Sex Crimes Law

Sex Crime Law

Sex crimes may be prosecuted as criminal offenses, but they may also form the basis for civil recovery. Sex crimes include a number of different crimes with very specific definitions. They may be prosecuted at the state or federal level. These crimes often arise when violence occurs during a sexual act or when there is a lack of consent to a sex act.

Sex crimes may fall into two general categories: forcible and non-forcible. Forcible sex crimes include rape and sexual battery. Non-forcible sex crimes may include obscenity or possession of pornography charges. A sex crime may be committed when one person perpetuates a sex act on someone in an offensive manner. Sexual assault occurs when an unwanted sexual act is performed on a victim without the victim’s consent. Force may or may not be used. Force may be defined under state law as involving the use or threat of a weapon, physical battery or threatening the lives of others. The individual may verbalize that he or she does not consent to the sex act or may not have the ability to consent due to a disabling medical condition, age or incapacitation due to drugs or alcohol. Illegal sexual contact without consent may involve unwanted penetration, groping or sexual touching.

Some sex crimes include:

• Molestation of a child • Indecent exposure • Rape • Aggravated sexual assault • Lewd and lascivious acts • Prostitution • Human trafficking • Sexual abuse of a child • Incest • Kidnapping • Other crimes with a sexual element

Certain sex crimes are considered crimes against children. These offenses often result in more serious penalties. Due to the vulnerability of the victim, these crimes are often associated with a negative social stigma, and prosecutors often seek maximum sentencing against individuals convicted of these crimes. Children who are under the age of consent cannot legally provide consent, so this is not usually a viable defense in these cases. A crime may still be considered a crime involving children even when the defendant is close to the age of the child. Sex crimes involving children include such offenses as lewd and lascivious acts against a minor, molestation, child pornography and statutory rape.

Other sex crimes may arise from inappropriate sexual acts or conduct that are committed in a public space or are considered morally reprehensible even if they do not involve acts committed on others. For example, a charge of public indecency may apply when a person exposes himself or herself in a sexual way that is inappropriate to be viewed by the public. Prostitution charges may arise when a person sells sex even when both parties are able to consent to the sexual acts. Sex crimes are often prosecuted at the state level. Each state has its own laws regarding what is considered a sex crime as well as its own statute of limitations that places a time limit on how long a prosecutor has to pursue criminal charges. Some sex crimes may rise to the criminal level and are enumerated in Title 18 of the United States Code. Sex crimes may be considered federal they involve taking someone across state lines, conducting acts in multiple states, human trafficking or child pornography.

Additional federal sex crimes include:

• Production of sexually explicit depictions of minors for the purpose of importing them into the United State • Distribution or receipt of child pornography • Transporting an individual across state lines with the intent to engage him or her in prostitution • Using interstate facilities to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 with the intent to entice or solicit a minor to engage in sexual activity

Sex crimes include very serious consequences. A person who is convicted of a sex crime may face years imprisonment. He or she may be required to pay restitution to the victim and fines. He or she may also be sentenced to years of probation or parole during which time he or she cannot participate in certain behaviors. Individuals convicted of sex crimes are often required to register as sex offenders, sometimes for life. This requirement can have significant consequences to the defendant and may bar him or her from living in certain areas or being accepted into certain housing programs. It can also impact his or her career options and educational pursuits. Failing to register as a sex offender can lead to additional charges and consequences.

In addition to the criminal consequences of being convicted of a sex crime, defendants may also face civil lawsuits based on their conduct. Victims may be able to recover damages for the injuries that they suffered, pain and suffering and for psychological counseling.

Below find a list of resources for defendants and victims, including state-specific information and treatment options.

Sex Crimes or Sexual Offenses are often divided in two main areas, Forcible Sex Offenses, such as rape and sexual assault and Non Forcible Offenses which include, obscenity, indecent exposure and obscenity among others. Federal and state statutes regulate these offenses.

To consult State Legislation regarding sex crime laws and regulations please see the Criminal Code by State page.

Know Your Rights!

  • Bizarre American Sex Crimes Laws

    Every state is responsible for passing laws regarding local standards for moral conduct. As a result, each state has enacted its own laws regarding sex crimes. Most are common to every jurisdiction, such as laws prohibiting rape, sexual contact with minors, and public exposure. But some laws are so unique and so inexplicable that they are worth review.

  • Nudity and Public Decency Laws in America

    What are the laws affecting public nudity?

  • Prostitution in the United States

    Prostitution is one of those legal issues that creates an intense debate and will likely remain an issue in America for years to come.

  • Sex Offenders and Predators

    Sadly, the news is constantly filled with reports of various sex crimes, like rape, teachers having sex with underage students, and child pornography rings. Another frequent story is that of the sex offender or predator who offends again and hurts somebody. But what is the truth behind sex offenders and predators? Which crimes will result in registration? How can you find out about sex offenders near you? Just how big of a threat do these people pose?

  • What Can You Do if Someone Falsely Accuses You of Rape?

