Indecent Liberties with a Child in North Carolina

person in handcuffs

Some of the most serious criminal charges you can face in North Carolina are sexual based offenses that involve a child, such as Indecent Liberties with a Child. Charges like indecent liberties can destroy your reputation, threaten your employment, make it difficult to find housing, and potentially cost you your freedom. These serious consequences make it imperative that you speak to a knowledgeable and skilled attorney as soon as possible, whether the police are just investigating you for these kinds of charges, or if you have already been charged. The criminal defense team at Jetton and Meredith has decades of experience and has represented hundreds of people charged with sexual based offenses like indecent liberties. If you are under investigation or have been charged call 704.333.1114 to schedule your free consultation today.

The Crime of Indecent Liberties with a Child N.C.G.S. 14-202.1

You can be charged with the crime of indecent liberties with a child if you are at least 16 years old and are at least 5 years older than the child in question, and you either:

  1. Willfully take or attempt to take any immoral, improper, or indecent liberties with a child under the age of 16 for the purpose of arousing or sexual gratification; or
  2. Willfully commit or attempt to commit any lewd or lascivious act upon or with the body, or any part of the body, of any child under the age of 16.

What does this mean?

Both categories of the charge of indecent liberties with a child were intentionally left as vague and general as possible. The reason behind this, according to legislative comments, was to catch as much behavior as possible by the statute and therefore protect children from predators that may seek to harm them. The terms “immoral, improper, and indecent liberties” and “lewd or lascivious act” both deal with improper sexual activity with a child. They have been defined as follows:

  1. Indecent Liberties – According to the Court in State v. McClary, 198 N.C. App. 169, indecent liberties are defined as conduct or acts that society would regard as indecent or improper.
  2. Lewd – Lewd has been defined as conduct that is inciting to sexual desire or imagination. State v. Hammet, 182 N.C. App. 316.
  3. Lascivious – Lascivious as used in the statute is defined as conduct or actions which tend to arouse sexual desire. State v. Hammet, 182 N.C. App. 316.

Common Examples of Lewd or Lascivious conduct

The following are some examples of what has been considered lewd and/or lascivious conduct in the past:

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Pulling down a child’s pants and saying “let me play with you”
  • Asking a child to “kiss me like you love me”
  • French kissing a child

It is important to know that while most of the acts covered in this list are sexual and unnatural, the statute does not require the act to be so in order to be criminal. Furthermore, according to State v. Etheridge, 319 N.C. 34, you are not required to have physical contact with the child in order for your actions to be considered “indecent liberties”.

What does for the purpose of arousal or sexual gratification mean?

Generally, this is inferred from the nature of the conduct at issue. Conduct that has been found to satisfy a finding of being for the purpose of arousal or sexual gratification is:

  • Touching a child’s private area under the pretext of tickling her,
  • Sexual acts,
  • Vaginal intercourse, and
  • Writing a child, a letter containing sexually graphic material designed to solicit sexual acts for money.

Again, it is important to note that while many of these actions consist of sexual contact, the statute does not require contact in order to prove that the purpose of the action was for sexual arousal or gratification.

Common Issues and Questions about Defenses to the Charge of Indecent Liberties.

  1. Consent – consent by a victim is not a valid defense to the crime of indecent liberties with a child.
  2. Statute is Gender Neutral – The statute uses the terms “person” and “child”, therefore, it does not matter whether or not you are male or female or the victim is male or female.
  3. Mistake of Age – According to the court in State v. Breathette, 690 S.E.2d 1, mistake of age is not a defense to the crime of indecent liberties with a child.
  4. Attempt – because the statute uses the terminology commit or attempt to commit, there is no downgrade in punishment for being convicted of attempt to commit indecent liberties with a child.


If the government proves that you are of the appropriate age, and that you did or attempted to do either of the actions or behaviors covered by the crime of indecent liberties with a child, then you will be convicted of a class F felony. N.C.G.S. 15A-1340.10 states that convictions such as this are covered by North Carolina’s structured sentencing program. Under this sentencing program a Judge can sentence you to up to 59 months in prison for a conviction of a class F felony. Depending on your prior record a judge does not have to sentence you to prison for such convictions, but even if you get probation a judge is allowed to give you what is known as a split sentence where they require you to spend at least a part of your sentence in jail.

The sentence the judge hands down is not the only punishment that you will face if you are convicted of indecent liberties with a child. These convictions cannot be expunged meaning they will always be on your record and can be used against you in employment and housing situations. Furthermore, one of the harshest punishments you will face is having to register on the North Carolina sex offender’s registry, this act places severe restrictions on all parts of your life from housing, to employment, to travel, it even would revoke your passport and limit your ability to travel to other countries regardless of the reason for travel.

Because the consequences for being attached to the kind of crime that is indecent liberties with a minor are so severe it is vital that you speak with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible. Having an attorney assist you in the beginning of the process may prevent you from having to endure the pain and devastation that comes with being charged or convicted with this kind of criminal action. The experienced attorneys at Jetton and Meredith have helped hundreds of people in this or similar positions and are ready to help you today. Call 704.333.1114 to set up your free consultation today.