Sexual Abuse vs. Sexual Assault in Connecticut

A few days ago I wrote about mandated reporting and how it involves both criminal and DCF liability. Today's post is about another common criminal-DCF crossover: sexual abuse and sexual assault. Connecticut has laws prohibiting unwanted sexual contact and sexual conduct with minors (persons under the age of 18). There are varying degrees of sexual assault and also risk of injury to a minor (ROI) charges, as well as other statutes, including but not limited to enticement and obscenity. Anyone violating a statute is subject to criminal liability. The police investigate sexual assault allegations and they may be prosecuted in court by the State's Attorney. 

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) also investigates incidents of sexual activity involving minors. Unlike criminal statutes, not everybody is subject to liability under DCF. DCF can substantiate allegations of abuse or neglect--sexual abuse has a specific definition and sexual activities often lead to physical neglect and emotional neglect among other findings--and can place an individual on the central registry. DCF only has jurisdiction over certain people: individuals responsible for the care of a child, individuals entrusted with the care of a child and inviduals given access to a child. Although many people fall within those categories, some do not. For example, a complete stranger would likely not fit any of those categories. 

A person could be charged criminally without being substantiated. A person could also be substantiated without being prosecuted. DCF's definition of sexual abuse is much broader than the criminal statutes for sexual assault. Sexual assault requires a degree of physical contact or attempted physical contact. DCF's sexual abuse definitions do not. They refer to "sexual behavior," which includes communications and other non-physical actions, such as "grooming," as well as actions involving physical contact. Moreover, criminal prosecutions require a higher burden of proof than DCF substantiations and registry placements. The public nature of the criminal justice system could also lead police and prosecutors to exercise their discretion in bringing charges. 

Whether it is a criminal or DCF investigation, the stakes are high. You should contact an attorney immediately. We have experience with DCF and criminal defense. Contact DeMattel Legal Solutions to talk to an attorney about your case. 

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