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Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree - NYPL § 130.55

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Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree, as outlined in New York Penal Law § 130.55, pertains to any non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature. This can include any direct or indirect touching of another person’s intimate parts for sexual gratification or to degrade the individual, regardless of whether the contact involves penetration. The law is designed to protect individuals from unwanted sexual advances and violations of personal boundaries.

At Lebedin Kofman LLP, our New York sex crimes lawyers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to address these delicate matters effectively. We focus on constructing a solid defense by scrutinizing the details of the accusation and the circumstances surrounding the case. We work meticulously to challenge the allegations against you, aiming to ensure a fair trial and the best possible outcome. Contact Lebedin Kofman LLP today to discuss your situation and discover how we can help.

Hypothetical Example

Consider a scenario where John, a 30-year-old man, is at a crowded music concert. During the event, he intentionally touches the intimate parts of Emily, a fellow concertgoer, claiming he was just trying to move through the crowd. Emily reports feeling violated as the touch was clearly for John’s sexual gratification. If charged, John could face a charge of Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree, as the contact was without Emily’s consent and for the purpose of sexual gratification.

Related Offenses

Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree is commonly considered alongside other sexual offenses within the New York Penal Law, including:

Elements and Definitions

Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree is a serious criminal charge in New York, defined by specific elements that the prosecution must prove for a conviction. These elements include:

  • Sexual Contact: This involves any touching of another person’s sexual or intimate parts, which can include areas such as the vagina, penis, anus, rectum, buttocks, breasts, lips, and mouth. This contact can occur directly or through clothing.
  • Purpose of Sexual Gratification: The contact must be intentionally made for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification, or to degrade or abuse the victim.
  • Lack of Consent: Crucially, the contact must occur without the consent of the other person involved.

It’s important to note that for the purposes of this charge, sexual contact does not require penetration, which distinguishes it from charges like sexual intercourse or criminal sexual acts that involve penetration or oral sexual conduct.

Additionally, there are specific circumstances under which a person accused of this crime can present an affirmative defense:

  • The lack of consent was due solely to the victim’s age being under seventeen but over fourteen.
  • The defendant was less than five years older than the victim at the time of the incident.

This law focuses on the non-consensual nature of the sexual contact, regardless of any existing relationship between the individuals involved. Touching that might seem minimal but qualifies as sexual contact under this law can lead to charges of Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree. Even actions such as ejaculating on another person are considered forms of sexual contact under this statute. Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree is classified as a Class B misdemeanor.

Possible Legal Defenses

Defending against a charge of Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree might involve several strategies, depending on the specifics of the case:

  • Consent: Arguing that there was mutual consent to the contact.
  • Lack of Sexual Motivation: Demonstrating that the contact was not for sexual gratification but was incidental or accidental.
  • Insufficient Evidence: Contending that the prosecution has not met its burden of proof to demonstrate that the contact was non-consensual or for sexual gratification.
  • Mistaken Identity: Claiming that the defendant was incorrectly identified as the person who made the contact.
  • Affirmative Defense: Depending on the age of the parties involved, it can be an affirmative defense if the reason for the lack of consent was the alleged victim’s age (over 14 but under 17) with the defendant being less than five years older than the alleged victim.


Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree is classified as a Class B misdemeanor in New York, which can lead to:

  • Imprisonment: Up to three months in jail.
  • Fines: A fine of $500 may be imposed upon conviction.
  • Probation: A probationary period of up to 6 years may also be a part of the sentencing.
  • Sex Offender Registration: Despite only being classified as a Class B misdemeanor, Third Degree Sexual Abuse is an offense that falls under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). Depending on the circumstances of the case, a defendant may be made to register for up to 20 years.

New York Penal Law § 130.55: Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree

A person is guilty of sexual abuse in the third degree when he or she subjects another person to sexual contact without the latter’s consent; except that in any prosecution under this section, it is an affirmative defense that:

  • Such other person’s lack of consent was due solely to incapacity to consent by reason of being less than seventeen years old, and 
  • Such other person was more than fourteen years old, and 
  • The defendant was less than five years older than such other person.

Sexual abuse in the third degree is a class B misdemeanor.

Secure Your Rights with Knowledgeable Legal Support From Lebedin Kofman LLP

Facing charges of Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree under New York law can be daunting, with potential consequences that may impact your life significantly. Understanding the intricacies of New York Penal Law § 130.55 is vital for anyone involved in such a legal matter. Whether you are seeking clarity on the law or need to defend yourself against allegations, being well-informed is your first line of defense.

At Lebedin Kofman LLP, we understand the seriousness of your charges and are ready to help you face them with confidence. Our attorneys have a strong track record of handling sensitive cases with diligence and respect for our clients’ legal rights. We’re committed to offering clear legal guidance and building a strong defense tailored to your unique situation.

If you or someone you know has been charged with Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Contact Lebedin Kofman LLP today at (646) 663-4430 to schedule a consultation where we can discuss your case, explore your legal options, and plan our approach to defending your rights effectively. Let us help you through this challenging time with professional and reliable legal assistance.

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