Are you or a loved one a survivor of sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse? New York's strong criminal laws protect you.
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Throughout the US, sex crime laws change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, varying according to how state legislatures have decided to handle the issue. In New York State, the legislature has divided sexual assault and sexual abuse laws in 12 distinct categories.
Criminal Laws On Sexual Abuse & Assault In New York
If you or a loved one are a survivor of sexual assault or sexual abuse, it's important to understand your rights under New York law. As a survivor of a sex crime, you have the right to press criminal charges against the offender, pursuing justice against the person who harmed you. Understanding New York's complex criminal laws can help.
You may also have the right to file a private civil lawsuit for financial compensation. This is a lawsuit distinct from the criminal justice system, one filed on your own terms with only your own best interests at heart. Looking for support and guidance? Our experienced New York sexual assault lawyers are here for you. Explore your legal options today in a free, confidential legal consultation. We are here to protect your rights.
Assault & Abuse Resources In New York State
If your or a loved one are the victim of a sex crime, please understand that you are not alone. Community resources exist to help you. You can find support and assistance from a number of local resource groups designed to help sexual abuse and assault survivors:
- Safe Horizon - Operated by the City of New York, Safe Horizon offers information, safety planning, counseling, emergency housing, transportation assistance and referrals for additional support to victims of sexual assault. Help is available for filing applications to the New York State Crime Victims Board compensation program.
- Local resources for sexual assault survivors and child sexual abuse survivors
- Sexual assault hotline: 866-577-2786
In addition to these resources, our dedicated team of New York sexual assault and abuse attorneys are here to provide you with experienced representation in filing a civil lawsuit against both the offender and negligent third parties who may have enabled the misconduct.
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Sexual Abuse & Assault Laws In New York
New York's legislature has defined 12 different forms of sexual abuse and assault offenses, with varying degrees of seriousness and varying levels of punishment.
Aggravated Sexual Abuse
Under New York State law, aggravated sexual abuse comprises any sexual act in which the defendant inserts a finger or foreign object into the genitals or anus of another person without first obtaining their consent. Aggravated sexual abuse is further divided into four degrees of severity, but each is considered a felony.
The charge of aggravated sexual abuse reaches a higher degree for cases in which physical force is used against the victim, along with cases in which the victim was unable to consent due to a physical or mental disability and when the victim is under the age of 11.
Course Of Sexual Conduct Against A Child
The charge of course of sexual conduct against a child is meant to criminalize the repeated sexual abuse of a child. It applies in cases when a defendant sexually abuses a minor on multiple occasions, and can be charged as either first- or second-degree, depending on the severity of the misconduct. Cases involving either sexual intercourse (including anal or oral sex) or aggravated sexual contact are generally charged as first-degree crimes.
Criminal Sexual Act
A criminal sexual act, in the language of New York State law, is any occurrence of nonconsensual anal or oral sex. Criminal sexual act can be charged as either a first, second or third-degree offense, but each is deemed a felony.
- First Degree Offense - Criminal sexual acts reach the first degree when the defendant is 18 years or older and the victim is under 13 years old; or when the victim is under the age of 11; or when the victim was unable to consent due to physical helplessness; or when the offender used physical force. The penalty for a first-degree charge of criminal sexual act is 5 to 25 years in prison.
- Second Degree Offense - Criminal sexual act will be charged as a second-degree offense when the victim was unable to consent due to mental or intellectual disability; or when the defendant was over the age of 18 and the victim was under the age of 15. The maximum penalty for a second-degree charge is seven years in prison.
- Third Degree Offense - Criminal sexual act counts as a third-degree offense in cases involving any lack of consent except for an inability to consent; or when the defendant is 21 or older and the victim is under the age of 17. The penalty for third-degree criminal sexual act is a maximum of four years in prison.
Facilitating A Sex Offense With A Controlled Substance
This criminal charge is meant to target cases of "date rape," in which the defendant knowingly gives the victim a drug or other illegal substance with the intent of incapacitating the victim to facilitate a sexual assault or abuse. Facilitating a sex offense with a controlled substance is a Class D felony, and comes with a maximum of seven years in prison.
Female Genital Mutilation
Designated as a Class E Felony in New York, female genital mutilation refers to any situation in which a defendant consents to the circumcision, excision or infibulation of a minor female child's genitals without adequate medical justification. The charge can be filed against parents and legal guardians, and is punishable via up to four years in prison.