    It is an ugly reality, but it is known to happen: petty people misusing the very serious charge of rape as a way to gain an upper hand, get revenge, or otherwise harm another person. The results of such a false accusation can be devastating, even if the person wrongfully accused is ultimately acquitted. So, what can the innocent person do in such a case? What are the consequences to the false accuser?


  • What To Do if You Are Arrested or Under Criminal Investigation
    If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges or a criminal investigation, you need to be very careful and smart in how you conduct yourself. Your freedom and life may be on the line. It is in times like these that the advice of experienced counsel should be sought out and followed. The police and prosecutors have tremendous resources and are not your side.
  • What Is a Subpoena? Can You Refuse to Testify?
    People who receive a subpoena for a criminal matter often wonder if they can ignore the subpoena or refuse to testify. Neither is advisable.
  • Computer Expert Witness and Alternative Reasons for Possession of Child Porn
    There are rare occurrences where a defendant in a criminal case of possession of child pornography may have a defensible strategy, and these situations often lead to the hiring of a computer expert witness to corroborate. With the expert witness, the defendant may prove that he or she has no intention of obtaining such material, and the circumstances will excuse him from the charges.
  • Combatting Sexual Harassment after #MeToo Movement
    In October 2017, an actress launched a social media campaign to draw the public’s attention to sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood. The movement arose during a time when a well-noted Hollywood producer was being accused of serious sexual harassment.
  • Minnesota's Order for Protection (OFP)
    Understanding the Order for Protection (OFP) and your rights can be critical to your future.
  • Sexual Assault Laws in Pennsylvania
    Pennsylvania has a variety of laws that prohibit criminal sexual assault. These laws define criminal conduct and the potential penalties that can arise if a person is convicted of a sexual assault offense. Understanding the nature of the charges against a defendant is integral to protecting one’s legal rights.
  • The Rights of Those Falsely Accused of Sexual Assault in California
    In late 2017, a widespread “#MeToo” campaign tore across the country, highlighting multiple incidents of high-profile assaults committed by actors, CEOs of large corporations and other prominent members of the community. This campaign also caused millions of people across the country to reveal information about their own assaults and make accusations against people who may have never been confronted before.
  • Taking Your Name Off the Sex Offender Registry in Texas
    Texas allows some sex offenders to deregister from the sex offender registry. This strategy allows the sex offender to remove his or her name from the sex offender registry to live a more private and positive life.
  • Limitations of Being a Sex Offender in Illinois
    Being convicted of a sex offense in Illinois can lead to severe consequences. A conviction often means registration as a sex offender, which can result in significant consequences to all aspects of a defendant’s life. Understanding the significant ramifications can help a person realize the stakes at risk.
  • Basics of Possession of Child Pornography Charges in Florida
    Prosecutors in Florida and federal law enforcement agencies fight diligently to convict individuals who are found to be in possession of child pornography. Often, they refuse to plea these cases and will seek the maximum punishment possible. It is important for defendants to understand the nature of the charges against them and the potential penalties that can result from being found in possession of child pornography in Florida.
  • All Criminal Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Criminal Law including: arson, assault, battery, bribery, burglary, child abuse, child pornography, computer crime, controlled substances, credit card fraud, criminal defense, criminal law, drugs and narcotics, DUI, DWI, embezzlement, fraud, expungements, felonies, homicide, identity theft, manslaughter, money laundering, murder, perjury, prostitution, rape, RICO, robbery, sex crimes, shoplifting, theft, weapons, white collar crime and wire fraud.

Sex Crimes - US

  • DOJ - Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS)

    Welcome to the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) website. Created in 1987, the mission of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) is to protect the welfare of America’s children and communities by enforcing federal criminal statutes relating to the exploitation of children and obscenity.

  • FBI - Innocent Images National Initiative - Sex Crimes Against Children

    It’s heartbreaking—our nation’s children being lured away from their families by sexual predators using the Internet to disguise their intentions. We’re firmly committed to stopping these crimes through our Innocent Images National Initiative. Based in Maryland, it teams FBI agents and local police in proactive task forces around the country, where they work online undercover to investigate those who prey on children. Learn more here about our efforts and how you can help.

  • Florida Sexual Assault Law

    The penalties for conviction of sexual assault or sexual abuse in Florida are severe. Individuals who are being charged with a sex crime in Florida should be aware of the nature of the charges against them,

  • Forcible Sodomy Legislation

    Sodomy laws in the United States, laws primarily intended to outlaw certain sexual acts concerning sodomy, were historically pervasive, but have been invalidated by the 2003 Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas. While they were often originally intended to outlaw sex acts between homosexuals, many definitions were broad enough to make certain heterosexual acts illegal as well.

  • Indecent Exposure - Legal Status in the United States

    Indecent exposure is the deliberate exposure by a person of a portion or portions of his or her own body under circumstances where such an exposure is likely to be deemed an offense against prevalent standards of decency [1] and may in fact be a violation of law.

