As Seen On:

DC Sex Crimes Laws

Unlike some other jurisdictions, the District of Columbia does not distinguish between different kinds of sexual abuse (i.e., rape, forcible sodomy, object sexual penetration). Instead, DC Code Section 22-3001 consolidates all these different acts under the two terms “sexual act” and “sexual contact.” However, the District of Columbia’s laws governing sexual offenses are quite thorough and the penalties, if one is convicted, are very harsh.

The brief overview provided below is not a substitute for the advice of an experienced DC sex crime lawyer. If you have any further questions about these crimes, or how the law may apply to your case, call (202) 529-9374.

Section 22-3001(8) defines “sexual act” as:

  • Penetration of the anus or vulva of another person by a penis,
  • Any contact between the mouth and the penis, the mouth and vulva, or the mouth and the anus,
  • Any penetration of the anus or vulva by a hand or finger or by any object, intended to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse/gratify any person.

Section 22-3001(9) defines “sexual contact” as the contact between any individual’s body part or object with another person’s genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks, intended to abuse, harass, humiliate, degrade, or arouse/gratify any person. However, sexual contact applies whether the contact was direct or through clothing.

First Degree Sexual Abuse Section 22-3002

An individual is guilty of first degree sexual abuse if the individual engages in a sexual act with the victim, or causes the victim to engage in a sexual act, through one of the following means:

  • The use of force against the victim, or;
  • The use of threats or putting the victim in reasonable fear than another person will be killed, seriously hurt, or kidnapped, or;
  • Rendering the victim unconscious, or;
  • Giving the victim a drug, intoxicant, or substance that substantially impairs the ability of the victim to understand the situation and control his/her conduct (the victim must be given the substance by force, threat of force, or without knowledge/permission of the victim).

Section 22-3002(a)

First degree sexual abuse is a Class A Felony. The penalty for first degree sexual abuse is a felony conviction, up to $125,000 in fines, and/or up to life in prison. Section 22-3002(b).

Second Degree Sexual Abuse Section 22-3003

An individual is guilty of second degree sexual abuse if the individual engages in a sexual act with the victim or causes the victim to perform a sexual act through one of the following means:

  1. The use of threats or putting the victim in reasonable fear generally (not including putting the victim in reasonable fear that someone will be killed, seriously hurt, or kidnapped), or;
  2. The use of knowledge (or where the individual should have knowledge) that the victim is (a) incapable of understanding the situation, (b) incapable of declining to participate in the sexual act, or (c) incapable of saying no or expressing unwillingness to engage in the sexual act.

The penalty for second degree sexual abuse is a felony conviction, up to 20 years in prison, and/or up to a $50,000 fine.

Third Degree Sexual Abuse Section 22-3004

An individual is guilty of third degree sexual abuse if the individual engages in sexual contact with the victim or causes sexual contact with or by the victim through the following means:

  • Use of force against the victim, or;
  • Use of threats or putting the victim in reasonable fear that someone else will be killed, seriously hurt, or kidnapped, or;
  • Rendering the victim unconscious, or;
  • Giving the victim a drug, intoxicant, or substance that substantially impairs the ability of the victim to understand the situation and control his/her conduct (the victim must be given the substance by force, threat of force, or without knowledge/permission of the victim).

The penalty for third degree sexual abuse is a felony conviction, up to 10 years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $25,000.

Fourth Degree Sexual Abuse Section 22-3005

An individual is guilty of fourth degree sexual abuse if the individual engages in sexual contact with the victim or causes sexual contact with or by the victim through the following means:

  1. The use of threats or putting the victim in reasonable fear, generally (not including putting the victim in reasonable fear that someone will be killed, seriously hurt, or kidnapped), or;
  2. The use of knowledge (or where the individual should have knowledge) that the victim is (a) incapable of understanding the situation, (b) incapable of declining to participate in the sexual contact, or (c) incapable of saying no or expressing unwillingness to engage in the sexual contact.

The penalty for fourth degree sexual abuse is a felony conviction, up to five years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $12,500.

Misdemeanor Sexual Abuse Section 22-3006

An individual is guilty of misdemeanor sexual abuse if the individual engages in a sexual act or sexual contact with the victim while having knowledge or reason to know that the act/contact happened without the victim’s permission.

