Being accused of committing a sex offense can be overwhelming, especially with reactions from the public and loved ones. It is even more heartbreaking when the accusations against you are false. Probably, the thoughts of every accused person at this moment are to fight to prove they are innocent, so the public doesn’t deem them as bad people. At Orange County Criminal Lawyer, we understand how proving your innocence is critical to you, and we are dedicated to helping. We realize that anyone can be accused falsely, or due to innocent misunderstandings and mistaken identity. It is for these reasons that we fight with all we have to protect the rights of our clients. Reach out to us if you need an attorney to defend you against any sex crime accusations in court. This article focuses on the various sex offenses we handle.
The Definition of a Sex Crime
A sex crime, under California law, refers to any sexual offense. It includes everything from publicly grabbing a person’s genital parts to annoy them to forcible rape. Technically, the law forbids you from committing any sex offense. Common sex crimes that the law will prosecute you for in California include:
- Statutory rape
- Sexual battery
- Indecent exposure
- Lewd or lascivious acts with a child
Let us look at each of the crimes, their penalties, elements, and legal defenses.
Rape (PC 261)
Rape is defined in PC 261 as when a person takes part in a sex act with another individual, and specific conditions are in play. Firstly, the sex act should be without the other party’s consent or against the person’s will. This means, to qualify as rape, an action should be accomplished through:
- Physical force
- Fear of bodily harm to oneself or another
- Fear of retaliation
For a prosecutor to convict you of rape, he/she has to prove several facts beyond a reasonable doubt. These facts are what we call elements of rape. They include:
- You had sexual relations with the victim. Any penetration counts irrespective of how insignificant it was
- You and the victim were not married when you committed the offense. In case you were married, then you would be convicted under a separate statute.
- The victim did not give his/her consent to have intercourse.
- You fulfilled the act through any of the means listed above.
Note that resistance isn’t an element of rape. The prosecuting attorney does not need to establish that the victim attempted to resist your act. Before, the resistance of the victim was an element that required the prosecutor to prove under the rape statute. However, the California lawmakers struck that requirement off since victims have different reactions to personal trauma. For instance, they may be in shock to the extent of not resisting.
Also, note that California rape statutes apply in equal measures to both women and men. This is contrary to the thoughts of many people that only men are capable of rape. In case a woman threatens or forces a man to have intercourse, she will be prosecuted for rape. Similarly, in case a woman helps another woman or man to rape another person, she could be charged with aiding and abetting.
Rape is charged as a felony. In case of a conviction, you will be sentenced to three, six, or eight years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Other penalties will include:
- A strike on your criminal record as per the Three Strikes Laws.
- An additional three to five years of a prison sentence if the victim suffered a severe bodily injury.
The prison sentence also increases if the victim in question is a child. If he/she is a child below the age of eighteen years, the punishment increases to seven, nine, or eleven years in prison. If he/she is a child below 14 years, the sentence is enhanced to nine, eleven, or thirteen years. You may also be required to register as a sex offender.
There are several legal defenses your attorney can argue before a jury and judge to prove your innocence. They include:
- False accusations
- Mistaken eyewitness identification
- The victim gave his/her consent to the act
- Insufficient evidence
Statutory Rape (PC 261.5)
As per PC 261.5, statutory rape occurs when a person has sexual relations with another person who is below eighteen years. Statutory rape is also commonly known as unlawful sexual intercourse or illegal sex with a minor. In California, the legal age to engage in sex acts is eighteen years. Under PC 261.5 laws, it is still an offense irrespective of whether there was consent or not, or even if it was the victim that initiated it.
To be convicted of PC 261.5 statutory rape, the prosecuting attorney has to prove three facts. They include:
- You had intercourse with the victim. Any penetration, however slight, amounts to sexual intercourse regardless of whether there was ejaculation or not.
- You were not married to the victim when the offense took place. And note that the fact that the victim is married to another person or had been married before doesn’t excuse you from PC 261.5 charges.
- The victim was below the age of eighteen years when you committed the offense.
Note that the prosecutor doesn’t need to prove that you used force to engage in the intercourse, or that the victim didn’t permit the act. This is contrary to PC 261 rape, whereby consent is the main element to be proven. Therefore statutory rape charges can arise from a loving and caring relationship since it is mainly the involved parties’ age that matters.
On this note, the involved parties’ age is crucial to sentencing. The penalties for statutory rape are based on the victim’s age. They also depend on the age difference between the defendant and the victim. Therefore, the prosecution will also need to prove the ages of the involved parties.
Statutory rape is considered a wobbler offense. This means the prosecutor can charge you with either a felony or a misdemeanor. The factors that determine how you will be charged and the punishment you will receive include:
- If you're not older than the victim by over three years, PC 261.5 is always charged as a misdemeanor.
- If you're older than the victim by over three years, PC 261.5 can be charged either as a felony or misdemeanor.
- If you have 21 years or more and the victim is below 16 years, you may be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor. However, the possible felony punishment is harsher compared to a felony in point two above.
