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Indiana's strong criminal laws hold sex crimes offenders accountable, but the state's civil laws empower survivors to fight back on their own terms. 

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Sexual assault, rape, child molestation - these are crimes in every state, but their technical definitions, along with their punishments, vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Indiana Sex Crimes - Definitions & Penalties

In Indiana, criminal prosecutors have 12 separate criminal offenses at their disposal to prosecute sex crimes, from rape and sexual battery to incest and sexual misconduct with a minor. In addition to these criminal laws, there are also elements of Indiana's civil code that can come to the assistance of sexual assault and abuse survivors. Fundamental legal theories such as negligence and medical malpractice can be used in court to hold responsible parties accountable, pursue justice and secure financial compensation.

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In this in-depth guide, our experienced sexual assault and abuse attorneys will cover the relevant Indiana laws (both criminal and civil) that survivors need to know.

Sexual Assault - Sex Crimes Involving Adult Victims

Crimes in Indiana are divided into different classes, depending on the severity of the offense and the circumstances surrounding the misconduct. Each class of crime entails its own set of prescribed penalties.

Rape

In Indiana, the crime of rape is defined as knowingly or intentionally having sexual intercourse with another person or knowingly or intentionally causing another person to perform or submit to other sexual conduct when:

  • the other person is compelled by force or imminent threat of force
  • the other person is unaware that the sexual intercourse or other sexual contact is occurring; or
  • the other person is so mentally disabled or deficient that consent to sexual intercourse or other sexual contact cannot be given

As a Level 3 Felony, rape comes along with a minimum prison term of 3 years. But depending on the circumstances, rape in Indiana can be further divided into two sub-categories:

  • Class A Felony
    • if the victim is incapacitated and does not provide consent
    • if the sex crime results in serious bodily injury
    • if the crime is committed with the use of a deadly weapon
    • if the crime is committed by using or threatening deadly force
  • Class B Felony
    • if the victim is mentally disabled or deficient
    • if the victim is unaware that intercourse is occurring
    • if the threat of force is used

As a Class A Felony, the crime of rape can be punished through a 30 year prison sentence, along with a fine of up to $10,000. As a Class B Felony, rape is generally punished through a 10 year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

 

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Sexual Battery

The crime of sexual battery involves nonconsensual touching with the intent to arouse or satisfy sexual desires. Indiana's criminal code defines the offense as when a defendant touches another person with the intent to around or satisfy their own sexual desires, or the sexual desires of another person, when the victim is:

  • compelled to submit to the touching by force or the imminent threat of force; or
  • so mentally disabled or deficient that consent to the touching cannot be given; or
  • when the defendant touches another person's genitals, pubic area, buttocks or female breasts when that person is unaware that the touching is occurring

Sexual battery is considered a Level 6 felony in Indiana, which comes with a minimum prison term of 1/2 year. The offense is upgraded to a Level 4 felony, which has a minimum term of imprisonment of 2 years, when the defendant:

  • uses or threatens the use of deadly force
  • is armed with a deadly weapon; or
  • the commission of the offense is facilitated by furnishing the victim, without the victim's knowledge, with a drug or controlled substance, or knowing that the victim was furnished with a drug or controlled substance without the victim's knowledge

Sexual battery can also become a Class C Felony, with a minimum prison term of 4 years and fine of up to $10,000.

Criminal Deviate Conduct

The term "deviate sexual intercourse" refers to non-intercourse sex acts, forms of sexual gratification involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another person, as well as crimes in which the anus or vagina of the victim are penetrated by a foreign object.

Criminal deviate conduct is considered a Class A Felony in Indiana, punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, when:

  • the perpetrator knowingly or intentionally causes the victim to perform or submit to deviate sexual conduct when the commission of the offense is facilitated knowing that the victim was furnished with a drug or controlled substance without the victim's knowledge
  • the criminal deviate conduct results in serious bodily injury to the victim
  • the offense is committed by threatening the use of deadly force
  • the offense is committed by the use of deadly force

The crime becomes a Class B Felony when:

  • the perpetrator knowingly or intentionally causes the victim to perform or submit to deviate sexual conduct when the victim is so mentally disabled or deficient that consent to the conduct cannot be given
  • the victim is unaware that the conduct is occurring
  • when the victim is compelled by imminent threat of force
  • when the victim is compelled by force

Incest

Incest is considered a Level 5 felony in Indiana when a person 18 years or older engages in sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct with another person, when the defendant knows that the victim is related to the defendant biologically as a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew.

