Many different California statutes fall under the broader category of sex offenses. Whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor, a conviction of a sex crime is severe. Apart from undergoing the stigma of being labeled a sex offender, you may be subjected to lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines. And since sex crimes are treated very seriously in California, the jury won’t hesitate to convict you.
It is crucial that if you are facing any charges of a sex crime, you should have a skilled attorney by your side to defend your rights. It could be that you have been falsely accused, which is very common in these kinds of cases. An attorney may be able to evaluate the facts of the case and uncover any malicious intent of the victim to have you wrongfully convicted. For residents of Los Angeles, CA, reach out to the experienced attorneys at The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm to help you fight any sex crime case you are facing. In this article, we give an overview of the sex crimes we handle.
Sex Crimes- The Definition
Sex crimes refer to offenses committed, which involve unlawful sexual conduct. These crimes vary in their severity, and they can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors. Most sex offenses in California require the defendant to register as a sex offender for life.
Common sex offenses in California include:
- Sexual battery
- Statutory rape
- Date rape
- Indecent exposure
- Lewd behavior in public
- Lewd acts with a minor
- Oral copulation with a minor
1. Sexual Battery (PC 243.4)
PC 243.4 is California’s law on sexual assault and battery. This law prohibits the touching of the intimate parts of someone else against their will to achieve sexual arousal, abuse, or gratification. Unlike the offense of rape, sexual assault, or battery doesn’t need you to engage in actual sexual intercourse or penetration. Also, note that you can still be convicted of sexual assault or battery, even if you and the accuser are in a continuing sexual relationship.
Sexual assault and battery is charged either as a felony or misdemeanor. Felony charges apply in case the supposed victim:
- Did not know the nature of the act since he/she was deceitfully persuaded that the action was due to professional reasons (for instance, therapeutic or medical purposes)
- Was institutionalized and was either severely disabled or medically incapacitated
- Was illegally restrained
- Was coerced into touching the defendant’s or another party’s intimate parts, or to masturbate under the circumstances mentioned above
A misdemeanor conviction of sexual assault and battery carries a jail sentence of up to six months or a year based on the facts of the case. You will also be subjected to a maximum fine of $2,000 or $3,000 in case the victim was your employee. Additionally, you will be required to register as a tier one sex offender for at least ten years.
A felony sexual assault and battery, on the other hand, carries two, three, or four years of a state prison sentence and a fine of up to $10,000. You may also be required to register as a tier three sex offender for life.
The various legal defenses available to fight PC 243.4 charges include inadequate evidence, innocence/false allegations, and consent.
2. Rape (PC 261)
Rape is defined under California PC 261. Under this statute, rape is non-consensual sex achieved through violence, physical force, menace, duress, fear of retaliation, fraud, or fear of bodily harm to oneself or another. Alternatively, there being no consent could mean the victim in question was:
- Too drunk to permit the activity to take place
- Incapable of giving consent because of a physical or mental disability, which the defendant was aware of or should reasonably have been aware of
- Did not know what the activity was since he or she was unconscious or asleep. Or he/she was fraudulently forced into having sex, and the defendant knew or should reasonably have known about the situation
If you engage in sexual intercourse with someone else under any of the above circumstances, you could be charged with rape under PC 261.
For the prosecutor to establish that you had non-consensual sex, he/she has to prove various facts. These facts include:
- You participated in sexual activity with someone else. Any penetration, however slight, counts as sex
- You and the alleged victim weren’t married when the action took place. In case the two of you were married, you would be charged with a separate offense called spousal rape
- The alleged victim did not give his/her consent for intercourse to happen
- You achieved intercourse through force, threats, violence, etc
Note that resistance isn’t among the facts that a prosecutor should prove. He/she does not need to show that the victim physically attempted to resist rape. While resistance was among the elements that needed proof under rape laws, the legislature abolished that requirement since people have different reactions to personal trauma.
For instance, some people would freeze when sexually attacked. Under the old rape law, these people would have been considered not to have been raped even though their reaction did not necessarily mean they consented. It is for this reason that resistance does not count as an element of rape.
Also, keep in mind that the rape law in California applies to both men and women. Even though most people think only men are capable of rape, this isn’t the case. In case a woman forces or threatens a man into engaging in sexual intercourse with her, she can be charged with rape. On a similar note, in case a woman helps a man to rape another person, she could be charged with aiding and abetting.
Rape is always a felony offense. Its conviction will subject you to eight, six, or three years in prison. There are cases where the judge can sentence you to felony probation and a maximum of one year in jail instead of the prison sentence. These cases include when:
- You are guilty under PC 261 only because the alleged victim was unable to consent because of a disability.