  • Non-Forcible Sex Offense - Polygamy Overview

    Polygamy, another non-forcible sex offense, is the crime of marrying more than one spouse while the marriage to a first spouse is still valid and existing. Bigamy is when a person has exactly two spouses at the same time. Bigamy per se consists simply of a person's attempt to marry another person while already married. Bigamy per se does not require a showing of living together as Husband and Wife or of sexual intercourse. Most statutes state that the person must know of the continued validity of the first marriage to be guilty of bigamy. Thus, if a woman reasonably believed that her husband was dead, which would have ended their marriage, she could marry another man without violating bigamy/polygamy statutes.

  • Sex Offenses - Incest

    Another sex-related offense is Incest (sexual intercourse with a close relative). Generally, laws against incest forbid sexual intercourse with those close relatives that the law forbids one from marrying.

  • Sex Offenses / Crimes - Definition

    Since the 1970s this area of the law has undergone significant changes and reforms. Although the commission of sex offenses is not new, public awareness and concern regarding sex offenses have grown, resulting in the implementation of new rules of evidence and procedure, new police methods and techniques, and new approaches to the investigation and prosecution of sex offenses.


  • Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers

    The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers is an international, multi-disciplinary organization dedicated to preventing sexual abuse. Through research, education, and shared learning ATSA promotes evidence based practice, public policy and community strategies that lead to the effective assessment, treatment and management of individuals who have sexually abused or are at risk to abuse.

  • California Sexual Assault Investigators Association (CSAIA)

    This Association exists to promote and increase constructive relationships between investigators throughout the state and nation in order to aid in the rapid dissemination of information, as well as to form contacts and liaisons to further assist in the apprehension of offenders. This is done through effective investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases in order to ensure that victims receive the highest level of service and sensitivity and that offenders procure the maximum measure of the law.

  • Center for Sex Offender Management (CSOM)

    CSOM is a national project that supports state and local jurisdictions in the effective management of sex offenders under community supervision. NIC and SJI, in collaboration with the American Probation and Parole Association, joined OJP in managing the project, and are devoting additional resources to support corrections professionals and the judiciary as they address this critical issue within their specific disciplines. The project is administered through a cooperative agreement between OJP and the Center for Effective Public Policy. A National Resource Group has been established to guide the activities of the project. The members of the National Resource Group include some of the country's leading experts and practitioners in the fields of sex offender management, treatment, and supervision.

  • Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW)

    The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Justice, is a cooperative effort between the Jurisdictions hosting public sex offender registries and the federal government. This Website is a search tool allowing a user to submit a single national query to obtain information about sex offenders through a number of search options

  • New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA)

    Formed in 1987 by rape crisis advocates as a mutual support group, the mission and purpose of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault rapidly evolved from basic networking. The Coalition grew to include technical assistance, resource development and policy advocacy for the more than 100 Rape Crisis programs, sister agencies and collaborators statewide that work with survivors of sexual violence and their families.

  • Parents For Megan's Law, Inc. (PFML)

    Parents For Megan's Law, Inc. (PFML) is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 community and victim's rights organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of sexual abuse through the provision of education, advocacy, counseling, victim services, policy and legislative support services. We staff the Local and National Megan's Law Help lines. We are a New York State Certified Rape Crisis Center and provide a 24 Hour Local Hotline. PFML has recently expanded its mission to include the new Crime Victims Center, a program designed to link all victims of violent crime with crime victim compensation and multi-agency referrals for support and assistance.

  • The Safer Society Foundation

    Safer Society Foundation is dedicated to eliminating sexual abuse so that all of us may enjoy safer communities, healthier families and happier lives. Our work focuses on providing resources to help create safer communities through prevention and effective public policy, provide victims with healing and restitution, and provide offenders with the tools to be accountable for their actions and to work towards rehabilitation. We address sexual offending as a public health issue and support efforts to find and implement evidence-based best practices for prevention, treatment, supervision and public policy.

  • Violence Against Women Online Resources (VAWOR)

    Violence Against Women Online Resources (VAWOR) is a collaborative project between the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse (MINCAVA), a center within the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota and the U.S.Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women. It is designed to operate as an information dissemination tool to provide resources to the general public, researchers, criminal justice practitioners, advocates, and social service professionals with the latest in research and promising practices regarding issues on violence against women.


  • Center for Sex Offender Management (CSOM) - FAQs and Related Information

    This page serves as an adjunct information warehouse for assessment tools, supervision protocols, sexual assault prevention resources, and reference materials that have been generated by both CSOM and other professionals in the field of sex offender management

  • OJJDP - Juveniles Who Commit Sex Offenses Against Minors

    The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention presents population-based epidemiological information about the characteristics of juvenile offenders who commit sex offenses against minors. The authors analyzed data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and provided topical statistics highlighting the fact that juveniles account for more than one-third (35.6 percent) of this type of offender. Findings may support the development of research-based interventions and policies to reduce sexual assault and child molestation as perpetrated by juvenile offenders.

  • Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) - Publications

    The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE and the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline at, and publicizes the hotline's free, confidential services; educates the public about sexual assault; and leads national efforts to prevent sexual assault, improve services to victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.

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