Just Because You Don’t Think It’s a Sex Crime, Does Not Mean It Isn’t: An Overview of Sexual Imposition Laws in Ohio

The average person has a general idea of what constitutes rape or sexual battery, but are not aware that certain reckless behavior or sexual contact with an impaired person constitutes the criminal offense of sexual imposition.

What is Sexual Imposition?

According to Ohio Rev. Code § 2907.06, it is a criminal offense for a person to have sexual contact, cause another person to have sexual contact, or cause two or more persons to have sexual contact with a person who is not their spouse when:

  • The alleged offender knew the sexual contact was offensive or the conduct was reckless;
  • The alleged offender knew the other person’s ability to control the offender’s conduct was substantially impaired;
  • The alleged offender knew the other person submitted because they were unaware of the sexual contact;
  • The alleged offender was at least 18 at the time of the offense and four or more years older than the other person, and the other person was 13 at the time of the offense but less than 16 years old; OR
  • The alleged offender is or was a mental health professional who induced a client or patient to believe the sexual conduct was necessary for mental health treatment.

Sexual Imposition Criminal Penalties

Sexual Imposition may be a misdemeanor of the first or third degree depending on the defendant’s previous sexual offense convictions. A first degree misdemeanor is punishable up to 180 days in jail and a fine of no more than $1,000. A third degree misdemeanor is punishable up to 60 days in jail and a fine of no more than $500.

Ohio Sexual Imposition Cases

While the aforementioned statute appears straight forward, there has been much debate over what constitutes sexual imposition and the evidence necessary to support a criminal conviction.

It is well established in Ohio law that a person cannot be convicted of sexual imposition solely based on the testimony of the alleged victim, but how much evidence is necessary to support a sexual imposition conviction? Does an alleged victim have to prove force or injury?

In the cases below, the Ohio Supreme Court has clarified the elements of a sexual imposition conviction and corroborating evidence necessary to support a sexual imposition conviction.

State v. Economo, 76 Ohio St.3d 56, 666 N.E.2d 225 (Ohio, 1996)

In State v. Economo a medical doctor was convicted of two counts of sexual imposition after he allegedly inappropriately touched a female patient during two office visits. He allegedly massaged her private areas and rubbed his pant-covered erect penis on her arm. The Court in Economo reasoned the aforementioned conduct was offensive and reckless.

The defendant in Economo argued that the aforementioned conduct could not be corroborated other than by testimony of the alleged victim and her sister. The Court rejected his argument stating that sexual imposition is different from other sexual offenses as it does not involve force. A victim of sexual imposition will likely not have any bruises or marks to evidence the attack.

The Court reasoned that the other evidence, including proof that the victim had a doctor’s appointment with the defendant on the dates of the alleged assaults, the victim and the defendant had a 2-year patient-physician relationship, the victim’s fear of being alone in an exam room with the defendant, and the sister’s testimony that the victim was near tears after the appointment was sufficient proof the sexual imposition occurred. The defendant’s sexual imposition conviction was reinstated.

State v. Guenther, 2006 Ohio 767 (OH 2/22/2006), 2006 Ohio 767 (OH, 2006)

The defendant in Guenther was convicted of one count of sexual imposition and one count of gross imposition. The defendant allegedly inappropriately touched a female co-worker inappropriately on at least three occasions.

According to the testimony of the testimony of the victim, the defendant touched the victim’s breast by rubbing his chest against hers on one occasion. On the second occasion another male blocked the victim from exiting the room and the defendant touched the victim’s breast. On the third occasion the defendant prevented the victim from exiting her chair so he could touch her breasts in a small room.

The victim’s testimony was corroborated by the workplace supervisor, who had not witnessed the inappropriate touching, but was aware the victim was visibly shaken around the defendant. The supervisor was also afraid of the defendant and attempted to prevent his access to the victim.

The Court in Guenther reasoned the aforementioned evidence was sufficient to support his conviction and affirmed his conviction of sexual imposition and gross sexual imposition.

Conclusion

A sexual imposition case is fact intensive and requires a strong defense. While you may be falsely accused or your actions may have been misinterpreted, this may not be properly heard or believed by the jury in criminal court.

It is highly recommended to consult an experienced sexual imposition defense attorney if you are facing sexual imposition or gross sexual imposition charges in Ohio. Brian Joslyn of the Joslyn Law Firm is a trial proven sex crimes defense attorney.

Brian Joslyn has years of experience defending individuals facing sexual imposition charges. He is familiar with the tactics of the sex crimes investigators and prosecutors. He will skillfully examine all the evidence against you and develop the strongest defense possible.

If you have been charged with any sex crime, including sexual imposition, gross sexual imposition, rape, or child pornography contact the Joslyn Law Firm immediately at 614-444-1900 for a free evaluation of your case.

The Joslyn Law Firm diligently defends individuals throughout Ohio, including Franklin County, Pickaway County, Madison County, Delaware County, Licking County and Fairfield County.

References:

State v. Economo, 76 Ohio St.3d 56, 666 N.E.2d 225 (Ohio, 1996)

State v. Guenther, 2006 Ohio 767 (OH 2/22/2006), 2006 Ohio 767 (OH, 2006)

Because Ladies Lie: Eliminating Vestiges of the Corroboration and Resistance Requirements from Ohio’s Sexual Offenses, Cleveland State Law Review, 2014.