Sex crimes against children are very serious charges. Child molestation falls under the umbrella of child sex crimes and is considered especially vicious and heinous because it involves taking advantage of a vulnerable child who is not legally able to give consent, whether they are too young or for some other reason.

If you have been charged with child molestation, know that it will not be easy. The public looks at it very unfavorably and a conviction can impact you for the rest of your life. It can affect where you live, who you live with, where you can work, even where you can go to church. It will affect the types of jobs you can accept or what you can do as a volunteer. Many employers will not hire anyone with this type of conviction.

In New York, the New York Child Victims Act allows victims to file a civil lawsuit against their perpetrator. It also increases the time that a victim can report.

This is a serious charge with harsh penalties. You could be looking at a long time in prison and heavy fines. If you have children, you could lose all of your parental rights.

A conviction can also mean being a registered sex offender. This means making your crime public knowledge so that your neighbors, church, employer, everyone is informed. This is why it is so important to have a good lawyer on your side. This is one charge that you do not want to try to handle on your own.

Overview of Child Molestation Offenses

A child molestation offense can include several acts, all using the child as an instrument for sexual gratification, such as public lewdness, forcible touching, rape, sexual abuse, and sexual assault. The age of the child is a significant factor. There are harsher penalties for child molestation crimes against younger children. 

Generally speaking, the definition of child molestation falls under sex crime. However, if the victim is younger than the age of consent, they are a child and are not legally able to give consent. Even if the child seems to consent, the charges still stand because the child did not have the legal ability to give their consent.

The age of consent is determined by the states. In New York, the age of consent is 17. In other states it is lower. However, the lower in age the victim is, the higher the penalty in many cases. For instance, if you are charged with child molestation of a 16-year-old, your sentence will likely be less than if you are charged with child molestation of an 11-year-old.

In court, the judge will look at various aspects of the situation to examine other factors that are involved in the charge, such as:

  • Whether the child was threatened or forced
  • Whether the child was injured
  • Whether the child died
  • Whether the child was kidnapped

There are also many cases of false reporting of child molestation. Divorce and custody cases can get nasty when one parent accuses the other in an effort to hurt them or get them out of the picture. Even children can falsely claim child molestation if they are angry or disagree with their parents. It can get very convoluted very quickly.

Federal Child Molestation Offenses

The Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 414, provides a straightforward definition of child and child molestation:

  • d) Definition of “Child” and “Child Molestation.” In this rule and Rule 415:
    • (1) “child” means a person below the age of 14; and
    • (2) “child molestation” means a crime under federal law or state law (as “state” is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 513) involving:
      • (A) any conduct prohibited by 18 U.S.C. chapter 109A and committed with a child.
      • (B) any conduct prohibited by 18 U.S.C. chapter 110.
      • (C) contact between any part of the defendant’s body — or an object — and a child’s genitals or anus.
      • (D) contact between the defendant’s genitals or anus and any part of a child’s body.
      • (E) deriving sexual pleasure or gratification from inflicting death, bodily injury, or physical pain on a child; or
      • (F) an attempt or conspiracy to engage in conduct described in subparagraphs (A)–(E).

While this is a general definition, it does serve to provide guidance and it is legally accepted.

A child molestation case can be moved to federal court, or federal charges can be added to state charges if the crime was aggravated or severe. If the crime occurred on federal property like Indian territories or military bases, or in a federal building, then there may be federal charges. However, most child molestation cases are tried at the state level.

New York Child Molestation Offenses

Under New York law, there is no “child molestation” law, but it does reveal types of sex crimes that victimize children. This can include:

  • Sexual assault
  • Forcible touching
  • Sexual abuse
  • Statutory rape
  • Public lewdness

Engaging in sexual activity with a person who is under the age of 17 is a child sex crime. 

The sex crimes related to child molestation include:

  • Public lewdness
    • Masturbation or other licentious or lewd act, typically with genitals exposed, performed in the presence of a child
  • Forcible touching
    • Touching a child’s genitals or intimate parts as a way to obtain sexual gratification or to abuse or degrade the child
  • Rape in the third degree
    • The defendant is at least 21 or older and has sexual intercourse with a child younger than 17 years old
  • Rape in the second degree
    • The defendant is at least 18 or older and has sexual intercourse with a child younger than 15. Or the defendant must be four or more years older than the child
  • Rape in the first degree
    • The defendant is any age and has sexual intercourse with a child aged 11 or younger.
    • The defendant is 18 or older and has sexual intercourse with a child younger than 13 
  • Criminal sexual act in the third degree
    • Anal or oral sex with a child younger than 17
  • Criminal sexual ace in the second degree
    • The defendant is at least 18 or older and has anal or oral sex with a child younger than 13 or, the defendant must be four or more years older than the child
  • Criminal sexual act in the first degree
    • Anal or oral sex with a child younger than 11
    • The defendant is 18 or older and has anal or oral sex with a child younger than 13 
  • Sexual abuse in the third degree
    • Sexual contact with a child15 or 16 years old and the defendant is 5 years or more older than the child (sexual contact is touching sexual, intimate parts of a person to achieve sexual gratification.
  • Sexual abuse in the second degree
    • Having sexual contact with a child younger than 14 years old
  • Sexual abuse in the first degree
    • Having sexual contact with a child younger than 11 years old
  • Sexual misconduct
    • Having sexual intercourse, anal sex, or oral sex with a child younger than 17 years old
  • Course of sexual conduct against a child in the second degree
    • Engage in a minimum of two instances of sexual conduct with a child younger than 11 years old over a three-month period. 
    • Engage in a minimum of two instances of sexual conduct with a child younger than 13 years old over a three-month period and the defendant is 18 years old or older. 
  • Course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree
    • Engage in a minimum of two instances of sexual conduct with a child younger than 11 years old over a three-month period. Sexual conduct includes anal sex, oral sex, sexual intercourse, or aggravated sexual conduct.
    • Engage in a minimum of two instances of sexual conduct with a child younger than 13 years old over a three-month period and the defendant is 18 years old or older. Sexual conduct includes anal sex, oral sex, sexual intercourse, or aggravated sexual conduct.
  • Predatory sexual assault against a child
    • Causing physical injury or threatening physical injury while committing rape in the first degree, aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree, criminal sexual act in the first degree, or course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree – or the defendant is 18 years old or older and the victim is younger than 13 years old

