What is the Legal Definition of Forcible Touching?
The legal definition for forcible touching was first addressed when the act was formally added to New York’s Sexual Assault Reform Act on February 1, 2001. The addition was prompted by events that occurred on June 13 of the previous year. At that time, non-consensual touching occurred in Central Park after a parade. This led to change in the New York Penal Law that provide the definition that’s still in use today.
Forcible touching is defined as intimate touching that is intentional, done without consent, and takes place for reasons like the gratification of the perpetrator or the abusing or debasement of the victim. It also covers touching that is done under some sort of threat or other form of coercion.
This definition does not include touching that is found to be consensual and involves two or more consenting adults. Accidental or unintentional touching is also outside the scope of forcible touching. The role of the Court is to hear the facts of the case and determine if there was intent on the part of the perpetrator or if the touching was the result of events outside the control of the accused party.
What are the Laws That Have to Do With Forcible Touching?
There are areas of the New York Penal Law that have to do with forcible touching. Each provision helps to define the nature of this sex crime and lay out the essentials for determining if the event involved accidental touching or was in fact intentional.
New York Penal Law 130 provides much of the basis for pursuing action against this type of crime. Specifically, NYPL 130.52 will be important in terms of determining if what occurred was a crime. The text of this section confirms that forcible touching has occurred when it was done intentionally and out of a desire to subjugate or intimidate the victim in some manner. It also defines forcible touching as an action that occurs for the purpose of providing the perpetrator with some degree of sexual satisfaction, with no regard to the wishes of the victim.
The laws further define the touching as taking place on any area of the body that is considered to be intimate. That would include the genitalia, the buttocks, or the breasts or chest. Even areas like the neck or shoulders may be considered intimate areas.
What Does Consent Have to Do With Forcible Touching?
A key element in determining whether forcible touching took place has to do with consent. Further, the consent has to be given without any type of coercion. That consent must be clear, with no room left for doubt. In other words, unless the recipient of the touching has provided an unequivocal yes to the activity, the touching is likely to fall under the definition of forcible consent.
Along with establishing intent, consent is one of the primary factors in determining if forcible touching did take place. The Court is likely to require that both of these points be addressed in full by both the prosecution and the defense.
Who Can Be a Victim of Forcible Touching?
Many people assume that females alone may be considered victims of forcible touching. That’s not the case. People of all genders may be victims.
Males, females, and those who do not identify with the traditional binary gender roles may find themselves in situations where unwelcome touching takes place. When those events happen, determining if there was any nefarious intent on the part of the perpetrator is key to deciding if a crime took place.
Examples of Forcible Touching
All incidents of forcible touching are intentional. This type of activity can occur in a number of settings. Here are some examples that are among the more common.
Intentional and non-consensual touching in a crowded space, such as on public transportation or in an elevator, can occur. Clubs and other entertainment venues may also make it easier for perpetrators to initiate touching like using the hands to grope the buttocks or run the hands over the chest. It may also be possible to use the hands to quickly grope the genitals. In these scenarios, the hope of the perpetrator is that the victim will assume the touching is accidental, due to the lack of available space.
Forcible touching may also occur in the workplace. This may involve using authority over a subordinate to initiate the touching. This may involve the implied or the expressed threat that reporting the activity would lead to a job loss or other repercussions in the workplace.
The forcible touching may also occur in a private residence. The perpetrator could be a relative or friend who commits the act and then uses coercion to prevent the victim from telling anyone about what happened.
What the Court Could Decide
Forcible touching is a Class A misdemeanor under current New York laws. Unlike some other misdemeanors, there are no provisions for extending a non-criminal plea with this type of sex crime. That’s true even if the convicted party is a first-time offender.
If convicted, the Court could determine that the perpetrator will serve up to one year in jail. There may also be fines involved. Probation for up to one year is also a possibility. The Court may also order the convicted party to perform community service for a specified period of time. If the victim is under the age of 18, the convicted party will be required to register as a sexual offender.
Do not take an accusation of forcible touching lightly. If such a charge is leveled, seek legal counsel immediately. Given how a conviction can affect your life now and in the years to come, it makes sense to establish that your actions were not intentional and that you had no wish to coerce or otherwise dominate the victim.