What Does It Mean to Take “Indecent Liberties” with A Minor?

North Carolina takes any crime involving a child victim extremely seriously – even more so when the offense is sexual in nature. The crime of taking indecent liberties with a child is no exception. Here, we discuss what exactly it means to take indecent liberties with a child (the definition is intentionally very broad) and the associated penalties.

How Does the Law Define the Crime “Taking Indecent Liberties” with a Child?

Under N.C.G.S. § 14-202.1, any person who is (1) at least 16 years old and (2) at least five years older than the child victim can be charged with taking indecent liberties with a child if they either:

  • Willfully take or attempt to take any immoral, improper or indecent liberties with a child for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire; or 
  • Willfully commit or attempt to commit any lewd or lascivious act upon a child under the age of 16. 

This is a very broad definition and law and was intentionally drafted to encompass as many acts as possible. This means that many acts can and do fall under “immoral, improper or indecent liberties” and well as “lewd or lascivious acts.” 

Examples of Indecent Liberties and Lewd or Lascivious Acts

Indecent liberties are acts that society regards as “indecent or improper.” Again, the definition is quite broad to include as many acts as possible. Lewd or lascivious acts include acts such as:

  • Exposing one’s genitals to a child 
  • Attempting to engage a child in sexual activity 
  • Asking to play with a child’s genitals or breasts 
  • Sexual intercourse 
  • French kissing 

There are a couple of very important things to note when it comes to this crime:

  • First, one can be charged with taking indecent liberties with a child without having touched the child. For example, masturbating in front of a child would likely be considered taking indecent liberties. 
  • Second, the victim’s consent is never a defense to the crime, as a child cannot consent to this kind of activity. 
  • Third and finally, mistaken age is not a defense. If the defendant believes the child is 18, for example, but she is 14, that does not absolve the defendant of guilt. 

Potential Penalties

Taking indecent liberties with a minor is punishable as a Class F felony. A conviction could result in up to 59 months in prison, although a judge can opt for a reduced sentence, probation, or some combination of prison and probation. In addition, guilty defendants will be placed on the North Carolina sex offender’s registry for life.

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