What Makes You a Sex Offender?
There are few crimes more reprehensible than sexual violence against children. Sex offender lists exist to make those who perpetrate such crimes visible to the public – parents have the right to know if any dangers to their children’s safety live nearby. Sex offender lists are crucial to public safety, but did you know there are many other far less serious offenses that could lead to your name winding up on one of these lists?
Due to Megan’s Law, sex offender lists function to keep the public informed about potentially dangerous individuals and where they reside. It’s important to keep in mind that some of the people on these lists did not physically victimize anyone in any way – and some of the reasons these people are listed on sex offender registries might surprise you.
Sex Offender Crimes
Explained in-depth below, the following are examples of sex offender crimes:
- Public Urination
- Taking Nude Photos of Yourself as a Minor
- Soliciting Prostitution
- Indecent Exposure or “Flashing”
- Consensual Sex between Minors
- Computer Content in View of Minors
Although some individuals may argue the logic behind this law, it is illegal to relieve yourself in public, especially within a certain radius of schools and government buildings. Individuals who decide to urinate in public usually make attempts to stay out of others’ direct line of sight. However, any perpetrator caught committing this crime is added to a sex offender registry.
Taking Nude Photos of Yourself as a Minor
Several major news stories recently covered nude “selfies,” or self-photos taken by people using smartphones. While there are no laws barring adults from taking nude selfies for personal or private use, a minor doing so is essentially creating child pornography. By law, minors are considered to lack the judgment capabilities of adults. Even though a minor chooses to take a nude selfie and is in control of the situation, this fact is irrelevant in court.
While prostitution is illegal in every state except Nevada, being convicted of soliciting or providing prostitution is a crime, but does not constitute a sex offense unless the act involved a minor. However, six states consider soliciting prostitution a sex offense.
Indecent Exposure or “Flashing”
Public nudity is illegal in every state, although some states allow the practice in certain locations with proper signage to warn passersby, such as nude beaches and private resorts. Outside of these locations, however, public nudity will land a perpetrator on the sex offender registry. This includes brief instances of partial exposure, such as quickly exposing or “flashing” breasts or genitals. For example, earlier this year, a high school student in Arizona faced 69 counts of indecent exposure after taking a dare to expose himself in his football yearbook photo.
Consensual Sex between Minors
Most states consider consensual sexual activity between minors of equivalent age as sex offenses. Similar to the aforementioned nude selfie law, minors are not considered to have the same level of judgment and decision-making skills as adults. Even if both minors consent, they face sex offender registration if authorities are aware of the act.
Incest, or sexual activity between blood-related family members, is taboo worldwide. It’s also illegal, and the punishment varies based on the closeness of the relationship between the individuals. A parent-child relationship likely carries a harsher sentence than two first cousins.
Computer Content in View of Minors
Adults must be careful of the content on their computers and smartphones that is visible to children. If lewd or pornographic content appears on the screen, the adult can face a sex offense charge if children see it, usually “risk of injury to a minor” or “impairing the morals of a child.” Both are often referred to as “corruption of minors.”
Yes, as surprising as this one may be, you may face a sex offense charge for hugging another person without consent. In 2013, a 13-year-old boy had to register as a sex offender after being accused of trying to constantly hug a girl during his years in elementary school.
Sex offender registries can be vital to public safety, but when the court orders a person to file as a sex offender for one of the above offenses, one can understand the associated humiliation and life long consequences can be harsh, especially if the person poses no threat. If you have any doubts about an act or think your behavior might potentially offend others nearby, it’s probably best to be safe rather than sorry.