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Sex Crimes

What Is a Sex Crime?

Generally speaking, a sex crime is any crime in which the defendant sexually touched the victim in an unwanted or offensive manner. It is imperative to note that states will differ in their exact definitions of what constitutes a sex crime, as well as what constitutes unwanted or offensive. The definition of “unwanted” takes into consideration the victim's inability to communicate their wishes; as such, sexually touching a drunken person constitutes a sex crime under this definition.

A person who is convicted of a sex crime will have that crime on their criminal record. Additionally, under Megan's Law, sex offenders must register with their local law enforcement agency. Sex offender laws, such as Megan's Law, force states to set up registries. These registries are designed and intended to keep track of convicted sex offenders, as well as to report their addresses to the general public. 

Information about sex offenders has always been public; however, as a practical matter, most members of the public would not have known how to access such information. Though all states are required to set up public registries, states are allowed to determine for themselves what information to disclose, as well as how to disseminate that information.

Congress passed Megan's law in response to the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a young girl by a convicted violent sexual offender. This offender had moved in across the street from Megan, and legislators argued that if the parents were aware of their neighbor's violent sexual history, they could have taken further precautions in order to adequately protect their daughter. Megan's Law has also instituted that the local police have the legal right to notify the community if, according to their discretion, the sex offender presents a danger to their community.

In many cases, registered sex offenders are required to submit their personal information to government records. This can include and their name and their address, which are kept in a database often referred to as a sex offender registry. Crimes that will require a defendant to register their information include, but may not be limited to:

Rape and Sexual Misconduct

The act of raping involves non-consensual sexual contact with another person. According to New York law, this offense is divided into three degrees, plus the lowest level of sexual misconduct. First, second, and third-degree rape are all felonies punishable by the following penalties:

  • First-degree rape: class B felony
  • Second-degree rape: class D felony
  • Third-degree rape: class E felony

Sexual misconduct is the lowest level of offense, punishable by a year in jail.

What Is Aggravated Sexual Abuse?

An example of aggravated sexual abuse is non-consensual digital penetration of a person's vagina or anus, or penetration with a foreign object. The four degrees of this crime carry felony penalties ranging from a class E to a class B felony. Crimes that result in physical injury to the victim carry the harshest penalties as first- or second-degree crimes.

What Is Sexual Abuse?

Non-consensual sexual contact is considered abuse, which includes any touching of another's sexual or intimate parts for the sole purpose of gratifying sexual desires. Touching includes direct contact with the victim's body, indirect contact through clothing, and ejaculating onto a victim (clothed or unclothed body part).

Penalties range from first- to third-degree. An individual convicted of first-degree sexual abuse faces a class D felony sentence. As a misdemeanor, a conviction for a second or third-degree crime results in a three-month or one-year jail sentence.

What Is Forcible Touching?

In addition, it's unlawful to forcibly touch another's sexual or intimate parts with the intent of degrading or abusing that person or satisfying the actor's own sexual desires. The act of squeezing, grabbing, or pinching is considered forceful. Those convicted face a class A misdemeanor penalty of up to a year in jail.

What Is Considered Statutory Rape in New York?

Statutory rape occurs when a person has consensual sex with someone under the age of consent. It is a strict liability crime, which means that the intention of the parties is not considered. Therefore, “mistake of age” is not usually a defense to the crime. Statutory rape laws are meant to prevent minors from being sexually exploited by adults.

It is considered statutory rape to have sex with anyone under 17 years old in New York. However, there is a close-in-age exception that allows for a 4 year age gap as long as the minor is older than 15.

What Are the Consequences of Statutory Rape in New York?

New York, like many other states, classifies statutory rape under different felony classes based on the age difference. If the perpetrator is 21 years old or older and the minor is under 17 years old, then it is a class E felony which carries a prison sentence of 3 to 4 years.

If the perpetrator is older than 18 years old and the minor is under 15 years old, then it is a class D felony, which has a maximum prison sentence of 7 years. If the perpetrator was older than 18 years old and had sex with a minor younger than 13, then that is a Class B felony, which can mean 10-25 year prison sentence. 

What Is the Sentencing for Felony Sex Offenses?

In New York, felony sex offenses are punishable by determinate (fixed) sentences, as follows:

  • Class B felonies are punishable by five to 25 years in prison.
  • Three and a half to 15 years in prison is the maximum sentence for a Class C felony.
  • A Class D felony can carry a sentence of two to seven years in prison.
  • A Class E felony carries a sentence of one-and-a-half to four years in prison.

Felony sex offenses usually result in prison time. For lower-level felonies (class D and E), probation is permitted. Nevertheless, sex offenders face longer probation terms and more conditions than standard probationers.

Probation conditions can also include limiting Internet use, prohibiting contact with minors, and attending sex offender counseling.

There is also a period of post-release supervision for felony sexual offenses, which may range between three and 25 years, depending on the offense and felony classification. Violations of post-release supervision can result in the violator being sent back to prison for the remaining time. 

What Is the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA)?