Misdemeanor penalties include informal probation, a fine of up to $1,000, and a jail sentence of not more than a year. On the other hand, felony penalties include probation with a maximum of one year in jail and a maximum of $10,000 fine. Another felony penalty is sixteen months, two or three years in prison. And if you had 21 years or more and the supposed victim was below 16 years, the sentence will be two, three, or four years in prison.
The most common legal defenses to statutory rape include:
- You had reason to believe the victim was over eighteen years.
- No sexual intercourse occurred.
- False accusations.
Sexual Battery (PC 243.4)
PC 243.4 sets forth the law on sexual battery, alternatively known as sexual assault. This law forbids touching intimate parts of someone else against their will to achieve sexual arousal, gratification, or sexual abuse. Sexual assault is categorized into two, simple, and aggravated sexual assault. Simple sexual assault is merely touching someone else’s intimate parts without their permission for the purposes mentioned above. Aggravated sexual assault, on the other hand, occurs when you touch the private parts of an individual who is:
- Illegally restrained by either you or by another person
- Institutionalized to receive medical care and is medically debilitated or severely disabled
- Not aware of the kind of your act since you fraudulently made him/her believe that the action was professional.
Unlike rape, you don’t need to have engaged in actual sexual intercourse or penetration to be convicted of sexual battery. Also, you can still be convicted of sexual assault even if you and the alleged victim are in an ongoing sexual relationship.
A simple sexual battery is charged as a misdemeanor. If convicted, you may be subjected to a maximum of six months in jail and up to $2,000 in fines or up to $3,000 if the victim was your employee. You may also face informal probation for a maximum of five years and may be required to register as a sex offender for at least ten years.
On the other hand, aggravated sexual battery is a wobbler offense. The prosecutor can choose to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor based on your criminal record and the circumstances surrounding your case. If convicted of a felony sexual battery, the penalties may include formal probation, a maximum fine of $10,000, and registering as a sex offender for life. You may also be subjected to two, three, or four years in prison. If the victim sustained a great physical injury, you might face an additional three to five years of a prison sentence.
Legal defenses to sexual battery include inadequate evidence, false allegations, and that the victim consented to the act.
Indecent Exposure (PC 314)
PC 314 forbids the crime of indecent exposure. Indecent exposure means deliberately exposing your genital parts to another person with the desire to gratify yourself sexually or to offend that other person. The law on indecent exposure is broad and vague. It might cover behavior you thought was not criminal.
For a prosecutor to convict you of PC 314, he/she must prove various elements. They include:
- You intentionally exposed your genital parts,
- In the victim’s presence who was annoyed or offended by your act,
- You had the intent to draw public attention to your genital parts to either gratify yourself or another person sexually or to sexually offend another person.
In most cases, first-time PC 314 offenders are charged with a misdemeanor. A conviction carries a maximum of six months in jail, up to $1,000 in fines and registration as a sex offender for ten years.
Also, California law has aggravated indecent exposure. This is when you expose yourself in a lived-in building, trailer, or home, which you entered without permission. Aggravated indecent exposure is considered a wobbler offense. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will face up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1000, and sex offender registration for ten years. If charged with a felony, the penalties are a maximum fine of $10000, 16 months, two or three years in prison, and sex offender registration for ten years. Repeat offenders for indecent exposure will automatically be charged with a felony. The penalties are similar to those of aggravated indecent exposure.
There are several defenses to an indecent exposure offense that your attorney can present in court. The most common ones include inadequate evidence, wrongful arrest/false accusations, and mistaken identity.
Prostitution & Solicitation (PC 647b)
Prostitution & solicitation law is defined under PC 647b. The law prohibits any person who is 18 years or older to:
- Offer to take part in any prostitution act (solicitation)
- Accept or pay money or any other consideration like goods or services in exchange for sex (prostitution)
- Agree to take part in any prostitution act
The specific behavior you are charged with determines the elements of crime a prosecutor needs to prove. But for all these behaviors, the prosecutor must prove intent. PC 647b laws apply to both prostitutes and their customers. When a customer and prostitute take part in lewd acts or sexual intercourse, they both will have engaged in prostitution.
Note that children below 18 years cannot be convicted of prostitution or solicitation in California. PC 647b was amended by Senate Bill 1322 in 2016. After the amendment, the law now considers a minor who engages in prostitution as a commercially sexually exploited minor, and not a prostitute. Thus, if convicted, the minor won’t be taken to a juvenile jail or hall. Instead, he/she will be declared a dependent minor of the court, then is taken to temporary custody. The court orders the minor to be placed in temporary detention for a maximum of fifteen days together with a member of the family.
Violating PC 647b is a misdemeanor offense. The penalties depend on whether it’s your first or subsequent crime. It also depends on where the offense occurred. If you are a first-time offender, you may face a maximum of six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1000. If it is your second offense, you will face a mandatory forty-five days in jail. A third, fourth, or subsequent offense carries a mandatory ninety days in jail.
