Can You Go to Jail for Kissing a Minor in Utah?
While police and prosecutors across Utah take all criminal actions seriously, perhaps none are taken quite as seriously as crimes committed against children, particularly those of a sexual nature. If convicted of a sexual crime against a child, you will face not only face penalties like serious jail time and high fines, but also the long-term consequences of being a convicted child sex offender. Of course, not everyone who is accused of sexual behavior toward a minor is guilty of a sex crime. Often, folks have questions about whether kissing a minor can get you arrested and convicted of a sexual assault-type crime in Utah. Below, our experienced Utah criminal defense attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC explains whether kissing a minor can be a crime in Utah, and what to do if you are accused of any sort of sexual crime involving a minor.
Potential Criminal Charges for Kissing a Minor in Utah
As with most things, whether you can be criminally charged and potentially go to jail for kissing a minor depends on a number of factors, the most important of which is context. For example, if the minor in question is your beloved niece, and you gave her a kiss at her birthday party, this is almost certainly not going to be chargeable as any sort of criminal activity. Generally, where criminal activity may be charged is when the kiss occurs non-consensually with someone who is clearly not comfortable with it, or when the kiss is less a peck on the lips that a “French kiss” and is perhaps part of a more serious sexual assault of a minor.
If, for example, you go up to a young child in a park and kiss them on the lips out of nowhere, this may be criminal conduct. However, it is probably (although not certainly) not enough to get you charged with a sex crime like sexual assault. Instead, you might be charged with simple assault, harassment, disorderly conduct, or another such crime.
If you are “making out” with a minor, however, this could perhaps be considered “sexual touching with the intent to arouse or sexually gratify either or both parties.” If the minor was 16 or 17, the potentially applicable charge would be “unlawful sexual conduct,” and if the minor was 14 or 15, the charge would be called “sexual abuse of a minor.” In either case, the charge would be a class A misdemeanor unless something classifiable as more than mere touching occurred. If the minor involved was under 14, the charge would be a third-degree felony called “sexual abuse of a child.”
If convicted of a class A misdemeanor like unlawful sexual conduct or sexual abuse of a minor, you could face one year in prison, a fine of as much as $2,500, or both. If convicted of a third-degree felony like sexual abuse of a child, this is punishable by at least one year, and up to 15 year, in prison, a fine of as much as $10,000, or both. Furthermore, you could face additional serious repercussions that come with having a sex crimes conviction on your record, including potentially having to register as a sex offender.
How A Skilled Utah Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help if You Are Accused of a Crime Involving Kissing a Minor
After your arrest, you will be taken to the local police station for the booking process, which involves you being fingerprinted and photographed and your biographical information being collected. Then, you will be kept in the station’s holding cell or transported to the local detention facility until your bail hearing and initial appearance can be held, usually within 72 hours at most, but often much sooner. You will definitely want a skilled Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer by your side for these appearances, which is why it is vital to reach out to us as soon as possible after you have been arrested so we have the time to prepare and make the appearance.
At the initial appearance, the charges against you will be read and the judge will explain your rights during the criminal case process, including the right to an attorney if you do not already have one. In misdemeanor cases, the arraignment, where you enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, also occurs at the initial appearance. An experienced attorney for a criminal arraignment like those at Overson Law, PLLC is likely to advise you to enter an initial plea of not guilty while we collect all the evidence and assess the strength of the case against you. At the bail hearing, a judge will decide if you can be released and, if so, whether bail should be set and what amount its should be set at. Our battle-tested Utah bail hearing attorneys know how to make the most persuasive arguments for you to be released on little to no bail.
In felony cases, there may be a preliminary hearing where the prosecutor must show probable cause, and the formal arraignment will occur after this. Once you have been arraigned and bail has been settled, our skilled attorneys will turn their attention to filing any necessary motions like a motion to exclude evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search and seizure, and begin negotiating with the prosecutor to get the charges dismissed or downgraded to something less serious in exchange for you entering a guilty plea. Some first-time offenders charged with low-level crimes may be eligible for pre-trial diversion, which, if completed successfully, will result in the charges being dropped. If you do not wish to take a deal or are not satisfied with the deals offered, we are always ready and able to take your case to trial and fight for a not guilty verdict.
If You Have Been Charged with a Crime Involving Kissing a Minor, Call Our Battle-Tested Attorneys Today
While there are some instances where kissing a minor can be charged as criminal activity, in other situations, it is not so clear if the conduct reaches the level of a crime. As such, if you have been charged with a crime resulting from kissing a minor, you should reach out to an experienced Salt Lake City sex crime defense lawyer like those at Overson Law, PLLCC today. We can work to tell your side of the story and fight to get the charges downgraded or dismissed so that you can avoid the most serious potential penalties like jail time. For a free consultation, call us today at (801) 758-2287.