The penalty for misdemeanor sexual abuse is up to $1,000 in fines and/or up to 180 days in jail.

Child Abuse

First Degree Child Sexual Abuse Section 22-3008

First degree child sexual abuse is a Class A Felony in Washington, DC.

A child is defined in Section 22-3001(3) as a person under 16 years of age.

An individual is guilty of first degree child sexual abuse if the individual is at least four years older than a child and engages in a sexual act with the child or causes the child to be part of a sexual act.

The penalty for first degree child sexual abuse is a felony conviction, with up to $125,000 in fines and/or up to life in prison.

Second Degree Child Sexual Abuse Section 22-3009

An individual is guilty of second degree child sexual abuse if the individual is at least four years older than a child, and has sexual contact with the child or causes the child to have sexual contact.

The penalty for second degree child sexual abuse is a felony conviction, with up to $25,000 in fines and/or up to 10 years in prison.

Sexual Abuse of a Minor

First Degree Sexual Abuse of a Minor Section 22-3009.01

A minor is defined in DC Code Section 22-3001 as someone under 18 years old.

DC Code Section 22-3001 also defines “significant relationship” in a very specific way. Someone who has a significant relationship with a minor is:

  1. A family member (sibling, parent, aunt, uncle, etc.) either related to the minor by blood, marriage, adoption, or domestic partnership,
  2. A legal guardian or someone at least four years older than the victim who resides in the same place as the victim,
  3. A person (or the person’s spouse, domestic partner, or lover) who has any responsibility for the health, welfare, or supervision of the victim at the time of the crime, and;
  4. Any person who is an employee or volunteer at a school, religious institution, or other extracurricular activity (social, athletic, musical, etc.) trusted with the child or minor.

An individual is guilty of first degree sexual abuse of a minor if the individual is at least 18 years old, in a “significant relationship” (read above) with a minor, and the individual takes part in a sexual act with the minor or causes the minor to take part in a sexual act.

The penalty for first degree sexual abuse of a minor is a felony conviction with up to 15 years in prison and/or up to $37,500 in fines.

Second Degree Sexual Abuse of a Minor Section 22-3009.02

An individual is guilty of second degree sexual abuse of a minor if the individual is at least 18 years old, in a “significant relationship” with the minor, and there is sexual contact between the individual and the minor.

The penalty for second degree sexual abuse of a minor is a felony conviction with up to seven-and-a-half years in prison and/or up to $25,000 in fines.

Sexual Abuse of a High School Student

First Degree Sexual Abuse of a Secondary Education Student Section 22-3009.03

The District of Columbia is very straightforward with this sexual offense, as covered in DC Code Section 22-3009.03.

First Degree Sexual AbuseAn individual is guilty of first degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student if the individual is a person of authority in a high school (i.e. teachers, coaches, principals, counselors, librarians, etc.) and the individual takes part in a sexual act with a student or causes the student to take part in a sexual act. The student must be under 20 years old and must be enrolled in that school or school system.

The penalty for first degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student is a felony conviction with up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of $25,000 or less.

Second Degree Sexual Abuse of a Secondary Education Student Section 22-3009.04

An individual is guilty of second degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student if the individual is a person of authority in a high school (read section above), and the individual takes part in sexual contact with a student or causes the student to take part in sexual contact. Again, the student must be under 20 years old and enrolled in the school or the school system.

The penalty for second degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student is a felony conviction with up to five years in prison and/or up to a $12,500 fine.

Enticing a Child or Minor Section 22-3010

This sexual offense is meant to cover situations where an individual attempts to persuade a child or minor to perform sexual acts or take part in sexual contact.

Under Section 22-3010(a) an individual is guilty of enticing a child or minor if an individual is at least four years older than a child or is in a significant relationship with a minor, and;

  • takes the child/minor somewhere to commit any of the sexual offenses discussed above, or;
  • seduces, persuades, entices, allures, or convinces the child/minor to take part in a sexual act or sexual contact, or;
  • attempts to seduce, entice, allure, persuade, or convince the child/minor to take part in a sexual act or sexual contact.