As with other states, New York requires those convicted of sex offenses (and specific other predatory offenses) to register with the state and law enforcement when residing in the community. The registration period lasts a minimum of 20 years, and those considered “high risk” will be registered for life.

In addition to registering annually, offenders must inform authorities of changes in their residences or workplaces, submit updated photographs, and provide information about Internet accounts and screen names. The failure to register as required can result in a Class D or E felony.

A sex offender registry is a list of individuals who have been convicted of crimes that are sexual in nature, such as sexual assault. Once convicted, these individuals may be referred to as sex offenders. Thus, they will be required to register with their local sex offender database.

The purpose of these systems is to put the general public on notice of their crimes, as well as to encourage citizens to remain more vigilant around them. This is especially true when a sex offender has been convicted of sexual crimes relating to minors. It also provides law enforcement direct access to any of their information in the event that they commit a similar offense again.

In general, every state has some form of a sex offender system. Depending on the state, and sometimes even the rules of a specific jurisdiction, the offender will typically be required to register by providing the following information:

  • Their name and any nicknames;
  • Their current address;
  • Their date of birth;
  • A current photograph;
  • Any offenses they were convicted of;
  • The punishment that they received (e.g., jail time or fines, and whether or not they have completed these punishments);
  • Physical descriptions of their appearance, including any identifying marks like scars or tattoos; and
  • Various other details that are required according to the laws of the state or jurisdiction supervising the registration system.

There is also a database for national purposes, but it may not be viewed by any members of the public. The national database is strictly used by law enforcement personnel and is maintained by the FBI. This enables law enforcement to have quick access to the offender's files in case of an emergency and can alert them when a sex offender moves to another state.

Additionally, some jurisdictions waive the offender's registration requirements if they are a juvenile defendant. In contrast, other states insist on having both adults and juveniles to register if they have been convicted of a sexual crime.

Finally, failure to register or to provide updates about any personal information that has changed, can have serious consequences, such as having to pay heavy fines or going to jail.

Therefore, if you have been convicted of such an offense, it is important to remember to register with your state and that your record reflects your current personal information. If you have any questions with this process, you should contact an attorney for further legal guidance.

How Does Sex Offender Registration Work in New York?

In New York, not all sex offenders are required to register publicly on the online Sex Offender Registry. Those who have committed a “registerable sex offense” must register.

What is considered a registerable sex offense includes:

According to New York law, sex offenders are classified into three categories based on whether or not they will commit another sex crime: Level 1 (low risk), Level 2 (moderate), and Level 3 (high risk). A sex offender can also be designated as either (1) a predator, (2) a violent offender, or (3) a predicate offender within these three levels.

Different classifications determine how often and for how long an offender must register. Unless they have a designation, level 1 offenders must register for 20 years. If a sex offender has been designated or classified as level 2 or level 3, the offender must register for life.

Offenders must re-register with local enforcement annually, except for level 3 offenders and those with a designation. Offenders with a designation and Level 3 offenders must re-register every 90 days.

Only level 2 and level 3 offenders in New York must register with the online public registry. You must register with local law enforcement even if you are a level 1 offender, but your information will not be made public.

What Crimes Get You On the Sex Offender Registry?

As discussed above, when someone commits a certain crime relating to sex, they may be required to register as a sex offender at their local registry. Both the type and severity of the crime committed can contribute to the amount of time that a convicted individual must be registered.

In particular, some crimes that may lead to an individual being added to the database include the following:

  • Sexual abuse or sexual assault, especially if the victim is a child or minor;
  • Rape or statutory rape;
  • Prostitution;
  • Indecent exposure; and
  • Child pornography.

Aside from the type or severity of the crime, there are other factors that may dictate how long a person has to be registered for, such as the laws of a particular state, the age of the defendant, or if the conviction gets reversed.

Generally speaking, however, most sex crime convictions will typically require the individual to be registered for life.

One important thing to note is that the laws relating to specific crimes, such as sexual assault and rape, have recently been updated to apply to both females and males alike. Also, unlike what was permitted by prior laws, marriage can no longer serve as a defense against a rape claim.

What is the Difference Between the State and Federal Sex Offender Registry?

As previously mentioned, the federal sex offender registry is strictly for law enforcement purposes. It is primarily managed by the FBI and can only be accessed by various levels of law enforcement personnel and agencies that handle these types of matters. The general public does not have access to this particular database.

This also means that an offender will not have to register under both their state and the federal registry since law enforcement maintains and updates those records.

Instead, an offender will have to register and update personal information according to their state's guidelines for sex offender registration. Unlike the federal sex offender registry, the public does have access to state databases.

Also, while there may be internal criteria for the records kept by the federal sex offender registry, states provide definitive parameters for offenders to follow. For example, most states do not allow a registered sex offender to live a certain amount of distance from a school, even if their crime did not involve a minor. The distance will vary by state due to the different state statutes.

States also have different tiers or levels of how to classify sexual offenses. These tiers sometimes determine the bare minimum of how long a person has to be registered, if not permanently. For example, in New York State, a tier 1 offense will result in a registration period of 20 years. In contrast, a tier 2 or 3 offense, will most likely impose registration for life. 

