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Nassau County Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree

N.Y. Pen. Law § 130.55

Sexual abuse in the third degree is one of three sexual abuse offenses defined in New York Penal Law. It is the least severe sexual abuse crime. You will face this charge if you subject another person to sexual contact without that person's consent. It is a Class B misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 130.55. Even though sexual abuse in the third degree is a misdemeanor, you must keep in mind that not only is it still a crime, it is still a sex crime. This means that if you are convicted of this crime, even if you do not end up incarcerated for long, you will have a criminal record, and you may have to register as a sex offender. For these reasons, if you are arrested and charged with sexual abuse in the third degree, it is critical that you take this misdemeanor charge seriously and immediately contact an experienced Nassau County Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree Lawyer who will explain to you your legal options and aggressively defend you until the case is resolved.

Definition of Sexual Contact

Under the sex crimes statute, "sexual contact" has a very specific meaning. In order for you to be charged with sexual abuse in the third degree, you must have subjected the other person to "sexual contact." Unlike sexual intercourse, sexual contact does not require the penis to penetrate the vagina. And unlike the crime of sexual act, the crime of sexual abuse the not require anal sexual conduct or oral sexual conduct. It requires the touching of the sexual or intimate parts of another person for sexual gratification. N.Y. Pen. Law § 130.00(3). Sexual or intimate parts are not specifically defined in the statute. However, defendants have been convicted of sexual abuse after touching another person's vagina, penis, anus, rectum, buttocks, breasts, lips and mouth. Ejaculating on another person is also type of sexual contact.

Gratifying Sexual Desire

You cannot be convicted for sexual abuse in the third degree unless the purpose of the touching was to gratify sexual desire. Courts will consider the circumstances surrounding the incident to determine whether or not the purpose of the touching was to gratify sexual desire. In many cases where a defendant is charged with sexual abuse, the victim is minor, a stranger, or is intoxicated, and there would be no other reason for the defendant to touch the genitalia or other intimate part other than for sexual gratification.

The Arrest and Arraignment

The New York criminal justice system is complex, involving several steps from the time you are arrested until your case is resolved. Upon arrest you will be taken to the local police precinct for initial processing. The arresting officer will record details such as your name, address, and social security number. You will be fingerprinted and your "mug shot" will be taken. Because sexual abuse in the third degree is a misdemeanor, you may be given a Desk Appearance Ticket and told when you must go to court of your arraignment hearing. If you are not given a Desk Appearance Ticket you will be transferred from the local precinct to Central Booking will you remain until your arraignment.

While you are awaiting arraignment the District Attorney's Office will review the facts of your case, as well as your personal background and criminal history. The prosecutor will also prepare the criminal complaint. At your arraignment you will learn of the charges against you. You may be charged with sexual abuse in the third degree, or based on what the prosecutor has learned about the case while you were awaiting arraignment, the prosecutor may decide to charge you with additional crimes. For example, you could also be charged with forcible touching or criminal sexual act. At your arraignment you will learn whether or not bail will be required.

Because sexual abuse in the third degree is a misdemeanor, you will be allowed to plead guilty or not guilty at the arraignment hearing. If you are released on bail, you will be required to return to court for each of your hearings and for the trial. Otherwise the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest.

The prosecutor will offer you a plea agreement that may involve you pleading guilty to a lesser charge. For example, in People v. Abdullah, 960 N.Y.S.2d 51 (2012), the defendant who was charged with sexual abuse in the third degree agreed to plead guilty to harassment in the second degree, which is a violation and not a misdemeanor. If you are unable to come to an agreement with the prosecutor, then your case will eventually go to trial.


Because sexual abuse in the third degree is a Class B misdemeanor, if you are convicted the maximum possible sentence that you will receive is 3 months in jail. Your sentence could also include a probation term of 6 years. There are a number of factors that the judge will consider in determining your sentence such as information about the victim, your personal background, and your criminal history. If you are a first time offender your sentence will be less severe than if you have a criminal history. Keep in mind, however, that if you are convicted of other criminal offenses in addition to sexual abuse in the third degree your sentence could be substantially more severe.

If your sentence includes probation the term will be six years since sexual abuse in the third degree is both a misdemeanor and is also a sex crime. You will be required to follow several rules as part of the conditions of your probation. They will vary from person to person depending on what the court deems necessary to ensure that you do not get into trouble while on probation and may include that you must:

  • Refrain from frequenting disreputable places
  • Refrain from associated with people who have criminal backgrounds
  • Have a job or diligently seek one
  • Undergo medical or psychiatric treatment
  • Complete a substance abuse program
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol excessively or taking controlled substances
  • Support your family

In addition, you will be required to regularly report to your probation officer, seek permission before leaving New York State, and notify the probation department if you move of change jobs. N.Y. Pen. Law § 65.10.

Even though it is a Class B misdemeanor, sexual abuse in the third degree is a registrable offense under the New York Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). N.Y. Cor. Law § 168. After you are sentenced you must register certain personal information with a designated law enforcement agency which will keep the information in a sex offender database. A hearing will be held to determine your sex offender risk level: Level 1, 2 or 3. This hearing is critical because if you are determined to be a Level 1 offender you will have to register for 20 years. Otherwise, you will have to register for the rest of your life.

Even though sexual abuse in the third degree is a misdemeanor, it is still a crime and it is still a sex offense. A conviction will cause many aspects of your life to become much more difficult, including your family relationships and your career. The staff at Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with sex crimes such as sexual abuse in the first, second and third degrees, forcible touching, sexual misconduct, criminal sexual act, forcible sexual conduct against child, and facilitating a sexual offense with a controlled substance. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.

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