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Virginia Sex Offenses and Why They are Different

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, sex offenses carry severe penalties that are not redeemed by serving jail or prison sentences. Such offenses also attract collateral consequences including difficulty securing employment, living restrictions, loss of immigration status, and long-term registration on the sex offender registry. Sex crimes in the state are considered and treated differently because of the way society views such crimes. Due to the potential risk of re-offense, sex offenders are monitored under strict surveillance by both state and local law enforcement agencies. This is to ensure that neighborhoods and communities are safe from coercive and involuntary sexual activities. Persons convicted of sex crimes by the Virginia Courts are penalized differently depending on the severity of their offense and the degree of risk they pose to the public.

What is Virginia Sex Crime?

A sex crime in Virginia is a criminal offense characterized by an illegal or coerced sexual act against another individual. Sex crimes cut across different categories of sexual conduct such as forceful penetration, statutory rape, fondling, lewdness, and child pornography. The Virginia Code provides legal definitions of a variety of sex crimes and their associated penalties. Essentially, some sex crime charges carry more grievous penalties than others. While most of these offenses are classified as felonies, a few sex crimes in the state such as masturbation in public are punished as misdemeanors. Even then, some serious misdemeanor sex crimes require mandatory registration on the Virginia sex offender registry. Below are common sex-related charges in Virginia.

  • Rape
  • Indecent liberties with a child
  • Forcible sodomy
  • Aggravated sexual battery
  • Object sexual penetration
  • Digital penetration
  • Sexual battery
  • Aggravated sexual battery
  • Forcible fondling
  • Incest

What are the Different Types of Sex Offenses in Virginia

The Virginia criminal law defined various sex offenses. Each offense contains a unique description and possible penalties. Described below are common sex crime charges in Virginia, their severity, and sentencing.


The legal term for rape in the Commonwealth of Virginia is sexual assault. Under Virginia Code § 18.2–61, rape is defined as having sexual intercourse with another person or causing someone to have sex with another individual in any of the following conditions:

  • Against the victim’s will; through the use of force, threat, or intimidation
  • Through the mental incapacity or physical helplessness of the victim
  • With an underage victim below the age of 13

Severity: Class 4 felony

Sentence: Rape in Virginia is punishable by confinement of between five years and life imprisonment.

Sexual Battery

In Virginia, sexual battery is a misdemeanor sex crime defined under Virginia Code §18.2–67–4.

The crime of sexual battery is defined as;

  • Sexual abuse of another by force, threat, intimidation, trick, without the victim’s consent
  • Sexually abuses more than one victim on more than one occasion; without the consent of the victims.
  • When the victim is a jail or prison inmate and the defendant is an employee of the jail/prison or assumes a position of authority over the inmate.

Severity: Class 1 misdemeanor (first offense)

Class 6 felony (third offense)

Sentencing/punishment: Sexual battery in Virginia is punishable by up to 12 months in county jail, a fine of $2,500, or both. The penalty for sexual battery, third offense is extended to up to five years in state prison.

Having Carnal Knowledge of Minors

According to Virginia Code, carnal knowlege can include sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral sex, or sexual abuse of a minor below the age of 18 through object penetration. Typically, the severity and how the crime will be charged depends on the age of the minor. This crime is charged as a class 4 felony if the minor gives consent and is between the ages of 13 and 15 years and the defendant is also a minor but is three or more years older than the minor victim (§18.2–63).. However, if the defendant is less than three years older than the consenting minor, the crime becomes a class 4 misdemeanor.

In a juvenile detention or correctional facility setting, the defendant is charged with class 6 felony. This can occur if the consenting minor is confined in a juvenile facility or otherwise detained and is aged 15 or older, and the defendant is an employee, contractual employee, or volunteer of the correctional facility, detention home, probation services unit, or similar facility (Virginia Code §18.2–64.1)..

Severity: Having carnal knowledge of a minor can either be a class 4 misdemeanor, class 6 felony, or class 4 felony.

Sentencing/punishment: In Virginia, defendants guilty of carnally knowing a minor, class 4 misdemeanor are fined $250 with no jail time. Those convicted of the same crime as a class 6 felony attract up to five years in prison and $2,500 in fine. Carnal knowledge between an adult and a minor as a class 4 felony carries up to ten years in a state-managed prison and a fine up to $100,000.