Under Section 22-3010(b) an individual is also guilty if the individual is four years older than the purported age of a person pretending to be a child and attempts to seduce the person (pretending to be a child) into engaging in sexual acts or sexual contact, or attempts to seduce the person (still pretending to be a child) into going somewhere in order to engage in sexual contact or sexual acts. To clarify, this second provision (Section 22-3010(b)) is all about an individual attempting to entice a child when, in fact, the individual is not a child, but merely representing themselves to be one.

The penalty for enticing a child or minor is a felony conviction with up to five years in prison and/or a fine of no more than $12,500.

In addition, Section 22-3010(c) states that no one can be consecutively sentenced for the crime of seducing a real child or minor into sexual acts/contact and the crime of engaging in sexual acts/contact. Moreover, please keep in mind that this does not prevent an individual from being charged or convicted of both crimes. It only prevents both sentences from stacking on top of each other.

Misdemeanor Sexual Abuse of a Child or a Minor Section 22-3010.01

DC Code Section 22-3010.01(b) defines “sexually suggestive conduct” as performing any of the following acts in order to cause anyone sexual arousal or sexual gratification:

  • Touching a child or minor inside his/her clothing, or;
  • Touching a child or minor near his/her genitalia, anus, breast, or buttocks (inside or outside child/minor’s clothing), or;
  • Putting your tongue in the child/minor’s mouth, or;
  • Touching your own genitalia or a third party’s genitalia.

According to DC Code Section 22-3010.01(a), an individual is guilty of misdemeanor sexual abuse of a child or a minor if:

  1. The individual is at least 18 years old and in a significant relationship with a minor or four years older than a child, and;
  2. The individual engages in sexually suggestive conduct with the minor or child.

The penalty for misdemeanor sexual abuse of a child or a minor is up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Arranging for a Sexual Contact with a Real or Fictitious Child Section 22-3010.02

An individual is guilty of arranging for a sexual contact with a real or fictitious child if the individual arranges to perform sexual acts with another person who is represented to be a child at least four years younger than the individual. It does not matter whether the person represented to be a child is real or fictitious, nor whether the person is actually a child or merely represented to be a child.

An individual is also guilty of this crime if the individual arranges for a separate person to perform sexual acts with the real or fictitious child. However, this crime only applies when the arrangement is done by or with a law enforcement officer.

The penalty for arranging for a sexual contact with a real or fictitious child is a felony conviction with up to five years in prison and/or up to $12,500 in fines.

Attempts to Commit Sexual Offenses Section 22-3018

Anyone found guilty of attempting to commit any of the sexual offenses discussed herein will be penalized:

  1. By up to 15 years in prison if the offense attempted has a maximum prison term of life, or;
  2. By up to one half of the maximum prison sentence of the offense attempted, and;
  3. May be fined up to one half the maximum fine allowed for the offense attempted.

Aggravating Circumstances Section 22-3020

In the District of Columbia there are certain aggravating circumstances that can substantially increase the penalties for those convicted of certain sexual offenses.

Specifically, anyone who has been found guilty of a sexual offense (see this entire section) can receive a penalty one and a half times the maximum penalty allowed for the offense if any of several aggravating circumstances were present when the crime was committed.

In fact, an individual may receive a sentence of 30 years to life without the possibility of release for the crime of first degree sexual abuse or first degree child sexual abuse if any of several aggravating circumstances were present when the crime was committed.

Aggravating circumstances include the following:

  1. The victim was less than 12 years old;
  2. The victim was less than 18 years old and the perpetrator had a significant relationship with the victim (see first degree sexual abuse of a minor for a definition of “significant relationship”);
  3. The victim was harmed in a way that involved real risk of death, unconsciousness, severe physical pain, disfigurement, or either loss or impairment of the function of some part of the body or mental
  4. The perpetrator had help from one or more accomplices
  5. The perpetrator is guilty of sexual offenses against at least two victims (anywhere in DC, any state, the U.S., or U.S. territories);
  6. The perpetrator had a pistol or gun (or imitation), or a different dangerous, deadly weapon.

How a DC Sex Crime Lawyer Can Help

All sex crimes are treated seriously in DC. Even misdemeanor offenses can result in life-long consequences like mandatory participation in the Sex Offender Registry.

Free Case Evaluation
Schedule a Consultation
Contact Us Today For A Free Case Evaluation
What Our Clients Say About Us