310 Grant St., Suite 1801 | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15219

What Crimes Are Prosecuted as Sex Offenses in Pennsylvania?

Sex offenses are a category of serious crime in Pennsylvania, encompassing numerous types of acts that violate another person's sexual integrity. Crimes with a sexual component are generally penalized more heavily. Understanding the legal definitions and potential consequences is critical if you find yourself facing such charges.

Sex offenses include a broad range of conduct. Some sex crimes, defined in Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Statutes, involve physical contact, such as assault or nonconsensual touching. Others, such as open lewdness or indecent exposure, have only a sexual motive. The crux of most sex offenses in Pennsylvania is consent — that is, the alleged victim’s willing agreement to the conduct in question. Lack of consent plays a central role in crimes like rape (Title 18 § 3121), sexual assault (Title 18 § 3124.1) and indecent assault (Title 18 § 3126). Rape involves sexual intercourse achieved through force, threat of force or when the victim is unconscious or unaware. Sexual assault can be any nonconsensual sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse. Indecent assault covers unwanted sexual contact of any kind.

Consent is not relevant when the victim is a minor, since they are deemed incapable of assenting to sexual conduct. The crime of unlawful contact with a minor (Title 18 § 6312) is defined as sexual contact with someone under 18. Statutory sexual assault (Title 18 § 3122.1) criminalizes situations where the age difference between perpetrator and victim creates an inherent power imbalance, even if consent is claimed to have been given. 

The digital age has introduced new avenues for criminal behavior. Sex crimes facilitated by electronic communication, primarily the internet, are a growing area of prosecution. These crimes include dissemination of images or videos of a sexual act (Title 18 § 6307) and unlawful contact with a minor using computer services (Title 18 § 4349).

The severity of punishment for a sex offense depends on the specific crime and its circumstances. Rape, for instance, carries a maximum term of 20 years imprisonment (or 40 years if the victim is under 13), while indecent assault can lead to a maximum sentence of five years. Factors like the age of the victim, prior offenses and the use of drugs or violence all influence sentencing.

Perhaps the most far-reaching consequence of a sex offense conviction is mandatory registration with the state, perhaps for life. Megan's Law requires convicted offenders to file their personal information with law enforcement, making it publicly accessible. This can significantly impede employment and educational opportunities, housing options and other societal benefits.

If you are accused of a sex crime, the potential consequences are life-altering, which makes a strong defense critical. An experienced sex crime defense attorney can analyze the specifics of your case, identify weaknesses in the prosecution's evidence and orchestrate an appropriate strategy that may include obtaining reduction of charges and penalties.

Phil DiLucente & Associates, LLC in Pittsburgh defends the rights of western Pennsylvanians who have been charged with sexual offenses. Please call 1.800.GET.PHIL or contact us online to make an appointment for a free initial consultation.

Contact Us

Please fill out the form below and our attorney will contact you.


Map & Directions