The offense becomes a Level 4 felony when the victim is less than 16 years of age. In these cases, the charge can be prosecuted even if the victim consents to sexual conduct with the defendant.

Child Sex Abuse Laws

Child Molestation

According to Indiana's criminal code, child molestation occurs when a person knowingly or intentionally performs or submits to sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct with a child under the age of 14. The age of 14 is the cutoff for charges of child molestation; a separate statute, known as "sexual misconduct with a minor," covers cases involving victims who are between the ages of 14 and 16, which is Indiana's age of consent.

In general, the offense of child molesting is considered a Level 3 felony, punishable through a maximum of 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines, but can be upgraded to a Level 1 felony when:

  • the defendant is at least 21 years of age
  • the offense is committed by using or threatening the use of deadly force or while armed with a deadly weapon
  • the crime results in serious bodily injury
  • the commission of the crime is facilitated by furnishing the victim, without the victim's knowledge, with a drug or a controlled substance
  • the crime results in the transmission of a dangerous sexually-transmitted disease and the defendant knew that he or she was infected with the disease

In these cases, child molestation is punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Child molestation is a Level 4 felony when the defendant performs or submits to any fondling or touching with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either person with a child under the age of 14. As a baseline, this crime is punishable by a maximum of 4 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. This crime of fondling or touching becomes a Level 2 felony when:

  • the crime is committed by using or threatening the use of deadly force
  • the crime is committed while armed with a deadly weapon; or
  • the commission of the crime is facilitated by furnishing the victim, without the victim's knowledge, with a drug or controlled substance

Defendants in child molestation cases have at least one affirmative argument in their defense, as recognized by Indiana's criminal code. The defendant is allowed to argue that they believed that the victim was at least 16 years of age (Indiana's age of consent) at the time of the conduct. This defense falls apart, however, if:

  • the offense was committed by using or threatening the use of deadly force or while armed with a deadly weapon
  • the offense results in serious bodily injury; or
  • the commission of the offense was facilitated by furnishing the victim, without the victim's knowledge, with a drug or controlled substance

Sexual Misconduct With A Minor

Sexual misconduct with a minor covers cases in which a defendant who is at least 18 years old performs or submits to sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct with a child between the ages of 14 and 16. In general, the crime is considered a Level 5 felony, but can be upgraded to a Level 4 felony when:

  • the defendant is at least 21 years of age

The crime can be further upgraded to a Level 1 felony, and punished through up to 30 years in prison and $10,000 in fines, if:

  • the offense was committed by using or threatening the use of deadly force
  • it was committed while armed with a deadly weapon
  • the crime results in serious bodily injury; or
  • the offense was facilitated by furnishing the victim, without the victim's knowledge, with a drug or controlled substance

A lesser offense, considered a Level 6 felony, occurs when a person of at least 18 years of age performs or submits to any fondling or touching with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either person with a child between the ages of 14 and 16. This offense is in turn upgraded to a Level 5 felony when the defendant is at least 21 years of age, and becomes a level 2 felony when it is committed by using or threatening deadly force, while armed with a deadly weapon or after the victim was furnished with a drug or controlled substance.

Indiana's criminal statutes outline several affirmative defenses to the charge of sexual misconduct with a minor. The defendant is allowed to argue that he or she reasonably believed that the child was at least 16 years of age at the time of the misconduct, unless the crime was committed through the use or threat of deadly force, with a deadly person or after the victim was unknowingly furnished a drug or controlled substance. There is also an affirmative defense if the child at issue is or was ever married.