Taking Indecent Liberties with a Child

Under Virginia Code § 18.2–370, a defendant is guilty of taking indecent liberties with a child if the defendant with sexual intent and being over 18 years old intentionally commits any of the listed acts with a minor under 15 years old:

  • The defendant exposes their genitals or sexual organs to a child when the defendant is not married to the victim
  • Proposing that the minor expose the minor’s genitals or sexual parts to the defendant
  • Asking the child to fondle or feel the child’s own genitals or sexual part
  • Defendant proposing to feel or fondle the sexual organs or genitals of the child
  • Defendant proposing the child to perform a sexual act or commit sodomy
  • Defendant enticing, inviting, or persuading the child to enter a room, vehicle, building, or any place for the purposes of committing any of the aforementioned acts
  • Defendant receives property, money, or any other compensation for allowing, persuading, or encouraging a minor to perform in or be a subject of visual materials that are sexually explicit
  • Defendant who intentionally encourages a minor to perform in or be the subject of sexually explicit visual material

Severity: Class 5 felony

Sentencing/Punishment: one to ten years in prison, or at the discretion of the court or jury handling the case, up to 12 months in county jail and/or a $2,500 fine. (Virginia Code Sections 18.2–370(A), 18.2–370.1)

Note: If a defendant is a parent/legal guardian of the minor or convicted more than once for violating this section, then the charge is considered a Class 4 felony. This higher charge is punishable by ten years in prison and a potential fine of up to $100,000.

Under Virginia Code §18.2–370.1, a defendant is guilty of “indecent liberties with a child by person in supervisory position” if the defendant is over 18 years old and has supervisory relationship with the child. This charge is a class 6 felony punishable by 1–5 years in prison, or at the court’s discretion, up to 12 months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

Forcible Sodomy

In Virginia, forcible sodomy is similar to rape but covers distinct sexual conducts. Forcible sodomy occurs when an individual engages or cause a victim to engage in oral or anal intercourse without the victim’s consent in any of the following circumstances:

  • The victim is less than 13 years
  • The defendant performed the sexual act against the victim’s will through the use of force, threat of force, or intimidation of the victim or someone else
  • Through the use of the victim’s mental incapacity or physical helplessness

Severity: Class 4 felony

Sentencing/punishment: Five years to life imprisonment depending on the age of the defendant at the time of offense. (Virginia Code Section 18.2–67(B).

Object Sexual Penetration

Under Virginia Code § 18.2–67.2, a defendant is guilty of object sexual penetration if the defendant penetrates the labia majora or anus of the victim with an object or causes the victim to penetrate their own body with an inanimate or animate object if the victim is:

  • Below 13 years of age
  • The sexual act was without the victim’s consent. That is the defendant used force, threat or intimidation to accomplish the act
  • If the minor victim was physically helpless or mentally incapacitated

A defendant can also be found guilty of object sexual penetration if the defendant caused a co-conspirator to penetrate the victim with an object or an animal.

Severity: Class 4 felony

Penalty: Five years to life imprisonment depending on the age of the defendant at the time of offense (Virginia Code Section 18.2–67.2.

Aggravated Sexual Battery

According with Virginia Code § 18.2–67.3, a defendant is guilty of aggravated sexual battery if the defendant commits the offense of sexual battery, also known as “simple sexual battery,” in addition to one of four aggravating acts including:

  • The victim is not up to 13 years of age
  • The sexual act is accomplished through the exploitation of the victim’s mental incapacity or physical helplessness
  • The sexual act is committed by a parent, step-parent, grandparent, or step-grandparent and the victim is at least 13 but not below 18 years of age
  • The act is performed against the victim’s will; by force, threat or intimidation and;
    • The victim is at least 13 but below 15 years of age
    • The defendant caused serious bodily or mental injury to the victim
    • The defendant uses/threatens to use a dangerous weapon

Severity: Class 6 felony

Penalty: Minimum of one and maximum of 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000.

Forcible Fondling

In virginia, an accused is charged with forcible fondling if the accused touches the private body parts of a victim for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal without the victim’s consent.

Severity: Class 1 misdemeanor

Penalty: Up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.


Sexual intercourse between blood relations is illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The criminal law which applies can be found on Virginia Code § 18.2–366. A person is guilty of incest in Virginia if the person engages in sexual intercourse with another person whom they are forbidden to marry by law.

Severity: The severity of incest depends on how the relationship binding the persons. Typically, incest between relative is a class 1 misdemeanor. However, the charge increases to class 5 felony if the accused is a parent, stepparent, grandparent, or step-grandparent of the victim. Moreso, incest is a class 3 felony if the victim is more than 13 years but less than 18 years at the time of the offense.

