What is Sexual Abuse of a Minor?
In Utah, sexual abuse of a minor applies only to victims who are minors who are either 14 or 15 years old and to perpetrators who are at least 4 years older than the minor. For children 13 and younger or 16 and 17-year-olds, other laws apply and the consequences vary in their severity.
So what is sexual abuse of a minor? Essentially it is the unlawful touching by an adult of the private areas of a minor, specifically the anus, buttocks, genitals or female breasts and said touching must be skin-to-skin contact. See State v. Leota, 455 P.3d 1087, 1091 (UT. App. 2019). Said touching, however, cannot fall under another sexual crime such as rape, object rape (the penetration of the anus or vagina by a foreign object including fingers), forcible sodomy (nonconsensual oral or anal sex), aggravated sexual assault, or statutory rape. See Utah Code 76-4-401.1.
But there is also a second provision that constitutes sexual abuse of a minor. Any time an adult takes “indecent liberties” with a minor with the intent to either cause the minor “substantial emotional or bodily pain” or with the intent to sexually gratify any person, he commits sexual abuse of a minor. The indecent liberties provision is most often associated with over the clothing touching, which can constitute sexual abuse of a minor if “considering all the surrounding circumstances, the conduct is comparable to the touching that is specifically prohibited.” See Leota at 1091. But it is not only over the clothing touching to which the indecent liberties prong applies. It covers any “sexual misconduct of equal gravity” to the skin-to-skin contact prohibited. See State v. Jacobs, 144 P.3d 226, 230 (UT. App. 2006); see also Utah Code 76-4-407 which reiterates that touching through the clothing is sufficient to constitute sexual abuse of a minor. Further, the Legislature has clearly defined “indecent liberties” in Utah Code 76-5-416 which includes any touching of the victim’s private areas and causing the victim to touch the perpetrator’s private areas.
For an adult under 21 years of age the Legislature has created a lower offense, making it only a class A misdemeanor and a non-registerable offense (sex offender registry) assuming it was the first offense. But for those adults 21-years-old and older or for 18, 19, and 20-year-olds who have more than one offense, the offense is a felony and a registerable sex offense.
These are serious charges. If you’re being investigated for sexual abuse of a minor or have already been charged it is imperative that you have competent and experienced defense on your side. Call us at 801-413-1753 for a free consultation of you’re facing such charges.