A third defense to the crime of sexual misconduct with a minor holds when:

  • the defendant is no more than four years older than the victim;
  • the defendant and the victim were in a dating relationship or ongoing personal relationship (but not a familial relationship); and
  • the defendant is less than 21 years of age
  • the crime was not committed by the use or threat of deadly force
  • the crime was not committed while armed with a deadly weapon
  • the offense did not result in serious bodily injury
  • the misconduct was not facilitated by furnishing the victim with a drug or controlled substance without the victim's knowledge
  • the crime was not committed by a person having a position of authority or substantial influence over the victim
  • the defendant has not committed another sex offense against any person

Child Exploitation

Indiana's child exploitation laws cover cases involving child pornography. Child exploitation is generally considered a Level 5 felony. The offense covers all instances in which a person manufactures or disseminates photographs, films, videotapes or digitized images of any performance or incident that includes sexual conduct by a child under 18.

The definition of child pornography includes any performance or incident that includes the uncovered genitals of a child less than 18 or the exhibition of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple by a child under the age of 18.

Dissemination of child pornography under Indiana's criminal code applies to any situation in which the material is transferred to another person, either for free or for a consideration. In this context, dissemination also includes situations in which one person knowingly or intentionally transfers a computer or hard drive that contains sexually-explicit material involving children under the age of 18 to another person.

Child exploitation can be upgraded to a Level 4 felony in cases when the pornographic material depicts or describes a child under the age of 18 who is engaged in bestiality, is mentally disabled or deficient, participates in the sexual conduct by use of force or threat of force, or when the victim physically or verbally resists participating in the sexual conduct, receives a bodily injury while participating in the sexual act, or is under the age of 12.

It is a Level 6 felony to possess or access with the intent to view any child pornography, including pictures and drawings that lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Possession is elevated to a Level 5 felony when the pornographic material depicts:

  • a child engaged in bestiality,
  • a victim who is mentally disabled or deficient,
  • the victim participates in the sexual conduct by use of force or threat of force,
  • the victim physically or verbally resists participating in the sexual conduct,
  • the victim receives a bodily injury while participating in the sexual conduct, or
  • the victim is less than 12 years old

Knowingly manufacturing or disseminating child pornography comes with a maximum prison term of 4 years, and up to $10,000 in fines. The possession of child pornography is punishable through a maximum of 1.5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Child Seduction

In Indiana, child seduction occurs when adults in positions of power, authority or trust engage in sexual conduct, including intercourse, with children between the ages of 16 and 18. The statute outlines 6 categories of trusted individuals, both professionals and custodians, who can be convicted of child seduction:

  • child care workers, including teachers
  • custodians - anyone who resides with the child and is responsible for the child's welfare, including adoptive and foster parents
  • mental health professionals
  • military recruiters
  • law enforcement officers
  • licensed professionals involved in a professional relationship with the child

Child seduction covers many situations in which an individual in a position of trust and authority uses their power over a child to engage in sexual intercourse, other sexual conduct, or any fondling or touching with a child between the ages of 16 and 18. The law is designed to hold accountable those individuals who exploit their positions of power to abuse children.

In general, child seduction is considered a Class D felony, and comes with a maximum penalty of 1.5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Child Solicitation

When a person 18 years of age or older commands, authorizes, urges, incites, requests or advises a child under the age of 14, or between the ages of 14 and 16, to engage in sexual intercourse, other sexual conduct or any fondling or touching intended to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either person, they have committed child solicitation, as defined by Indiana's criminal code.

Solicitation can occur in person, over the phone, in writing or over a computer network. In general, child solicitation is a Level 5 felony, but it becomes a Level 4 felony if the defendant solicits a child that he or she believes to be under 14 years of age to engage in sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct, and:

  • commits the offense by using a computer network and travels to meet the child; or
  • has a previous unrelated conviction for child solicitation

As a Level 4 felony, child solicitation comes with a maximum prison term of 10 years and fines of up to $10,000. Lesser degrees of the crime can be punished through a maximum prison term of 1.5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, unless the crime was committed using a computer network, in which case the maximum prison term becomes 4 years.

Vicarious Sexual Gratification

Vicarious sexual gratification covers cases in which a defendant knowingly or intentionally directs, aids, induces or causes a child under the age of 16 to engage in sexual behavior. The crime is a Level 5 felony, punishable by a 1.5 year prison sentence, when the defendant directs, aids, induces or causes the child to touch or fondle him or herself or another child under the age of 16. It becomes a Level 4 felony if the child is under 14, and a Level 3 felony if:

  • the offense is committed by using or threatening the use of deadly force, or while armed with a deadly weapon
  • the offense is facilitated by furnishing the victim, without the victim's knowledge, with a drug or controlled substance
  • the commission of the offense results in serious bodily injury.

