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Delaware Sex Offenses and Why They are Different

Delaware sex offenses are illegal or unlawful sexual acts. The Delaware criminal justice system reserves harsh penalties for sex offenses; the state and federal governments consider such crimes violent crimes or crimes against persons. Apart from penalties directly linked to sex offenses, sex offenders face additional consequences that can impact the offenders’ lives, work, and school. The state of Delaware also requires sex offenders to register, and the registry is public information.

What is a Delaware Sex Crime?

In Delaware, the state statutes determine what counts as a sex crime or what is admissible as a defense against such crimes. According to state laws, sex crimes are intentional and unlawful acts performed without the victim’s willing consent. The penalty that the Delaware Criminal Code associates with each sex crime depend on the severity of the crime and other relevant factors. Some of these factors include the ages of the victim and the perpetrator, the victim’s ability to understand and give consent, the use of force or deceit, or other factors. Delaware classifies sex crimes as misdemeanors or felony crimes. Sex crimes that lead to death or serious bodily injury attract harsher penalties.

What are the Different Types of Sex Offenses?

The following are types of sex offenses in Delaware:

  • Unlawful sexual contact: Delaware state statute Del. Code tit. 11, § 769 defines sexual contact as intentionally sexually touching a person’s genitals, breasts, buttocks, or anus. Sexual contact also includes touching another person or allowing someone else to touch the victim’s breasts, buttocks, anus, or genitals. Suppose a person has sexual contact with another person under 13 years old, or the person causes physical injury to the victim in the course of the sexual act. In that case, the offender is guilty of first-degree Unlawful Sexual Contact, a Class D felony. This offense is punishable by imprisonment for up to eight (8) years at Level V.
    • When a person willfully has unlawful sexual contact with a person less than 18 years old, it is second-degree Unlawful Sexual Contact, a Class F felony. Offenders are liable to imprisonment for up to three (3) years at Level V.
    • Unlawful sexual contact without the victim’s willful consent is third-degree illegal sexual contact, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to One (1) year at Level V and fines of up to $2300.
  • Incest: Sexual intercourse with a relation is incest. In Delaware, incest is a Class A misdemeanor.
  • Sexual Extortion: This is the act of forcing sexual acts by threatening the victim with physical injury, property damage, false testimony, or any other action that may harm the victim in any way. Sexual extortion is considered a Class E felony in Delaware. It is punishable by imprisonment for up to five (5) years at Level V.
  • Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child: If a person engages in no less than three sexual acts with a person under 18 over a period no less than three (3) months, the person is guilty of continuous sexual abuse of a child, a Class B felony. This offense is punishable by imprisonment for no more than two (2) years and no less than 25 years at Level V.
  • Other sex offenses include:
    • Sexual intercourse with a person in custody
    • Rape
    • Sexual harassment
    • Indecent exposure

Sex Offender Levels of Classification in Delaware

Delaware categorizes sex offenders into three tiers, based on risk analysis. This means that the tier an offender belongs to depends on the severity of the offender’s crime and the offender’s risk of repeating a sex crime. In some cases, sex offender tiers determine the restrictions imposed on an offender. The three sex offender tiers in Delaware are:’

  • Risk Assessment Tier 1: Tier 1 sex offenders are the least likely to repeat sex offenses. Such persons must register for 15 years and visit local law enforcement offices to provide registration verification yearly. Tier 1 offenders may petition the Superior court for relief after ten (10) years, provided the petitioner has not had another conviction. If the court grants relief, the court will no longer designate the person as a sex offender, and the person will be free of all the law’s requirements for a sex offender. 
  • Risk Assessment Tier 2: Tier 2 sex offenders must register for 25 years and visit local law enforcement every six (6) months to verify registration information. Ten (10) years after the offender’s sentencing, if the offender has not had another conviction, they may petition the Superior court for a redesignation to Tier 1.
  • Risk Assessment Tier 3: Tier 3 sex offenders are at significant risk of committing repeated offenses. Such persons must register for life and visit local law enforcement every three (3) months to verify registration information. Fifteen (15) years after the court sentences the offender, if the offender has not faced any more convictions, they may file a petition with the Superior Court to redesign Tier 2. However, such persons must continue to follow all the Tier 3 requirements provided by the law (Del. Code tit. 11, §§ 4121).

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

Delaware is one of the SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) states. State statutes Del. Code tit. 11, §§ 4121 require sex offenders to register and the state police department to make the registered information publicly available on a website. Additionally, the state police notify all organizations and individuals who may encounter a sex offender of the offender’s presence in the neighborhood or geographic region. Community notification only applies to Tier 2 and Tier 3 sex offenders.

Interested persons may search for sex offenders through the Delaware Sex Offender Central Registry. Additionally, registry users may subscribe to email notifications about updates to the registry. Interested parties may also search for sex offenders through third-party registries and websites.

Delaware Sex Offender Registry

When the state releases a sex offender from custody or imprisonment in Delaware, the offender must register, as provided by the state’s SORNA. The offender must submit the following information to the State Bureau of Identification, a subunit of the Delaware State Police:

  • Legal names and aliases
  • State-issued identification
  • Social security number
  • Physical description
  • Date of birth
  • Offense history
  • Residential address(es)
  • Immigration status
  • A copy of the offender’s passport
  • Vehicle information
  • Employer name and contact details
  • School name and contact details
  • Telephone number

Interested parties may search the sex offender registry using geographic location, offender tier, and offender information search.

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 a 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 person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from 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 Delaware?

Sex offenders in Delaware must:

  • Register on the Sex Offender Registry
  • Depending on the risk assessment tier, periodically visit designated law enforcement offices in person to verify registered information.
  • Pay an administrative fee of $30 each year.
  • Not live or work within 500 feet of a school.
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