An appeals court recently overturned the conviction of a Utah man for aggravated sexual abuse of a child.
In Utah, sexual abuse of a child is a second degree felony. Aggravated sexual abuse of a child is a first degree penalty that can carry a minimum 15 year prison sentence.
A person can be convicted of aggravated sexual abuse of a child when certain factors are present. In this case, the man’s conviction was based on the fact that he occupied a “position of special trust in relation to the victim.” Namely, the man was found to be an “adult cohabitant” of the victim’s parent.
The alleged abuse in this case occurred when the man was staying in the spare bedroom of the victim’s father’s house. An appeals court found that this was insufficient to prove that the man had a position of special trust to the victim. The man did not hold a formal role in the family and did not exercise any parental authority.
In cases such as this, the state must prove that a defendant carries a “position of authority” over the victim and that this position allowed the defendant to exercise undue influence of over the victim to commit the sexual crime. The trial court failed to make the state prove the “undue influence” element of its case which is why the court reversed the man’s conviction on appeal.
Source: State v. Watkins, 2013 WL 1960623, May 10, 2013