Sexual abuse and aggravated sexual abuse are serious sex crimes in New York, carrying the potential to be charged as violent felonies. If the defendant is convicted, he or she will face mandatory prison terms due to special sentencing guidelines which apply to violent felony offenses in New York.
What is the Maximum Prison Term if I’m Convicted of Sexual Abuse in NY?
Like many states, New York classifies criminal offenses as misdemeanors or felonies, with the latter carrying longer terms of incarceration. New York further divides felonies and misdemeanors into “classes” and “degrees”: for example, rape in the third degree is a Class E felony. (For more detailed information on rape charges, please see our article on New York sentencing guidelines for rape.) Additionally, felonies can be classified as “violent” or “non-violent.” These distinctions have a major impact on the minimum penalties a convicted offender will ultimately face.
There are three levels to non-aggravated sexual abuse charges in New York:
- Third Degree – Class B Misdemeanor (NY Penal Law § 130.55)
- Second Degree – Class A Misdemeanor (NY Penal Law § 130.60)
- First Degree – Class D Violent Felony (NY Penal Law § 130.65)
Sexual abuse is always a misdemeanor when charged in the third or second degree – otherwise, it is a violent felony offense. We will discuss the consequences of a violent felony conviction in the next section, but first, let’s quickly go over jail sentencing for a misdemeanor conviction in New York.
Under NY Penal Law § 70.15, a Class B misdemeanor can result in a three month jail sentence. Class A misdemeanors – the most serious misdemeanors under New York’s laws – can result in a sentence of one year: quadruple the jail time an offender would receive for a Class B misdemeanor.
What if the Charges Are Aggravated? Will I Face Mandatory Minimum Sentencing?
Numerous offenses have an “aggravated” version, such as aggravated assault (as opposed to non-aggravated or “simple” assault). A crime is “aggravated” if aggravating factors were present during its commission. Aggravating factors can vary from one offense to another. For example, with regard to sexual abuse, insertion of a foreign object into the victim’s body is an aggravating factor.
Aggravated sexual abuse charges can be graded four different ways under New York’s criminal statutes:
- Fourth Degree – Class E Violent Felony (NY Penal Law § 130.65a)
- Third Degree – Class D Violent Felony (NY Penal Law § 130.66)
- Second Degree – Class C Violent Felony (NY Penal Law § 130.67)
- First Degree – Class B Violent Felony (NY Penal Law § 130.70)
Aggravated charges are more serious than their non-aggravated counterparts: for example, notice how third degree aggravated sexual abuse and first degree sexual abuse are both Class D felonies.
Non-violent felonies are subject to indeterminate sentencing, meaning the case will periodically be reviewed by a parole board, and the inmate might be able to get out of prison early (be “paroled”) for good behavior and other factors. However, violent felonies like aggravated sexual assault and first degree sexual assault are subject to determinate sentencing in accordance with NY Penal Law § 70.00(6), which provides that “when a person is sentenced as a violent felony offender… the court must impose a determinate sentence of imprisonment.”
Unlike an indeterminate sentence, a portion of a determinate sentence is fixed at a set number of years prior to which parole is not a possibility. Therefore, receiving a determinate sentence is similar to receiving a mandatory minimum sentence. NY Penal Law § 70.02(3) provides the following mandatory terms for violent felonies (with some exceptions, such as third degree weapons possession, which carries a longer-than-normal determinate term):
- Class E Violent Felony – Sentence must be at least 1.5 years, no more than 4 years.
- Class D Violent Felony – Sentence must be at least 2 years, no more than 7 years.
- Class C Violent Felony – Sentence must be at least 3.5 years, no more than 15 years.
- Class B Violent Felony – Sentence must be at least 5 years, no more than 25 years.
If these felonies were non-violent, the sentences would be shorter – or even nonexistent. For example, someone who is convicted of a Class D non-violent felony in New York, such as third degree robbery or third degree grand larceny, might not serve any prison time at all and be placed on probation instead.
Contact a Queens Criminal Defense Lawyer with the Right Knowledge and Experience
The severity with which violent felonies are penalized in New York underscores the importance of being represented by a knowledgeable and aggressive criminal defense lawyer who has extensive experience handling sex offenses. You can be certain the prosecutor is already building a case against you, so don’t wait to begin preparing your defense. To set up a free, completely confidential legal consultation with an experienced sexual abuse attorney, call the law offices of Sullivan & Galleshaw at (800) 730-0135 right away. It is never too early in the morning or too late at night to contact us for a free consultation.