Updated Indiana Sex Crime Laws (2023)
This past year, six major updates were made to Indiana sex crime laws; including amendments to the laws on child solicitation, child solicitation, and sexual misconduct with a service provider, as well expansions on sentencing enhancements for child molestation and the statute of limitations for sex offenses committed against a minor. On top of that, the state modified the statutory defenses provided for those charged with disseminating matter or conducting performances harmful to minors.
This article will review and explain each of these updates in depth. However, if you have any questions or would like to speak with an Indiana sex crimes attorney, do not hesitate to contact our firm today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Stay Up to Date with Indiana Law:
- Updates to Indiana’s Domestic Violence Laws
- Video Recording Without Consent in Indiana
- Updates to Serious Violent Offender Classification
- Indiana’s New Law on Encroachment
- Organized Retail Theft in Indiana
- Milly’s Law: Unlawful Use of a Tracking Device
Recent Expansions and Amendments to Indiana Sex Crime Laws
In 2023, the state legislature chose to amend several Indiana sex crime laws, including those pertaining child solicitation, child seduction, and sexual misconduct with a service provider. The legislature also chose to expand the statute of limitations on all sex offenses committed against a child, as well as the sentencing range enhancement for child molestation.
In regard to child solicitation, Indiana Code 35-42-4-6 previously stated that solicitation occurs when a person commands, authorizes, urges, incites, requests or advises an individual to engage in in sexual intercourse, other sexual conduct, or any fondling or touching intended to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or perpetrator. Now, the law states that solicitation occurs when a person commands, authorizes, urges, incites, requests, lures, entices, or advises an individual to engage in sexual intercourse, other sexual conduct, or any fondling or touching intended to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or the older person.
Another major update to the Indiana sex crime laws was the expansion of Indiana Code 35-42-4-7 to include coaches as one of the possible offenders of this crime. As defined used in this new section of the law, “coach” means a person (including a non-teacher or volunteer) who is at least 4 years older than the victim, and provides care, supervision, or instruction to a child within the scope of the person’s employment in a youth sports organization or is employed by a youth sports organization attended by the child who is victim of child seduction. In addition, a person may be considered a “coach” if they are simply affiliated with a youth sports organization attended by the child who is the victim of child seduction, regardless of how or whether the person is compensated; or a person who is in a position of trust in relation to the child who participates in the youth sports organization or engaged in the provision of the child’s care or supervision while participating in a youth sports program.
Finally, Indiana Code 35-44.1-3-10 expanded the Indiana law on sexual misconduct with a service provider to include a Level 6 felony offense for touching and fondling. Previously, the lowest level felony possible under this section of law was a Level 5 felony for “knowingly or intentionally engages in sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct with a person who is subject to lawful detention or lawful supervision commits sexual misconduct.” Now, service providers who “knowingly or intentionally engages in any fondling or touching with a person who is subject to lawful detention or lawful supervision with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of the service provider or the person,” may be charged with a felony offense, as well.
Expansions to Sentencing Enhancements and Statute of Limitations
This past year, the Indiana legislature chose to expand the sentencing enhancement for Level 1 felony child molestation by removing the victim’s age as a requirement to enhance the sentence of an offender who committed this crime after they turned 21-years-old. Previously, under Indiana Code 35-50-2-4, an offender convicted of Level 1 felony child molestation could have their sentencing range enhanced from 20-40 years to 20-50 years if they were 21 years of age or older when they committed the offense AND the victim was under 12 years old at the time of the offense; or if the offense (regardless of the age of both the victim and offender) resulted in serious bodily injury or death. Now, a sentence for Level 1 felony child molestation may be enhanced to 20-50 years, if the offender was 21 years of age when they committed the crime or if the offense resulted in serious bodily injury or death.
In addition, the legislature also updated “Jenny’s Law,” to expand the statute of limitations for all sex offenses committed against a child, rather than only a limited number of offenses. “Jenny’s Law,” as detailed in Indiana Code 35-41-4-2, gives prosecutors the ability to re-open certain cases, at any point in the future, if certain triggering events occur. From that point, they have five years to bring charges against the alleged offender. If charges are not brought during that time frame, then another triggering event must occur for a new 5-year statute of limitations window to open up.
Triggering Events Under “Jenny’s Law”
- The state first discovers evidence sufficient to charge the offender with the offence through DNA analysis
- The state first becomes aware of the existence of a recording that provides evidence sufficient to charge the offender with the offense
- Or a person confesses to the offense
Changes to Indiana Law on Materials Harmful to a Minor
Though not explicitly considered to be part of the Indiana sex crime laws, important updates were made regarding the crime disseminating matter or conducting performance harmful to minors, a Level 6 felony.
Under Indiana Code 35-49-3-3, a person commits a Level 6 felony when they knowingly or intentionally:
- disseminate matter to minors that is harmful to minors (as described in IC 35-49-2);
- display matter that is harmful to minors in an area to which minors have visual, auditory, or physical access, unless each minor is accompanied by the minor’s parent or guardian;
- sell, rent, or display for sale or rent to any person matter that is harmful to minors within five hundred (500) feet of the nearest property line of a school or church;
- engage in or conduct a performance before minors that is harmful to minors;
- engage in or conduct a performance that is harmful to minors in an area to which minors have visual, auditory, or physical access, unless each minor is accompanied by the minor’s parent or guardian;
- misrepresent the minor’s age for the purpose of obtaining admission to an area from which minors are restricted because of the display of matter or a performance that is harmful to minors; or
- misrepresent that the person is a parent or guardian of a minor for the purpose of obtaining admission of the minor to an area where minors are being restricted because of display of matter or performance that is harmful to minors;
However, as contained in Indiana Code 35-49-3-4, there are a handful of statutory defenses that one may aim to show in order to prevent prosecution under this law. Prior to the passing of House Bill 1447, one available defense was “that the matter was disseminated or that the performance was performed for legitimate scientific or educational purposes.” Yet, the State Legislature, amended this defense to remove “educational purposes,” simply leaving it read, “the matter was disseminated or that the performance was performed for legitimate scientific purposes.”
This new version of the law goes into effect January 1, 2024, but has been a topic of controversy for most of 2023. The main cause for concern is that by removing “educational purposes” from the list of statutory defenses provided in Section 4 of Indiana Code 35-49-3 the legislature may have opened the door for the criminal prosecution of teachers, librarians and principles. However, those in the legal community are still unsure of whether this change will be substantive or superficial.
In addition, critics have found issue with the vague definition of “material harmful to minors.” Nevertheless, supporters of the bill are quick to point out that HB 1447 also amended Indiana Code 35-49-3-3 to explicitly reference the general provisions contained in Indiana Code 25-49-2 as definitions for what constitutes the “dissemination of matter to minors that is harmful to minors.” Under this definition, a matter or performance is harmful to minors if:
- it describes or represents, in any form, nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sado-masochistic abuse;
- considered as a whole, it appeals to the prurient interest in sex of minors;
- it is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable matter for or performance before minors; and
- considered as a whole, it lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors
Further Questions on the Recent Updates to Indiana Sex Crime Laws?
If you have any questions about the recent updates to Indiana’s sex crime laws, or the laws regarding “dissemination of matter to minors that is harmful to minors,” the Indiana criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are available to assist you. Our Indianapolis-based criminal defense law firm is led by two former deputy prosecutors who understand the many nuances of Indiana law and stay abreast of all changes to criminal law. This affords us the ability to constantly update our defense strategies in an effort to secure our clients the optimal outcome in the case(s) against them.