Are Juveniles Required to Place Their Names on the List?

Most jurisdictions do require juveniles convicted of sexual assault crimes to register as a sex offender. Some jurisdictions only require those who are convicted of sex crimes as adults to register as a sex offender.

Is Registration Mandatory?

Yes, an individual must register or face additional trouble such as returning to prison. Also, they must keep their information such as address up-to-date within five working days of their birthday. If any information changes prior to their birthday, they have approximately 30 days to update the list. 

How Can I Be Excluded from the Public Sex Offender Registry?

Compared to a couple of other states, New York has a clear procedure for people seeking to be removed from the public registry. Two types of petitions exist: (1) modification of risk level; and (2) release from registration.

Suppose a level two offender files a petition for modification, and it is approved. In that case, the offender is no longer required to be listed on the public registry but must continue to register. It is during this time that the offender can petition to be released from the duty to register. Without the modification, New York allows level 2 offenders who have not received a designation and who have been registered for at least 30 years to file a petition to be released from the duty to register for life.

Since there is no equivalent provision for a level 3 offender, it seems that for a level 3 offender to be released from the requirement to register, they must first petition to have their risk level modified and then petition for release.

Can I Get Sex Crimes Removed from My Record?

Expunction is also known as expungement, and is a process through which persons convicted of certain crimes can get the records of their conviction cleared or sealed. Some form of expunction is generally allowed in most U.S. states. Expunged records are either sealed, or the court dismisses the charging document by setting aside a verdict of guilty. It is important to note that the record is nearly never destroyed, and depending on the state, a dismissal will still appear on the record.

However, there is no constitutional right to have an expunction of a criminal record. When allowed, people who are seeking to get their criminal records expunged must fulfill certain qualifications and adhere to certain conditions. Because expunction is a privilege and not a right, most states only allow for if the defendant can prove that they have effectively been rehabilitated and have reentered into society.

Some states will allow for expungement if a certain amount of time has passed since conviction, and the convicted has already finished serving their sentence. In nearly every state that allows for expunction, what can be cleared or sealed is considerably limited. Generally speaking, expunction is not available for serious or violent crimes.

In terms of sex offender record expungement, felony sex crimes cannot be removed from a record. If the defendant is required to register as a sex offender as a result of a conviction, expunction will not clear away that requirement. Additionally, there is but a considerably slim chance of having a misdemeanor sex crime expunged. Having a sex crime on record makes it nearly impossible to get a job which pays above minimum wage, or to obtain any sort of professional licenses.

Generally speaking, states allow the following to be expunged from a person's criminal record:

In most states, any sexual activity that involves a minor or a child cannot be expunged under any circumstances. Some examples of this includes, but may not be limited to:

  • Child pornography, whether producing or possessing;
  • Exposing a child to obscene literature; and
  • Luring or enticing a child.

There are a very limited number of sex misdemeanors that may  be expunged. An example of this would be sexual misconduct, or lewd or lascivious behavior. However, this is completely dependent on the circumstances of each individual case. 

How Do You Petition for Removal from the Sex Offender Registry?

The first step towards removal involves determining whether or not the offense is one that can be removed, and if so, whether or not the offender is in fact eligible for removal. These questions can both be answered by reviewing the relevant laws of the state.

If the crime is one that can be removed and the offender is eligible, then they will have to file a petition for removal with the court. Along with the petition, an offender also must include documentation that shows they are no longer a threat to the public, such as certificates stating that they attended required counseling sessions or have received treatments.

After the petition is filed, the court will then review it to decide whether or not they should grant the request for removal. The court may also consider the offender's criminal history, the severity of the sexual crime, and if the offense involved violence.

If the petition gets denied, then the offender will have to wait a certain period of time before filing a new request for removal.

Lastly, even if a person is removed from the database, the crime will still appear on their criminal record.

Can I Expunge a Sex Crime From My Criminal History?

It is extremely difficult to have a sex-related crime expunged or removed from your criminal record. This record will affect an offender's ability to be hired or to apply for professional licenses.

If the crime involved any kind of sexual activity with a child or minor, it can never be expunged. Crimes that involve a felony or violent act can generally not be removed either. If the crime was non-violent and was tried as a misdemeanor, there may be a slight possibility to have it removed. The length of time that a person is registered may also be taken into account.

Also, some states (e.g., Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, etc.) strictly prohibit all sex crime convictions from being eligible for expungement.  

How Can an Attorney Help Me?

It is essential that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible if you have been charged with a crime. An experienced criminal defense lawyer in New York will be able to defend you in court and give you the best chance of being found not guilty. Suppose you have already been convicted and served your time for a minor sex crime and no longer desire to have that information appear on your record. In that case, you should try to see if you qualify for removal from the public registry as well as contact a lawyer to have your criminal record sealed.

If you are facing a sex crime charge or want to get your name removed from a sex offender registry, contact a criminal defense attorney. The attorney will explain the laws and determine what defense you can use. He or she will determine how to remove your name from the list.

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