23 Jun 20

NY Penal Law § 130.55: Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree

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Last Updated on: 5th August 2023, 01:15 am

NY Penal Law § 130.55: Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree

Sexual abuse in the third degree is one of the trio of sexual abuse offenses defined in New York law. It is the least severe of the sexual abuse crimes. You will face this charge under New York Penal Code section 130.55 if you subject another individual to sexual contact without that person’s consent. This crime is a class B misdemeanor. While it is a misdemeanor and not a felony, sexual abuse is nonetheless a sex crime.


For you to be charged with sexual abuse in the third degree, you need to have subjected the other person to “sexual contact.”  Sexual contact, as opposed to sexual intercourse, does not require that thepenis penetrates the vagina. Also, unlike the crime of criminal sexual act, the crime of sexual abuse does not necessitate anal sexual conduct or oral sexual conduct. What it does require is touching the sexual or intimate parts of another person for sexual gratification. Sexual or intimate parts are not clearly delineated in the statute. Nevertheless,  defendants have been handed convictions for sexual abuse when they have touched another person’s vagina, penis, anus, rectum, buttocks, breasts, lips and mouth. Ejaculating on another individual is also a type of sexual contact.



A male passenger on a crowded subway train was observed by two plain-clothes police officers positioning himself behind a woman in the subway car. He was seen bending his knees until his pelvis was at the same level with the woman’s buttocks. Suddenly, he thrust his groin against the woman, taking advantage of the motion of the train to move back and forth. When the police arrested him they noticed that the man had an erection and a wet stain on the groin area of his pants. That passenger could be prosecuted for sexual abuse in the third since not only did he touch an intimate part of the victim- her buttocks, he also ejaculated, which proves sexual gratification. Indeed, this passenger could also face a charge of forcible touching under New York Penal Code section 130.52.


Offenses that are Related

Forcible touching: New York Penal Code section 130.52

Sexual misconduct: New York Penal Code section 130.20


Possible Defenses

Much like any other sex crime, there could be defenses that might help your case. For example, if you can demonstrate that the sexual contact was consensual or unintentional, then you have a good defense. Other defenses may be available on the basis of the specific facts of your case.



Since sexual abuse in the third degree is a class B misdemeanor, if you get convicted the maximum sentence that you could possibly receive is 3 months in jail. The sentence could also include a  6 year probation term.


Sexual abuse in the third degree is a registrable offense under the New York Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) even though it is a class B misdemeanor. After you get sentenced, you need to register certain personal details with a designated law enforcement agency which will retain the information in a sex offender database. A hearing is held to assign you asex offender risk level: Level 1, 2 or 3. This hearing is very important, because if you are determined to be a Level 1 offender, you will be obligated to register for 20 years. For the other two levels, you will have to register for the rest of your life.