That was the word in the headline last month – groping. According to the article, a man delivering furniture to a home in Baldwin has been charged for putting his hand on the alleged victim’s lower back and buttocks, and then bending over to look up her dress when she walked up the stairs.
The actual crime charged in this case is known as “Forcible Touching.” It is a relatively new offense on the books, having been enacted in 2002. The crime is defined in § 130.52 of the New York Penal Law, and consists of a number of elements. They include
- intentionally, and for no other purpose,
- forcibly touching the sexual or intimate parts of another person,
- for the purpose of (i) degrading or abusing the other person, or (ii) gratifying the defendant’s sexual desires.
Forcible touching is a class A misdemeanor, and in some cases, depending upon factors such as the age of the victim and the defendant’s prior criminal history, a conviction might lead to mandatory registration as a sex offender.
The Baldwin case is interesting not because of the fact it is a prurient subject, but rather because of the nature of the proofs in a case such as this. At the outset, the core allegation in the case, that is, the forcible touching itself, is a “he said she said” affair. The woman claims she was touched, and the man says that either there was no touching, or that he was, for example, balancing a piece of furniture and inadvertently came into contact with her derriere. In either case, there are likely no other witnesses, and the lack of any noticeable physical harm is irrelevant. The statute requires only touching, not injury.
If the man is believed, there is no sexual purpose, and therefore no offense. Which is where looking up the dress comes in. If a jury believes that the woman was touched in the way she alleges, and if they believe the defendant tried to peek under her dress, it will buttress the claim by the prosecutor that the touching was both intentional and for the purpose of sexual gratification.
We’ll have to wait to see how the case develops.
George Vomvolakis Law Offices
275 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016