Laws on Sexual Misconduct with a Minor in Indiana
The criminal offense of sexual misconduct with a minor in Indiana is one of the most serious that one can commit in the Hoosier state. Although the lowest level penalties for this crime are less severe than a handful of other sex crimes, offenders can still face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. In addition, those charged with a Level 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 Felony for this offense must register as a “sex or violent offender,” in Indiana. This collateral consequence can have a profoundly negative impact on one’s day-to-day life, limiting where they live, work, and spend time, and whom they are allowed to communicate with, among other restrictions.
If you’ve been charged with sexual misconduct with a minor, or any other Indiana sex crime, you need to put yourself in the best position possible to limit your possible penalties or have the charges dismissed altogether. To do so, you’ll need to retain the services of a skilled Indiana sex crimes lawyer, ideally one who has experience both defending AND prosecuting these types of crimes.
Many of the Indianapolis criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are former deputy prosecutors who have unique insight into how the State builds cases against those charged with sexual misconduct with a minor in Indiana. Our team stands ready to help you build the soundest defense possible. We’ll defend you aggressively in court and do everything in our power to protect you, your rights, and your freedom. To begin working with a defense lawyer today call us at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Indiana Criminal Code on Sexual Misconduct with a Minor
The specific law relating to sexual misconduct with a minor in Indiana is located in Indiana Code 35-42-4-9. This law states that when an adult, who is 18 years of age or older, knowingly or intentionally performs or submits to sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct with a child under the age of 16, they commit sexual misconduct with a minor. In addition, if the adult knowingly or intentionally performs or submits to fondling or touching with a child 16 years of age or younger, with intent to arouse or to satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or themselves, they too commit sexual misconduct with a minor.
Although these two offenses may seem straightforward, the laws on sexual misconduct with a minor in Indiana do provide some statutory defenses. For example, it is a valid defense if the accused person reasonably believed that the child was at least 16 when the alleged conduct took place. Another applicable defense is that the child is or has been married. However, these two defenses are only applicable if no deadly force was threatened or used, no deadly weapon was present, and/or the child was not given a controlled substance, unknowingly.
Age of Consent and Sexual Misconduct with a Minor in Indiana
One element of the Indiana sexual misconduct laws to take note of is the Romeo and Juliet law governing the age of consent. This means that although the age of consent in Indiana is 16, the law does allow younger persons, under some circumstances, to consent to sexual activity with their peers. Given this, a person may legally have consensual sex with a 14- or 15-year-old if all of the following elements apply to the situation:
- The person is no more than 4 years older than the victim
- Both parties are in an ongoing personal or dating relationship
- The sexual act was not committed by using (or threatening to use) deadly force
- The sexual act was not committed while armed with a deadly weapon
- The sexual act didn’t result in serious bodily injury to either party
- The sexual act was not committed as the result of drugging the other person without his or her knowledge or knowing the victim was drugged without their knowledge
- The sexual act was not committed by a person with substantial influence or in a position of authority over the victim
- The person does not have a record of another sex offense
- The person is not promoting prostitution
Penalties for Sexual Misconduct with a Minor in Indiana
At its lowest level, sexual misconduct with a minor in Indiana is considered to be a Level 6 felony. This occurs when an adult, over the age of 18 but under the age of 21, knowingly or intentionally performs or submits to fondling or touching with a child 16 years of age or younger. However, this charge can be elevated to a Level 5 felony if the older person is over the age of 21, and to a Level 2 felony if the offender used or threatened the use of deadly force, while armed with a deadly weapon. One can also be charged with a Level 2 felony for this offense if it was facilitated by providing the victim, without their knowledge, with a drug or controlled substance, or while knowing that the victim had been given a drug or controlled substance without their knowledge.
If the offense involved sexual intercourse, the penalties are much harsher. When an adult, over the age of 18 but under the age of 21, knowingly or intentionally performs or submits to sexual intercourse with a child 16 years of age or younger, they commit a Level 5 felony. If the offender is older than 21, they would then commit a Level 4 felony; and if the crime was committed using or threatening deadly force, while armed with a deadly weapon, or by providing the victim with a controlled substance without their knowledge, one would face charges of a Level 1 felony in Indiana. Per the Indiana Sentencing Guidelines, those convicted of a Level 1 felony would face the harshest sentence available by Indiana law, beyond a murder conviction.