- You achieved the non-consensual act by pretending you were someone else that the victim knows
- You accomplished the non-consensual sex by threatening to use a public official’s authority against the alleged victim
- Your case is unusual, and the court finds that sentencing you to probation serves the interest of justice
Otherwise, in the rest of the cases, even those where the supposed victim was intoxicated, unconscious, or asleep, serving time in prison is mandatory. Additionally, a rape conviction will carry the following penalties in case the victim sustained a substantial bodily injury:
- A potential additional three to five years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- A strike on your criminal record as per the Three Strikes Law
The maximum time in prison for a rape offense also increases if the victim was a child. If it was a minor below 18 years, the prison sentence increases to seven, nine, or eleven years. If the victim was a child below 14 years, the prison term increases to nine, eleven, or thirteen.
Also, most convictions of rape would require the defendant to register as a sex offender (tier three) for life. The punishment for registration as a sex offender is as severe as a prison sentence. The requirement to register lasts for your entire lifetime. Failure to fulfill this requirement becomes a distinct felony. In rare cases, the defendant is required to register as a tier two sex offender. A tier-two registration requirement carries at least 20 years. This requirement is granted mostly when the alleged victim was at least eighteen years and was incapable of consenting because of a physical or mental disability.
Being arrested for rape doesn’t mean you are directly going to be convicted. The court will give you time to defend yourself and prove your innocence. There are various legal defenses your attorney can argue, which may get you a dismissal or charge reduction. They include mistaken identity, consent, false accusations, and insufficient evidence.
3. Statutory Rape (PC 261.5)
PC 261.5 is the statute that defines the statutory rape offense. Statutory rape is engaging in illegal sexual intercourse with a child. The crime occurs when a person has sex with another person who is below 18 years of age.
In California, the legal age of consent is eighteen years. Unlike most states, California doesn’t have a close-in-age exception or Romeo and Juliet laws. Violating PC 261.5 is an offense irrespective of whether the sexual intercourse was consensual or it was the minor that initiated it.
For a conviction of PC 261.5 to happen, the prosecutor has to substantiate three facts. They include:
- You had sex with someone else. Note that any penetration, irrespective of how insignificant it is, amounts to sex, even when there was no ejaculation
- You and the victim weren’t married when the offense took place. Even if the victim had been married before or is married to another person, you will still be convicted
- The victim was below the age of 18 years when the offense took place
Note that the prosecutor doesn’t need to show that you used force to achieve the intercourse. He/she also doesn’t need to substantiate that the supposed victim didn’t consent to that sex. This is in contrast to the crime of rape, whereby the victim’s lack of consent to sexual intercourse is one of the main elements a prosecutor should prove.
Therefore, when it comes to statutory rape, criminal charges may arise from an otherwise loving and caring relationship. It is merely the involved parties’ age that matters. Age also plays a critical role when it comes to sentencing for statutory rape. The potential punishment for unlawful sex with a child is based on the victim’s age and the age difference between the victim and the accused. Thus, the prosecuting attorney will also need to prove the parties’ ages at the time of the intercourse.
PC 261.5 is a wobbler offense. It, therefore, means that the prosecutor can charge you with a felony or misdemeanor at his/her discretion. Various conditions determine a misdemeanor or felony charge and what punishment you will get. They include:
- If you’re not more than three years older than the victim, PC 261.5 is always charged as a misdemeanor
- If you’re over three years older than the victim, you could be charged with either a felony or misdemeanor based on the circumstances of your case and your criminal record
- If you’re 21 years or older while the victim is below 16 years when the crime happens, you may also be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor. However, the possible felony consequences are more severe compared to the ones in point two above
The penalties for a misdemeanor statutory rape conviction include informal probation, up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. On the other hand, a felony conviction carries sixteen months, two or three years in prison, or probation with a maximum of one year in jail. If you had 21 years or more at the time of the crime and the minor was below 16 years, you would face two, three, or four years of a prison sentence. Felony statutory rape also carries a maximum fine of $10,000. Luckily, a statutory rape offense does not require the defendant to register as a sex offender.
There are several defenses to statutory rape charges that an experienced attorney can present to fight these charges. The common ones include:
- You reasonably and honestly believed the supposed victim was above 18 years. This defense can be supported by:
- Statements the victim made mentioning that he or she was above 18 years
- The victim’s attire and his/her general appearance
- Where you and the victim met (for instance at an adult venue or party)
- False accusations
Note that consent is not a defense to statutory rape like it is with the crime of rape. The reason why statutory rape is an offense is that people below 18 are lawfully deemed incapable of consenting to sex. By this, it means that even if the victim willingly participated in the intercourse, it won’t be a defense to this offense. The state believes that children are still too young to appreciate the repercussions of their acts.
4. Indecent Exposure (PC 314)
PC 314 forbids the sex offense of indecent exposure. The indecent exposure means intentionally exposing your genital parts to another person to offend the person or to achieve sexual gratification. Indecent exposure statute is broad and vague. It can prohibit behaviors that one would think are not criminal.