A misdemeanor charge in New York that involves the use of physical force to touch another person's genitals or breasts with the intent of harming the victim or gratifying the sexual desires of either the defendant or the victim.
In New York, incest (sexual relationships between biologically-related individuals) is illegal, even if both parties consent to the sexual conduct. First and second-degree charges of the crime are reserved for defendants who commit rape or associated sex crimes against their relative, while third-degree incest applies to cases in which biologically-related individuals engage in consensual sex acts.
Persistent Sexual Abuse
The charge of persistent sexual abuse is reserved for repeat sex offenders. It applies in cases wherein the offender commits either forcible touching or any other second- or third-degree sexual crime and has already been convicted of two or more sexual offenses within the last ten years. Persistent sexual abuse is a Class E Felony in New York.
Predatory Sexual Assault
The charge of predatory sexual assault applies to the most extreme sexual predators. The charge applies to sexual offenders who commit a first-degree count of either rape, criminal sexual acts, aggravated sexual abuse, or course of sexual conduct against a child, and:
- were previously convicted of felony sexual offense, incest or use of a child in a sexual performance; or
- committed their crimes against multiple victims; or
- caused the victim to suffer physical injuries; or
- threatened to harm the victim physically
As New York's most severe sex crime, predatory sexual assault comes with a maximum prison sentence of 25 years.
The charge of rape is used when the offender forces the victim into sexual intercourse without consent, or forces sex on a victim who is unable to consent (such as a minor). In New York, rape can be a first-, second-, or third-degree crime, depending on the circumstances:
- First Degree Offense - applies when the offender is over 18 years old and the victim is under 13 years old; or when the offense is committed against anyone under the age of 11; or when the intercourse was facilitated via physical force; or when the sexual misconduct was committed against a victim who was physically unable to consent
- Second Degree Offense - applies when the victim was incapable of providing consent due to a mental disability; or in cases involving defendants over the age of 18 and a victim under the age of 15
- Third Degree Offense - applies in cases involving a lack of consent for a reason other than the inability to consent; or sexual intercourse between a defendant over the age of 21 and a victim under the age of 17
The charge of sexual abuse applies to cases in which the defendant inflicts on the victim unwanted sexual contact without consent. In statutory cases of the charge, the defendant, an adult, engages in sexual contact with a minor, someone too young to provide consent.
Sexual abuse in New York is divided into three classes of crime, depending on the severity of the misconduct:
- First Degree Offense - applies when the defendant is older than 21 and the victim is under 13 years old; or when the victim is younger than 11; or when the victim is physically helpless; or when the offender uses physical force to commit the crime
- Second Degree Offense - applies when the victim was unable to consent for a reason other than being under the age of 17; or when the victim is under 14 years of age
- Third Degree Offense - applies when the defendant commits sexual contact with the victim without their consent.
New Law Provides More Time To File A Civil Lawsuit
History has been made. On Monday, January 28, 2019, New York's State Assembly and Senate passed the Child Victims Act, a sweeping piece of legislation that strengthens legal protections for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. While the bill has not yet been signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Cuomo has already provided vocal support for the measures, according to ABC7.
New York Statute Of Limitations Increased
The bill implements three major changes in New York State law, increasing the statute of limitations for both civil and criminal lawsuits against child sex offenders and negligent parties, while also opening a one-year window for historical sexual abuse claims to be filed.
New York's statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse lawsuits, whether filed against a direct offender or a negligent third-party defendant, has now been extended to the victim's 55th birthday. Once enacted, the law provides survivors until their 55th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. As a corollary outcome, anyone currently under the age of 55 who was sexually abused will automatically gain the right to file a civil lawsuit.
The criminal statute of limitations is also increasing, moving from the age of 23 to 28. After the bill's enactment, sexual abuse survivors will have until their 28th birthday to press criminal charges against the offender.
"Window Of Justice"
But the law's biggest impact may come in the form of a "window of justice," a one-year time frame in which survivors who were previously barred from filing suit regain the right to pursue justice. The one-year time period begins on the date of the law's enactment.
Once the window is opened, anyone with a viable sexual abuse lawsuit, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred, will be able to file their claim for compensation in court. Even claims once barred by the statute of limitations will be allowed to proceed in court under the new law.
This is an unprecedented day in the history of sexual abuse law, one that could serve as a blueprint for other states across the nation. If you or a loved one were sexually abused in New York State, the time to pursue justice is now. Even if the abuse occurred decades ago, new laws provide you with the right to file suit at any age, no matter the circumstances of your abuse.