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Short of homicide, sex crimes are some of the most grievous offenses one person can commit against another. Accordingly, they are prosecuted severely in North Carolina, and nearly all are considered to be felonies.

Only a handful of offenses are considered lesser sex crimes garnering misdemeanor-level charges. They are still very serious, however, especially if the defendant has committed prior sex crimes.

What are they?

Below, we’re going to cover five sex crimes classified as a misdemeanor offenses in North Carolina, and the criminal penalties you could face upon conviction.

Sexual Battery

Sexual battery is defined as engaging in non-penetrative sexual contact with the victim for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or abuse. This contact can occur forcibly, or can be committed against a victim that is incapacitated or intellectually handicapped, and therefore incapable of giving consent.

Sexual battery is a Class A1 misdemeanor, which may be punishable by jail time. More importantly, you will be placed on the sex offender registry for a decade or more if convicted of sexual battery, even for a first-time offense.


Simply put, peeping covers offenses related to looking at the victim’s intimate areas or undergarments without the victim’s consent. Some offenders, typically called “peeping toms” use devices such as mirrors to look under the victim’s clothing. Others secretly peep into a room occupied by the victim — a dressing room or bedroom window for example — for the purpose of sexual gratification.

Peeping is a misdemeanor-level offense, unless the defendant takes (or attempts to take) a picture or video of the victim, in which case it becomes a felony. Second or subsequent offenses are also considered felonies.

Misdemeanor-level peeping generally does not require sex offender registration, so long as the defendant is a first-time offender.

Indecent Exposure

Indecent exposure consists of exposing one’s intimate areas such as the genitals, buttocks or breasts, in public and in the presence of others.

This excludes places such as locker rooms, where same sex exposure is incidental to a permitted activity. This law also makes an exception for breastfeeding women, regardless of whether the nipple is exposed.

Indecent exposure is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor in almost all cases. The one exception is when someone 18 or older exposes themselves in public “for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire” when a minor 16 or under is present. That type of offense is a Class H felony.

Prostitution and Solicitation

In North Carolina, it is illegal to engage in sexual activity in exchange for money or payment, and to solicit another person for paid sex. These offenses are referred to as prostitution and solicitation, respectively.

Prostitution is a misdemeanor, with penalties dependent on the nature of the act and prior criminal history. The only time a first-time solicitation offense is not a misdemeanor is when the defendant solicited a minor for sex.

A conviction for prostitution does not typically result in sex offender registration, nor does a first-time solicitation conviction. However, subsequent solicitation offenses or soliciting a minor victim may require registration.

Importantly, pimping and keeping a place of prostitution are considered to be felonies, even for first-time offenders. However, convicted pimps are not required to register as sex offenders unless the prostitute(s) the defendant was pimping or housing are minors.

In the end, even a misdemeanor-level sex offense can have devastating and long-lasting consequences. This can sometimes make fighting sex crime charges tricky. Consult an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney in order to ensure the best possible outcome in your case.

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