For the prosecutor to convict you of indecent exposure, he/she must prove that:
- You purposefully exposed your private parts
- You did so someone else’s presence who may be annoyed or offended by you action
- You had the intent to direct the attention of the public to your genital parts to sexually gratify yourself or another person or to sexually offend another person
Most first indecent exposure offenses are charged as misdemeanors. A conviction carries a maximum of six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. You will also be subjected to a sex offender registration requirement for at least ten years.
There is also another form of indecent exposure known as aggravated indecent exposure. You commit this offense when you expose your private parts in a lived-in residence, building, or trailer, which you entered without permission. This offense is wobbler. If convicted of a misdemeanor, you will face the same penalties as those of simple indecent exposure, but your jail time will increase to a year. If convicted of a felony, you will face sixteen, two, or three years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, and a sex offender registration duty for at least ten years.
Repeat indecent exposure offenders face an automatic felony charge. In this case, you will be subjected to the same consequences as those of felony aggravated indecent exposure. You also face an automatic felony charge if you are convicted of a first indecent exposure offense, but you have a past conviction of lewd conduct with a child.
Legal defenses to an indecent exposure charge may include mistaken identity, inadequate proof, and wrongful arrest/false accusations.
5. Oral Copulation with a Minor (PC 288a)
Consensual oral copulation with a person who is below 18 years is an offense in California. It may be shocking how consensual oral sexual intercourse is considered an offense in California. This offense is similar to statutory rape, whereby it is a crime to engage in sexual activities with a child even if it’s consensual. Also, note that various conditions of oral copulation with a child, like if the minor was mentally disabled or very intoxicated, could result in severe charges. In this case, you would be charged with oral copulation by fear or force.
PC 288a penalties vary based on the victim and the defendant’s age. If the victim was 16 years or older, and the defendant was 21 years or younger, the offense becomes a wobbler. If convicted of a misdemeanor, you will face summary probation, a maximum of one year in jail, and a maximum of $1,000 in fines. If it is a felony, you will face felony probation, sixteen, two, or three years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
If the victim was below 16 years and the defendant was above 21 years, PC 288a is charged as a felony. In this case, the possible penalties include sixteen, two, or three years in prison, felony probation, and up to $10,000 in fines.
If the victim was below 14 years old and the defendant was over ten years older than the victim at the time of the offense, PC 288a is charged a felony with penalty enhancement. In this case, the prison sentence will increase to three, six, or eight years.
A skilled defense lawyer can help beat oral copulation with a minor charge by arguing valid legal defenses before a judge. The defenses include: you had reason to believe the child was above 18 years, and you were wrongfully accused.
6. Lewd Conduct in Public (PC 647a)
A person violates PC 647a when he/she engages in or solicits another person to participate in lewd conduct in a public place. Lewd conduct refers to touching your genital parts or another person to offend or annoy someone else or to achieve sexual gratification.
To prove that you are guilty of PC 647a, the prosecutor has to substantiate five facts. They include:
- You purposefully touched yours or someone else’s genitals
- When you did so, you intended to gratify or arouse yourself or someone else sexually or to offend or annoy another person
- You did so publicly
- Another person who may have been annoyed or offended by your act was present
- You were aware or should reasonably have been informed that someone else who may have been annoyed by your behavior was present
Lewd conduct in public is charged as a misdemeanor. Its punishment includes a maximum sentence of six months and a fine not exceeding $1,000. In other cases, the judge may grant you summary probation with no or little jail time. Probation conditions usually include counseling, fines, or AIDs test.
Defenses to lewd conduct in public include:
- False accusations
- You weren’t in a public place
- You did touch yourself, but it wasn’t to achieve sexual gratification
- You reasonably believed there was nobody present who would be annoyed
Mitigating Factors in Sex Offense Cases
A defendant who is found guilty of committing a sex offense has a chance to present mitigating factors at the time of sentencing. Mitigation factors make the judge order a less severe sentence against the defendant. In cases to do with sex crimes, mitigating factors may include but not limited to:
- The defendant mistakenly believed their act was legal
- The defendant has no prior criminal record, or his/her record is only insignificant
- The defendant voluntarily admitted wrongdoing before he/she was arrested or during the early stages of the criminal process
- The defendant paid restitution to the injured victim
- The defendant’s past performance on parole or probation was satisfactory
Find a Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Near Me
If you have been charged with a sex offense, the punishments you are subjected to may seem overwhelming. However, you should know that, often, there are good legal defenses to these crimes that may have you acquitted. You should reach out to an expert attorney as soon as you are charged. Doing so helps him/her prepare a solid defense strategy for you as well as defend your rights. Call The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm offices at 310-935-1675 for legal representation against any sex crime charges you are facing. We help clients in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, fight criminal charges against them as well as provide a free consultation.