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Is It a Criminal Offense to Kiss a Minor in Utah?

 Posted on July 09, 2024 in Sex crimes

UT defense lawyerA flurry of new laws in Utah has many questioning whether criminal offenders are actually being held accountable or whether these new laws are adding to mass incarceration and prison overcrowding. These new bills include longer sentences for drunk drivers and the criminalization of "lewd" actions in public places. Many of the bills enhance existing penalties and fines, expand the definition of a current crime, and create entirely new criminal offenses.

Opponents of the bills believe these new laws are nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to exaggerated concerns regarding crime and criminal offenses. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative in 2015 attempted to reduce penalties for nonviolent offenses. Part of the Initiative’s reasoning was that Utah’s jails would soon overflow if the state did not shift its focus to treatment and rehabilitation.   

While the state reduced certain penalties under the JRI, insufficient funds were allocated to address rehabilitation and treatment. This latest group of new laws generally increases fines and mandates longer sentences. Many of the new laws are concerning, including HB 225, which makes it a criminal offense to kiss a minor or child in Utah.

If you are facing charges for any type of Utah sex crime, including this newest one, you need an experienced Salt Lake City sex crimes attorney who can build a solid defense on your behalf. Having a lawyer who advocates for your rights and future can make a significant difference in the outcome of the charges.

What is HB 225?

HB 225 adds Sections 76-5-416.2 and 76.5-416.4, which makes kissing a child on the mouth a Class A misdemeanor. As used in this Section, a child is an individual under the age of 14, and the defendant is 18 years old or older. The defendant must have intentionally or knowingly kissed the child on the child’s mouth, penetrating the child’s mouth with their tongue, no matter how slightly.

A minor is an individual who is 14 years or older but younger than 18, while the defendant is older than the minor by ten years or more. Any penetration of the mouth of the minor, no matter how slight, by the defendant is a class A misdemeanor. A conviction for a Class A misdemeanor in Utah can result in a jail term of up to 364 days and a fine as large as $2,500.

Under certain circumstances, the unlawful kissing of a child can be escalated to a 3rd-degree felony when it is a prelude to unlawful sexual conduct meant to arouse or sexually gratify either or both parties, and the minor is under 14. Penalties for a third-degree felony in Utah include up to five years in prison and a fine as large as $5,000.

Are There Defenses to Unlawful Kissing of a Child or Minor?

The Utah statute clearly states that a mistake as to the victim’s age is not a defense to charges of unlawful kissing of a child or minor. An affirmative defense to these charges means that the defendant admits they did commit the act but did it in such a way that it was not a crime. For instance, an uncle intends to kiss his niece on the cheek at her birthday party.

At the last minute, she turns, and the kiss lands on her mouth. There was no intent to "French kiss" the niece, even if that was the ultimate act. While the statute states that you cannot claim you did not know the alleged victim’s age, there may be exceptions. Perhaps the "minor" was in a club where guests must be at least 21.

If the minor looked 21 and presented themselves as being 21, and most people in the club believed the minor was 21, there could be an age defense. Other defenses revolve around violations of the defendant’s civil rights, such as being denied an attorney after asking for one or failing to properly Mirandize the defendant.

Contact a Davis County, UT Sex Crimes Attorney for a Free Consultation

If you have been charged with any type of sex crime, the penalties can be severe and long-lasting. Additionally, even being charged with a sex crime carries a stigma that can spill over into your job and family. Contact Collins Rupp, P.C. at 385-777-2753 to speak to a knowledgeable Salt Lake City, UT criminal defense attorney.

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