Indecent Liberties Defense
The offense of “indecent liberties,” as Washington state law defines it, covers a wide range of alleged acts. The common factor of most of the acts covered by this statute involves an alleged victim who is at a disadvantage to the defendant. A significant portion of a prosecutor’s case for indecent liberties requires proof that the defendant knew of and exploited this advantage. A person accused of indecent liberties should understand the elements that prosecutors must prove, and an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer in Tacoma with knowledge of Washington’s court system can help defend you against these charges. Call us at (253) 201-0406 to schedule your free confidential consultation.
Types of Indecent Liberties
The offense of indecent liberties covers conduct in three categories: disability of the alleged victim, authority over the alleged victim, and certain examples of “forcible compulsion.” The statute only applies to situations where the defendant and the alleged victim are not married to one another, and it only covers alleged instances of “sexual contact, ” defined as touching of someone’s genitals or other “intimate parts” for the purpose of sexual gratification. This does not include sexual intercourse or other acts involving penetration, which are covered by stricter statutes.
Disability of Alleged Victim
According to the statute, a person commits the offense of indecent liberties if they engage in sexual contact with a person who cannot consent to the activity because of one or more of the following:
- Mental defect, meaning the person has a persistent condition that prevents them from understanding the nature of the conduct and agreeing to it;
- Mental incapacity, meaning that, at the time of the alleged sexual contact, the person has a condition preventing them from understanding the activity; or
- Physical helplessness, meaning that the person cannot communicate consent, or the lack thereof, for reasons such as a lack of consciousness.
Authority Over Alleged Victim
This category of alleged offenses covers situations where a defendant, rather than using force or the threat of force, uses the authority associated with a supervisory position to threaten an alleged victim. This may include:
- A person who works for a care facility for the developmentally disabled, and one of the patients or residents of that facility;
- A person who transports people with developmental disabilities to or from said facilities, and a passenger;
- A healthcare provider, such as a doctor or therapist, and a patient;
- A staff member of a residential treatment facility for chemical dependencies or mental disorders, and a resident;
- A person who provides elder or disabled care, and an adult under their care who lacks the ability to provide for his or her daily needs.
The statute also includes certain instances where a defendant is accused of compelling a person, who is not the defendant’s spouse, to engage in sexual contact through physical force, the threat of physical force, or the threat of kidnapping.
Defenses to Indecent Liberties
The statute allows two defenses to prosecution for specific alleged acts:
- In a case that depends on proof of the alleged victim’s incapacity or helplessness, a defendant may present a defense, by a preponderance of the evidence, of a reasonable belief, at the time of the offense, that the alleged victim was not impaired.
- Health care providers may present an affirmative defense that (1) the alleged victim consented to sexual contact, and (2) that the alleged victim knew and understood that the sexual contact was not part of the treatment.
If you have been charged with an alleged sex crime in Tacoma or elsewhere in western Washington, an experienced indecent liberties defense attorney can help. I have defended people in criminal cases throughout the state of Washington and obtained significantly lesser sentences, acquittals after trial, and outright dismissals for our clients. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (253) 201-0406.