Additional Penalties for Those Convicted of Sexual Misconduct with a Minor in Indiana
There are several different types of sex offenders in Indiana, including sex or violent offender, serious sex offender, sexually violent offender, and offender against children. Someone who has been convicted of sexual misconduct with a minor in Indiana may need to register as just one type of sex offender classification or several, depending on the circumstances of the offense and any other criminal convictions. However, at a minimum, anyone convicted of a Level 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 felony offense for sexual misconduct with a minor, must register as a sex or violent offender in Indiana, unless it was a Level 5 felony and the person is no more than four years older than the victim.
Once registered with the Indiana Sex or Violent Offender Registry makes various pieces of information about each offender public. This includes a photograph, name, aliases, age, and physical descriptors like height, weight, eye and hair color, prominent scars, and tattoos. It also lists the registrant’s offenses, current home, work, school, volunteer, and other residential addresses.
Registrants are required to report a variety of personal information (which can be found in Indiana Code 11-8-8-8) to local law enforcement, as well. The required details will vary case-by-case, but it could include any change to their current residence, legal name, or electronic usernames like instant messenger, social media, or mail. Finally, per Indiana Code 11-8-8-14, sex offenders must report in-person once a year to their local law enforcement authority in each location where they must register to be re-registered and photographed.
The Importance of Hiring an Experienced Sex Crimes Lawyer
Those charged with sexual misconduct with a minor in Indiana should understand that the prosecution will come at them aggressively and build the strongest case possible to secure their conviction and ensure a harsh sentence under Indiana law. And regardless of the prosecution’s success, the offender will certainly experience a massive hit to their reputation just from the allegations alone. Many individuals who have been charged or convicted of sex crimes in Indiana find it challenging to get a job, build a social life, or find a place to live. They also experience difficulties when trying to obtain government benefits or maintain custody or visitation rights over their children.
Given what’s at stake, those facing sex crime charges should invest in their future by hiring the best Indiana sex crimes lawyer possible. The only way to successfully navigate the trial process, minimize penalties, and/or avoid the most severe consequences is to have the counsel of an experienced attorney who knows how to identify the best course of action and the right kind of defense strategy to deploy.
How an Indiana Sex Crimes Lawyer Can Help the Accused
When someone is arrested for a sex crime in Indiana, it’s vital that they appropriately utilize their right to remain silent and notify the attending officers that they will not answer any questions without an attorney present. As soon as the opportunity presents itself, they should proceed by calling a criminal defense attorney and waiting for them to arrive before engaging in conversation with anyone, even other inmates.
The events that follow an arrest for a sex crime are the same as any other criminal offense. Before the criminal trial in Indiana, the accused (now the defendant) will attend an initial hearing where, per Indiana Code 35-33-7-5, the judge must inform them of the specific charges they face, as well as their rights. At this point, the defendant will have the opportunity to enter a plea, such as guilty or not guilty. Once the initial hearing has concluded, the defense counsel and the prosecution will begin investigation and discovery. During this phase, the two opposing parties will obtain evidence and witnesses and share this information with one another. Each side may also file pre-trial motions in an attempt to suppress evidence or testimony that was illegally obtained.
Common Defense Strategies for Allegations of Sexual Misconduct with a Minor
One common defense that Indiana sex crime lawyers employ is mistaken identity. The reason being is that trauma can have a rather significant impact on an individual’s memory. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for a victim to mistakenly identify the offender when looking at a police lineup or photo array. In addition, if there is any reasonable belief that mistaken identity could be a factor in the case, the prosecution must pursue another avenue just to prove that the defendant did, in fact, commit the crime.
Another common defense is demonstrating a false accusation, as these happen each and every day, all around the country. This defense strategy involves an incredible amount of evidence gathering, often requiring video evidence, eyewitness testimony, and even location data from cell phones and other mobile devices. While this may seem daunting, a skilled defense attorney will certainly be up to the task.
Lack of intent or mistaken belief is another strategy commonly used to defend those charged with sexual misconduct with a minor in Indiana. In fact, the attorney may even be able to utilize the related statutory defense made available in Indiana Code 35-42-4-9 (c), which states that “it is a defense that the accused person reasonably believes that the child was at least 16 years of age at the time of the conduct.”
Facing Allegations of Sexual Misconduct with a Minor in Indiana?
If you or a loved one is facing allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor in Indiana, it’s imperative that you speak with an experienced Indiana sex crimes attorney as soon as possible. While everything might feel really heavy right now, it’s best to get started building your defense early in the criminal process. To speak with one of our Indianapolis attorneys today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. Our criminal defense lawyers have handled dozens of cases just like this and are prepared to do whatever it takes to protect your reputation, minimize your penalties, or, if possible, have the charges against you dropped altogether.