Sexual Abuse of Minors in New York

While traditionally, sex crimes have been the subject of state prosecutions and not charged by the United States Attorney’s Office, the number of federal prosecutions in this area has increased dramatically in recent years. Unlike a typical state charge alleging the sexual abuse of a minor in New York where the abusive conduct might have occurred in a variety of locations, e.g., a private residence or public space, to be convicted of the corresponding federal statute, the act must have taken place within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States, as defined below.

Specifically, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2243, whoever within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States, including any federal prison, or any other facility where persons are held at the direction of the federal government, knowingly engages, or attempts to engage in a sexual act with another person who is both between the ages of 12 and 16 years old and is at least four years younger than the defendant, shall be sentenced to a maximum term of 15 years imprisonment. See 18 U.S.C. § 2243(a).

How Do Federal Courts Prosecute Sexual Abuse of a Minor?

To secure a conviction for this crime, the government need not prove that the defendant used any force, threats or any physical act to coerce the victim into engaging in sexual activity. United States v. Dickerson, 567 F. App’x 754, 757 (11th Cir. 2014) (“Under § 2243(a), no … force or threat of force is required”). Instead, the statute is generally aimed at consensual activity wherein an older individual takes advantage of an inappropriately younger sexual partner.

Further, while it is an affirmative defense that the defendant “reasonably believed that the other person had attained 16 years [of age],” or that both persons engaging in the sexual act were married to each other, to secure a conviction for this charge, the government need not prove that the defendant knew the age of the person with whom he engaged in the sexual conduct, or that the statutorily required age difference between the two parties existed. 18 U.S.C. § 2243(c)-(d); see United States v. Jennings, 496 F.3d 344, 351-52 (4th Cir. 2007).

Notably, if the charged sexual conduct did not occur within a federal prison or another facility where persons are held by federal designation, then for a prosecution pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2243 to proceed, the conduct must have occurred within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States. 18 U.S.C. § 2243(a). This is a term of art and includes any lands reserved or acquired for the use of the United States, as well as any place purchased or otherwise acquired by the United States for the erection of a fort, magazine, arsenal, dockyard, or other needful building, i.e., federal property or building. 18 U.S.C. § 7(3); United States v. Gatlin, 216 F.3d 207, 210 (2d Cir.2000). Indeed, this definition even reaches overseas installations of the United States – including military bases. See United States v. Yousef, 750 F.3d 254, 262 (2d Cir. 2014).

How Does New York State Law Address Sexual Abuse of Minors?

Under New York Penal Law, it is illegal for an adult of age 18 or older to have any kind of sexual contact with a person under 17 years of age, regardless of whether the encounter was consensual. Generally speaking, there are three different offenses a person accused of sexually abusing a minor may be charged with under New York Penal Law, all of which have various degrees of severity.

Under NYPL §§130.55 through 130.65, any sexual contact with a minor can be considered criminal sexual abuse. Third-degree and second-degree sexual abuse are misdemeanor offenses, while first-degree sexual abuse—sexual contact with a minor under 11, or with a minor under 13 if the perpetrator is over 21—is a class D felony.

A criminal sexual act entails oral or anal sexual contact with a minor, as per NYPL §§130.40 through 130.50. Depending on the ages of the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator, this offense could be classified as anywhere from a Class E felony to a Class B felony.

Finally, there are three degrees of rape defined in NYPL §§130.25 through 130.35, all of which are felony offenses. First-degree rape of a child under 11—or a child under 13 if the perpetrator is an adult—carries a prison sentence of five to 25 years upon conviction.

Talk to Legal Counsel About Sexual Abuse of Minors Charges in New York

If you are facing charges for the sexual abuse of a minor in New York, reach out to the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman. The lawyers at our office have successfully handled countless federal cases, and therefore, know how to effectively pursue these types of cases. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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