you know and truly believe that the sexual activity between you and the victim was consensual, all it really takes is for them to say that they didn’t want it. 

Whether that means waking up in the morning and regretting their decision, if they become mad or emotionally hurt by the fact it was a one night stand, or any other reasons, it really only takes them to say that they didn’t consent to the activity to potentially ruin your life. Adding alcohol into this equation makes things a lot more complicated.

While sexual assault crimes are extremely serious, and the benefit of the doubt should be given to the victim, the penalties that you could face if convicted are very severe. Depending on your prior criminal record, the following penalties could be sentenced for sexual assault, which is a class 2 felony:

  • 5-14 years if it’s the first felony conviction
  • 7-21 years if it’s a second felony conviction
  • 14-28 years if it’s a third felony conviction
  • If a date rape drug is used, three years will be added to the sentence
  • If physical harm was inflicted, you could face 25-life in prison

One mistake in judgment or even a false accusation can result in a large amount of your life spent incarcerated. Facing sexual assault charges can be extremely terrifying, especially if you are innocent because the legal system is inherently stacked against you to protect victims from crimes of these types — often if is your word vs. the victims. It is imperative to have an experienced legal team on your side when facing this situation. 

At the Sonoran Law Group, we understand the tactics used by prosecutors to secure convictions, and we utilize aggressive strategies to defend your rights and freedom. In order to obtain the best possible outcome for your case, contact us today to schedule a free case review consultation.