Indecent Liberties Charges
Indecent liberties are a category of sex crimes which cover most illegal sexual contact, regardless of whether sexual intercourse was involved in the case. In North Carolina, they are crimes that fall under Article 26 of North Carolina Criminal Law, which includes “offenses against public morality and decency.” Typically, these charges involve coerced sexual contact with an individual who is not considered capable of consent with the perpetrator, such as a minor.
While these charges are not as harsh as statutory rape charges, they are still treated as a very serious offense by law enforcement and prosecutors across the country and can result in lifelong consequences if convicted.
What are "Indecent Liberties"?
In North Carolina, indecent liberties charges are sex crimes that involve sexual contact with minors that are not otherwise classified as rape. According to North Carolina law, a person can be guilty of indecent liberties if he or she:
- Willfully takes or attempts to take any immoral, improper, or indecent liberties with any child of either sex under the age of 16 years for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire; or
- Willfully commits or attempts to commit any lewd or lascivious act upon or with the body or any part or member of the body of any child of either sex under the age of 16 years.
Based on the above, these charges represents a fairly broad set of illegal actions that do not necessarily involve any physical contact. It can include actions such as exposing one’s genitals to a child with sexual intent or attempting to propose or entice a child to engage in some form of sexual activity.
Types of Charges
These charges can be either a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on the details of the case. In all cases, it’s essential to understand the details of the charges and the potential lifelong consequences of a conviction beyond a prison sentence, including being placed on a sex offender registry for life.
Statutory law in North Carolina recognizes four different types of charges:
Taking Indecent Liberties with Children (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-202.1)
In North Carolina, there is a statutory law defined as “taking indecent liberties with children.” Generally speaking, under the language of the statute (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-202.1), there are two different ways in which a person can commit this crime.
If a person is 16 and at least five years older than the child in question, the person can be guilty of this crime if he or she does one of the following:
- Takes indecent liberties with any child for the purpose of arousing sexual desire; or
- Commits lewd or lascivious act upon a child under the age of 16.
This crime is punishable as a Class F felony offense. If convicted, the punishment could include up to 62 months in prison, and requires being placed on the sex offender registry.
Indecent Liberties Between Children (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-202.2)
When these offenses are committed by a person who is under the age of 16, then that person can be charged with “indecent liberties between children” (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-202.2). A conviction is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor offense and could include up to 120 days imprisonment. Those convicted of this offense are not required to be placed on the sex offender registry.
Taking Indecent Liberties with a Student (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-202.4)
In some situations where sexual contact occurs between a teacher or school administrator and a student, the teacher or administrator can be charged with “taking indecent liberties with a student” (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-202.4). This type of crime can be classified as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances.
If the school personnel member is in a position of authority, is at least four years older than the victim, and takes indecent liberties with a victim who is a student, the defendant is guilty of a Class I felony. Consent is not a defense to these charges. This offense is defined in the same way they are under the statutory language of “taking indecent liberties with children,” but this charge typically involves a defendant who is a teacher or other school official.
A conviction requires a defendant to register as a sex offender.
A person is guilty of this offense if he or she is a member of school personnel, but not a teacher, school administrator, student teacher, school safety officer or coach, and takes indecent liberties with a student while being less than four years older than the student. This is a Class A1 misdemeanor with a maximum possible punishment of 150 days imprisonment. Conviction of this offense does not require sex offender registration.
How do we Defend these Charges?
When facing these charges in North Carolina, the state has the burden of proof to establish that, beyond any reasonable doubt, you have committed every aspect of the crime in order to convict you. However, due to the broad nature of these crimes, these cases can often come down to “he said/she said” testimonies and what the court deems to constitute sexual intent. No matter how unusual or absurd the charges may seem, it’s critical to contact an experienced sex crime defense attorney to build up a solid defense for your case. Everything from possible concurrent or past charges against you to courtroom demeanor can play a role in your outcome, but the most important aspect that you can control is hiring a skilled attorney to be on your side.