A person of 18 or older who knowingly or intentionally directs, aids, induces or causes a child under the age of 16 to engage in sexual intercourse with another child under 16, engage in bestiality or engage in other sexual conduct with another person has committed vicarious sexual gratification as a Level 4 felony. The crime becomes a Level 3 felony if any child involved in the offense is under 14 years old.

Indiana Civil Laws On Sexual Assault & Abuse

Indiana has a strong tradition of civil law that empowers sexual assault survivors, child sexual abuse survivors and loving parents to file private lawsuits against the responsible parties. These lawsuits can come in addition to the criminal prosecution of an offender, and may even be initiated when the criminal justice system has failed to prosecute a defendant in the case.

Civil lawsuits can be filed against the direct perpetrators of sexual assault and child sexual abuse, under a trio of civil liability theories - assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Survivors may also be able to file suit against any businesses, organizations or institutions who facilitated the abuse or assault; these third-party civil sex crime lawsuits are generally filed under the legal theory of negligence.

The Duty To Protect Against Child Sexual Abuse & Assault

Indiana's civil law recognizes that certain individuals and organizations have a fundamental duty to protect children from child sexual abuse. Churches and other religious organizations, public, private and charter schools, daycares, foster homes, sports clubs, pediatricians and medical offices, hospitals, the Boy Scouts of Americas - all of these organizations have a basic duty to protect the children under their care and prevent child sexual abuse.

Similar duties exist in the realm of adult sexual assault. Spas and massage facilities, doctors and hospitals, nursing homes, colleges and universities, hotels and motels - these establishments and organizations have a fundamental duty to protect their participants, students, clients and patients, including a duty to provide adequate security against crime.

Failures To Protect

These duties, known as the duty of care, are essential. No one would visit a doctor if they knew that their gynecologist was preparing to assault them. No one would attend a university that they knew would fail to protect them from sexual abuse. No one would select a nursing home where employees were allowed to assault their patients.

Despite the duty to care, sexual assault and child sexual abuse occur every day in this country. Every day, a child is abused at his or her school. Every day, a doctor makes inappropriate comments to his patient, before touching her in a sexual manner. Every day, another survivor steps forward with a story of being sexually abused by a priest.

These are crimes, but they are also civil wrongs, recognized in civil courts throughout Indiana. Thanks to the doctrine of negligence, survivors and their loved ones are allowed to stand up to these institutions and businesses, pursuing justice and financial compensation on their own terms. You can raise your voice and demand change. You have real power.

What Negligence Looks Like

Negligence occurs when a business or institution fails to uphold its duty to protect. It happens when the college or university fails to discipline a dangerous sexual predator, allowing the student to commit more crimes against other unsuspecting students. It happens when the daycare center conducts an inadequate background check on an employee with a prior conviction for child sexual abuse. It happens when the nurse or hospital manager accidentally walks in on a doctor touching his patient, but decides to remain silent.

Negligence can be systemic or the failure of a lone individual. It can be overt or concealed. But more often than not, it's there, under the surface, contributing to vile crimes around the country.

The Civil Statute Of Limitations

Indiana's powerful tradition of civil law may allow you and your loved ones to file suit against responsible parties, but there is a time limit. A law known as the "statute of limitations" acts like a legal clock, ticking down the amount of time you have to file suit. Attempt to file your case after the statute of limitations has run out and your case will almost certainly be thrown out of court. It's essential to contact an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you do not lose your right to file suit forever. Do not hesitate; act now.

Indiana has two separate statutes of limitations for adult sexual assault cases and child sexual abuse cases. The state grants childhood sexual abuse survivors a longer amount of time in which to file their lawsuits, in the understanding that many children will struggle to process what happened to them and may not disclose the abuse for years.

Adult sexual assault survivors have a total of 2 years to file their lawsuit. The statute of limitations begins to run on the date of the incident.

Victims of childhood sexual abuse are granted more time. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, you have until 7 years after your 18th birthday to file suit, or 7 years from the time you knew or reasonably should have known that the abuse occurred. If you were a dependent of the person who abused you, you have until 4 years after dependency on the abuser ended.

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