A sex crime is one of the most serious charges that a person can face under Mississippi law. The punishment can be severe, including lengthy prison sentences, fines, and lifetime registration on the sex offender registry. In addition, the stigma that comes with being charged (and possibly convicted) with a sex crime can take a tremendous emotional toll on the offender and his or her family.
Probably the most serious Mississippi sex crime is sexual battery. This offense is essentially a more updated classification of rape. Sexual battery is sexual penetration with another person without his or her consent. It can also include sexual penetration of 1) a mentally defective person, 2) a child under the age of 14, or 3) between a child of 14-17 years old and an adult in a position of trust or authority over the child (such as teacher, minister, counselor, or coach). Consent is not an issue with any of these last three offenses, which means they are strict liability crimes.
Sexual battery carries a minimum of 30 years, with some variations depending on ages of the victim and the accused. For instance, someone 18-20 who commits sexual battery against a person aged 14-16, and the accused is at least three years older, faces a maximum of five years.
Statutory rape is another serious Mississippi sex crime. It is committed when a person 17 or older has sexual intercourse with a child who is between 14 and 16 years old, is at least 36 months younger than the defendant, and is not the defendant’s spouse. If the defendant is between 18 and 21 years old, the punishment is up to five years and a $5,000 fine. If the defendant is over 21 it is punishable up to 30 years and a $10,000, and each subsequent offense can carry 40 years.
It is also a crime when the child is less than 14 years old, is at least 24 months younger than the defendant, and is not the defendant’s spouse. For a defendant 18 or over convicted of this offense, the punishment is minimum 20 years. If the defendant is between 13 and 17, the punishment is at the court’s discretion.
A third type of Mississippi sex crime is exploitation of children, found in the Mississippi Code at section 97-5-33. This law includes many computer-based crimes such as possession or distribution of child pornography, soliciting a child to engage in sexual activity through any means, including via computer or text message, and recording or watching a child engage sexual activity or simulated sexual activity. This offense carries a prison sentence of 5-40 years for first-time offenders, and a minimum $50,000 fine.
All of the crimes that I’ve discussed in this article require registration on Mississippi’s sex offender list. Many other crimes do as well, including kidnapping a child, enticing a child for concealment, prostitution, or marriage, adultery or fornication between teacher and student, and filming another without permission where there is an expectation of privacy.
Because of the seriousness of these offenses, you need to talk to a Mississippi sex crimes lawyer if you’ve been charged. Some sex crimes may have defenses such as lack of proof or an unreliable victim. For computer-based crimes, whether you knew if the illegal material was on your computer may be an issue. But all of these are serious crimes that are going to require thorough review, along with a clear understanding of the government’s proof and the possible penalties.