The penalties for violating PC 647b increase if you committed the offense in a vehicle, and you were within 1000 feet away from a residence. In this case, in addition to a fine and a jail sentence, your driver’s license can be suspended for a maximum of 30 days. Or, you may be issued with a restricted driver’s license to use for a maximum of six months. The restricted license permits you to drive to & from school or work or to drive for work if your job entails driving.
There are no best defenses to prostitution & solicitation charges. However, there are various defenses that attorneys frequently use to argue these cases. They include inadequate evidence, entrapment, lack of trustworthy proof, or there was no intent to commit prostitution.
Apart from defending your case, there are several charge reductions you can plead guilty to, which do not have stigma like prostitution. A skilled attorney can negotiate for these charge reductions when bargaining for a plea deal. The most known charge reductions you may be offered in a plea deal include:
- Criminal trespass (PC 602)
- Disturbing the peace (PC 415)
- Lewd conduct in public (PC 647a)
PC 415 and PC 602 have no connection with solicitation or prostitution, but they could indicate that you may have faced prostitution charges.
Additionally, they are not severe offenses and let you avoid the entire stigma that comes with a conviction of solicitation or prostitution. Thus, the charges are a compromise that suits both you and the prosecution. Alternatively, PC 647b charges can also be reduced to PC 647a charges. PC 647a is not less severe compared to prostitution & solicitation, and it is not priorable.
Lewd Acts with a Child (PC 288)
PC 288 prohibits any person from committing lewd acts with a child who is below the age of 14 years with the intention of:
- Appealing to,
- Gratifying, or
- Arousing their passions, sexual desires, or lust or those of the child.
A lewd act could be touching a minor for a sexual purpose or provoking a minor to touch oneself or another person for sexual purposes. Also, PC 288 laws prohibit a caretaker from committing lewd acts through the use of threat or force on a dependent individual. That is, people living with disabilities or dependent adults.
Typically, criminal prosecutions involve allegations that an act of child molestation occurred or a minor was fondled or touched on their sexual organs. However, you can still be charged even if:
- You did not touch the child on a sexual organ.
- You touched the child through his/her clothes instead of on his/her bare skin.
- It’s the child that did the touching at your urging.
Note that it’s the intent to arouse yourself, the minor, or someone else that qualifies the touching to be an offense. You don’t need to have achieved actual arousal.
The penalties for violating PC 288 vary based on the child’s age, whether there was the use of threats or force and one’s criminal history. PC 288 is a felony offense. If you did not use threats or force, you would be prosecuted under PC 288a. Possible penalties for PC 288a include three, six, or eight years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. Alternatively, you can be sentenced to probation and a maximum jail sentence of one year. Note that even if you are not sentenced to prison time, PC 288 is still a felony offense.
If you used threats or force to commit lewd acts against a minor who is below 14 years, you would be violating PC 288b (1). Possible penalties for this offense include a maximum fine of $10,000 and five, eight, or ten years in prison. It is important to note that if convicted of PC 288b1, you do not qualify for a probation sentence; you must be sentenced to prison.
If your lewd act resulted in physical harm to the victim who was under 14 at the time of the offense, your punishment might increase dramatically. California has several laws that you can be convicted under if the minor was harmed. For instance, you may be sentenced to twenty-five years to life imprisonment under PC 667.67d (7). Or, you may face life imprisonment under PC 288i. Still, you can face a five-year sentence enhancement under PC 12022.8. Note that the prosecuting attorney can charge you with one or all of these. Thus, if you inflict bodily injury on a minor below the age of 14 in the commission of a lewd act, you face a sentence enhancement of between five years to imprisonment for life.
If you committed a lewd act against a minor that was 14 years or 15, and you were ten years older when the offense occurred, you would be violating PC 288c1. This is a wobbler offense, and the prosecutor charges you based on your previous criminal record and the circumstances of your case. If charged with a misdemeanor, you may face a maximum of one year in jail and registration as a sex offender. If it is a felony, you may be subjected to 16 months, two or three years in prison, or formal probation that includes a maximum jail sentence of one year.
Additional penalties of PC 288 apart from fines and incarceration include victim restitution, registration as a sex offender for life, and loss of a professional license.
There are several ways you can defend yourself against PC 288 charges. However, of all these ways, consent is not one of them. Under the law, a child is incapable of consenting to an illegal sexual act. Also, keep in mind that every suspect, accuser, scenario, and case is treated differently. Your attorney will need to assess the facts of your case before presenting certain defenses. The general defenses include:
- The minor is lying
- The victim is mistaken
- The touching wasn’t intentional
- You didn’t have the intent to cause sexual arousal
- The child does not lie within the age bracket for the offense
Find a Orange County Criminal Attorney Near Me
If you have been charged with a sex crime, contact the Orange County Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Our experience gives us great insight into how sex crime cases are tried in court. Once you entrust us with your case, we will do all we can to maintain your reputation and protect your freedom. Call us now at 714-262-4833 for a free consultation or to share with us the details of your case.