Offenses Related to Child Molestation Charges

A child molestation offense is often combined with other related offenses. These can compound your sentence and make your defense more difficult. Offenses related to child molestation charges include:

  • Sodomy
  • Indecent exposure
  • Child abuse
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Statutory rape
  • Child pornography
  • Internet sex crime
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Facilitating a sex offense with a controlled substance
  • Kidnapping
  • Trafficking 

Penalties for Federal Child Molestation Offenders

Most child molestation cases are tried at the state level. However, if convicted of federal charges, you will likely face prison time. Federal charges typically carry mandatory minimum sentencing. You could also incur fines if found guilty.

The severity and depravity of the crime will also determine the sentence. A crime that is pre-meditated, severe, and sadistic will usually be more severely punished. Some charges carry a life sentence. This is usually when the crime results in someone dying.

Probation is also a typical part of a federal prison sentence. While you are not in prison, there are still specific, often strict rules that you must adhere to. Meeting regularly with a court official is another requirement as part of your probation.

Previous convictions will weigh heavily on your case and often increase your sentence, making it more severe and longer.

Penalties for Child Molestation Offenders in New York

  • Public lewdness
    • Class B misdemeanor. Maximum sentence 3 months in jail
  • Forcible touching
    • Class A misdemeanor. Maximum sentence 1 year in jail
  • Rape in the third degree
    • Class E felony. Maximum sentence 4 years in prison
  • Rape in the second degree
    • Class D felony. Maximum sentence 7 years in prison
  • Rape in the first degree
    • Class B felony. Maximum sentence 25 years in prison
  • Criminal sexual act in the third degree
    • Class E felony. Maximum sentence 4 years in prison
  • Criminal sexual ace in the second degree
    • Class D felony. Maximum sentence 7 years in prison
  • Criminal sexual act in the first degree
    • Class B felony. Maximum sentence 25 years in prison
  • Sexual abuse in the third degree
    • Class B misdemeanor. Maximum sentence 3 months in jail
  • Sexual abuse in the second degree
    • Class A misdemeanor. Maximum sentence 1 year in jail
  • Sexual abuse in the first degree
    • Class D felony. Maximum sentence 7 years in prison
  • Sexual misconduct
    • Class A misdemeanor. Maximum sentence 1 year in jail
  • Course of sexual conduct against a child in the second degree
    • Class D felony. Maximum sentence 7 years in prison
  • Course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree
    • Class B felony. Maximum sentence 25 years in prison
  • Predatory sexual assault against a child
    • Class A-II felony. Minimum sentence 10 years in prison. Maximum sentence 25 years in prison

There are several sentencing guidelines for child molestation cases in New York. The judge will examine several different factors including:

  • If the child was injured
  • If the child died
  • If the child was threatened
  • If the child was physically forced
  • If the child was kidnapped

The defendant can enter a plea of not guilty, guilty, or no contest. The plea also affects the penalty handed down to them.

Child Molestation Defenses

In New York, there are only two statutory defenses that apply to the majority of child molestation charges:

  • Romeo and Juliet defense – Many sex crime statutes will make accommodations or exceptions for instances where the individuals involved are close in age as long as the sex was consensual. This exception is intended to protect people who are close in age so that they are not charged with certain sex crimes, even if one party is a minor.
  • Marriage defense – If the defendant and child are legally married then a child molestation charge that is based on lack of consent because of age is not valid.

However, if consent was not given, then no recognized defense will justify it.

It is also important to note that claims to not know the victim’s age or thinking they were older is not considered a valid defense in New York courts.

If you are facing child molestation charges, you need an attorney who is experienced in representing cases like yours. Your reputation and freedom are on the line. New York and federal child molestation laws are complex. Don’t go into that courtroom alone. Get the representation you deserve to ensure the very best outcome for your case. Call Igor Litvak of the Litvak Law Firm at (718) 989-2908 today.