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  • Can a Minor Be Charged with Sexual Abuse?

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    Can a Minor Be Charged with Sexual AbuseYes, a minor can face sexual abuse charges in New Mexico, despite their youth. The law does not give a child a free pass based on age. In fact, every sexual assault charge is incredibly serious, and the consequences of a conviction could ruin a child’s future. 

    A child facing sexual abuse charges needs a tough and aggressive lawyer to fight their case. At the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, we aggressively pursue strategic defenses for all of our clients. We could put you and your child in a position to achieve a favorable outcome. Contact us today.

    What Sexual Abuse Crimes Can a Minor Be Charged With?

    Can a minor be charged with sexual abuse? It comes as a surprise to many that a minor can face most of the same sexual abuse charges as adults. Charges minors can face include:

    • Criminal sexual penetration,
    • Criminal sexual contact with a minor, 
    • Aggravated indecent exposure, and
    • Indecent exposure. 

    Law enforcement could also include other non-sex abuse charges with sex abuse offenses.

    Criminal Sexual Penetration

    Criminal sexual penetration is sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, or anal intercourse to whatever extent. The definition includes penetration with an object but excludes bona fide medical procedures. 

    Aggravated Criminal Sexual Penetration

    Aggravated criminal penetration occurs when criminal sexual penetration happens to a child under 13 with an intent to kill or with a depraved mind that disregards the value of human life. The basic sentence for this offense under New Mexico law is life imprisonment.

    First-Degree Criminal Sexual Penetration

    Criminal sexual penetration in the first degree occurs when the perpetrator sexually penetrates a child under 13 or by using force or coercion that causes great bodily harm or mental anguish. The offense is a first-degree felony and carries a basic sentence of 18 years in prison.

    Second-Degree Criminal Sexual Penetration

    Criminal sexual penetration in the second degree occurs if:

    • The aggressor uses force or coercion on a child between 13 and 18;
    • The aggressor uses force or coercion, leading to injury;
    • When the aggressor uses a deadly weapon;
    • When the aggressor perpetrates the sexual penetration during the commission of a felony; or
    • If the perpetrator uses force while receiving assistance from at least one other person. 

    These offenses are second-degree felonies with a basic sentence of 15 years. But they have a minimum mandatory prison term of at least three years.

    Criminal Sexual Contact with a Minor

    Criminal sexual contact with a minor applies to intentional touching of the intimate parts of a minor’s body or causing the minor to touch the aggressor’s intimate body parts. The statute defines intimate parts as the genital area, groin, buttocks, anus, or breast. 

    Second-degree criminal sexual contact with a minor occurs when the accused touches the unclothed intimate parts of a minor, and the alleged victim is younger than 13. The crime can also occur on a child between 13 and 18 years of age if the perpetrator:

    • Used force or coercion that resulted in an injury,
    • Used force or coercion and received aid from at least one other person, 
    • Committed the offense while armed with a deadly weapon, or
    • Used their position of authority over the minor to achieve submission from the child.

    The law defines this crime as a second-degree felony for a sexual offense against a child. A conviction calls for a three-year minimum mandatory sentence with a basic sentence of 15 years.

    Indecent Exposure

    Indecent exposure means revealing one’s primary genital area to the public. This charge is a misdemeanor. However, aggravated indecent exposure occurs when a person exposes their primary genital area in a lewd and lascivious manner with the intent to threaten or intimidate. However, the police cannot charge aggravated indecent exposure unless the offense happens during one of the following crimes:

    • Exposure to a child under 18,
    • Assault,
    • Aggravated assault,
    • Assault with the intent to commit a violent felony,
    • Battery,
    • Aggravated battery,
    • Criminal sexual penetration, or
    • Abuse of a child. 

    This crime is a fourth-degree felony. In addition to the basic sentence of 18 months in prison, the court will order the accused to enter and complete professional counseling.

    When Can a Minor Be Charged with Sexual Assault As an Adult?

    The Children’s Court has jurisdiction over offenders younger than 19. The Children’s Court does not consider a child guilty. Instead, the court uses the term delinquent to refer to a child who committed a criminal offense. 

    This rule applies to most of the criminal laws in New Mexico. However, a judge in the Children’s Court can sentence a juvenile as an adult in certain circumstances. The juvenile can be sentenced as a youthful offender if the child is charged with criminal sexual penetration or has three separate felony adjudications within three years. 

    The Children’s Court attorney, who is the prosecutor, must file a petition with the judge asking the court to invoke an adult sentence for the juvenile after a conviction. After trial, the judge can punish the child as a delinquent or an adult, even though the law prefers adjudication of the child as a delinquent. 

    Before invoking an adult sentence, the judge must preliminarily find that the child is not amenable to treatment or rehabilitation in a juvenile facility and the child is ineligible for commitment to an institution designed for children with developmental disabilities or mental disorders. Next, the judge must consider several factors, such as:

    • The seriousness of the offense;
    • Whether the crime was aggressive, violent, deliberate, or willful;
    • Whether a firearm was used;
    • The child’s maturity, history, and family life;
    • What would best protect the public; and
    • All other relevant factors.

    The law presumes a child previously sentenced as an adult is not amenable to treatment or rehabilitation as a child.

    A judge has the discretion to sentence the child to less than a mandatory adult sentence. The court transfers the child to an adult facility at that time. However, the judge can extend a juvenile’s commitment to a juvenile facility until the person reaches 21. 

    An Experienced Defense Lawyer Is Your Best Protection

    Contact us online or call the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today at 505-200-2982 for a free consultation with one of our experienced defense lawyers. We have over 22 years of criminal defense experience, including defending children facing sex offenses. We have an impressive history of success aggressively defending our clients, and we can help give you a better chance of getting a positive result.