Penalty: Misdemeanor incest is punishable by up to 12 months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Those guilty of incest, class 5 felony may get between 1–10 years or at the discretion of the court or jury, not more than 12 months in county jail and/or a fine of $2,500. In Virginia, incest, class 3 felony may attract a 5–20 years imprisonment and/or a fine running up to $100,000.

Statutory Rape

The term “statutory rape” is not legally acknowleged in Virginia. Sexual intercourse with persons that are legally unable to give consent is described under two statutes.

  • Carnal knowledge of a child age between 13 and 14 (Virginia Code § 18.2–63)
  • Causing or encouraging acts rendering children delinquent, abused, etc.; (Virginia Code Section 18.2–371)

Infected Sexual Battery

A defendant is charged with infected sexual battery if the defendant haves sexual, oral or anal intercourse with another person when the defendant is aware that he/she is infected with HIV, hepatitis B, or Syphilis.

Severity: In the Commonwealth of Virginia, infected sexual battery is a class 1 misdemeanor if conduct is deemed to be “knowing” but not exactly an intentional attempt at infection. The charge is stepped up to class 6 felony if the defendant intentionally attempted to infect the victim with the illness.

Prostitution or Solicitation

Virginia laws strictly forbid prostitution and other prostitution-related crimes. Accrording with Section 18.2–346 of the Virginia Criminal Law, any person who engages in sexual intercourse for money or an equivalent is guilty of prostitution. Also, solicitation of sexual services for money or its equivalent is a crime similar to prostitution itself.

Severity: Class 1 misdemeanor

Penalty: Up to a year in county jail and/or $2,500 in fines

Note that pimping or pandering is a class 4 felony punishable by 2–10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to 100,000.

Attempted Sex Crimes

Pursuant to Virginia Code § 18.2–67.5, attempts at commit rape, sexual penetration with an object, or forcible sodomy is a class class 4 felony. Attempted aggravated sexual battery is considered a class 6 felony while attempted sexual battery is a class 1 misdemeanor.

Sex Offender Levels of Classification in Virginia

The state of Virginia classifies convicted sex offenders into two tiers—violent and non-violent—based on the seriousness of the sex crime.

Offenders in the violent tier are those convicted of a sexually violent offense or murder (where the victim is below 15 years of age, or was below 18 and the murder was connected to a sex crime). Violent tier offenders are required to register for life. This group of offenders does not have the possibility of removal or delisting from the registry.

The non-violent tier includes those convicted of any “registerable sex offense” that is not a sexually violent offense. It also includes persons convicted of manslaughter where the death arose from the abuse and neglect of a child or delinquency of a child. Non-violent sex offenders in Virginia are required to register for at least 15 years.

How Do I Find A Sex Offender Near Me in Virginia?

The Virginia State Police provides a public tool known as the Sex Offender Registry (SOR). Using SOR, members of the public can find registered sex offenders residing and working near their neighborhoods. The Virginia SOR database typically allows users to search registered offenders by name, address, zip code, county, city, or school.

Virginia Sex Offender Registry

The Virginia sex offender registry is a system designed by the state to allow the public and law enforcement to keep track of convicted sex offenders. The state’s Sex Offender and Crimes against Minors Registry Act was enacted in 2003. This act ensures mandatory registration of anyone convicted of a sex and sex-related crimes prior to July 1, 1994. The Virginia State Police is the authority vested with the power to maintain and ensure compliance with the registry. Every sex offender required to register must register within three days of their release from prison or county jail. If no sentence is imposed, as in the case of juvenile dispositions, the offender will be required to register within three days of suspension of sentence.

To ensure a streamlined process, the Virginia law requires that offenders register in the jurisdiction where their convictions took place as well as when they establish a new residence, get employed, or attend school in the state. Also, out-of-state offenders are required visiting or establishing residence in Virginia must register on the Virginia Sex Offender Registry. Failure to do so attracts penalties such as jail time and fines.

Typically, subscribed residents of Virginia are notified through the Automated Community Notification system whenever an offender moves into a particular vicinity. To sign up for the Virginia SOR notification, interested persons may do so online using their email addresses or by U.S. mail. Note that the mail option is not for free.

Note that the Virginia Sex Offender Rgistry contains a limited amount of information. A full case information is usually available from the sentencing court.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that a person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What are the Sex Offender Restrictions in Virginia?

Sex offenders suffer grievous restrictions that may negatively impact them for the rest of their lives. Such restrictions can include:

  • Living restrictions: Sex offenders are prevented from living 1,000 feet near any facility where minors converge
  • Working restrictions: Sex offenders are not allowed to enrol in certain professions and are also not allowed to work where they have custody of minors and physically incapacitated people
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