Sexual Indecency of a Child Clarified

11 05 2016

The Arkansas Supreme Court recently issued an opinion affirming the dismissal of a case alleging sexual indecency with a child in violation of A.C.A. 5-14-110(a)(4)(C).  The question of law revolved around the meaning of the phrase “another person.”  The statute provides that “a person commits sexual indecency with a child if . . . with the purpose to arouse or gratify his or her sexual desire or a sexual desire of another person, a person who is eighteen (18) years of age or older causes or coerces a minor to expose his or her sex organs to another person, and the actor is . . . the minor’s guardian.”

The question presented to the court was whether “another person” meant someone other than the guardian.  Essentially, to violate the statute, does the guardian have to cause the minor to expose his/her sex organs to someone else or can the exposure be to the guardian?  The Court answered that the statute required the exposure be to someone other than the guardian.

In State v. Billy Coble, 2016 Ark. 114, this had enormous consequences.  The charges were dismissed against Coble because he was the minor’s guardian and was the individual that allegedly caused the minor to expose her sex organs.  If Coble had caused his daughter to expose her sex organs to another person, then he would have been guilty; however, because the exposure was to himself, he was not.

Justice Danielson wrote a dissent and called the majority opinion “strained” and “nonsensical.”  Regardless, Coble would not have been able to be retried because of double jeopardy protections.


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