Sex crimes are offenses of a sexual nature directed at another individual to achieve sexual gratification, arousal, or to annoy another. When accused of a sexual-related offense, the situation is often stressful. The risk of a conviction results in varying penalties depending on the law you are alleged to have violated if convicted. Furthermore, there is a social stigma to consider.
Whereas in the public domain, alleged offenders are first guilty and have to prove their innocence, the law still upholds the doctrine of natural justice: You are innocent until proven guilty. Seek legal assistance when accused of committing a sexual offense. The right defense strategy increases the chances of having the charges reduced or dismissed. The Los Angeles Criminal Attorney is ready to offer assistance.
Overview of Sex Crimes
Sexual-basesd offenses vary. Some of the most common cases involve non-consensual contact and forced participation in sexual acts.
Convictions of sexual crimes result in misdemeanor or felony penalties that include time in prison or jail, fines, and the risk of losing civil rights like gun rights. Other offenses will require a defendant to register as a sex offender.
Each sex crime has a particular set of facts that prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt for the jury to return a guilty verdict. Further, each offense imposes specific penalties upon conviction based on the law you allegedly violated. We have addressed all these below.
a) Sexual Battery
Sexual assault or sexual battery is a crime under Penal Code 243.4. The statute describes the offenses as touching another individual’s intimate parts against their will for arousal, sexual gratification, or abuse.
The jury will only find a defendant guilty if prosecutors prove:
- The defendant unlawfully restrained the victim — You restrain an individual when you take a step to control their words, actions, or movement.
- The defendant touched an intimate part of the victim’s body — Intimate parts refer to sexual organs, anus, buttocks, female breasts, or an individual's groin.
- The touching was against the victim’s will — Touching refers to contact with another through bare skin or clothing.
- The touch aimed at achieving sexual gratification, arousal, or sexual abuse — Beyond considering the intention by the defendant to gratify or pleasure him/herself sexually, the law also factors in sexual abuse as intent in a sexual battery case.
An individual commits sexual abuse when he/she means to injure, humiliate, intimidate, hurt an alleged victim or cause the victim pain in one of his/her intimate parts.
Penalties for Sexual Battery
Sexual battery is a wobbler offense, meaning prosecutors can charge you with misdemeanor or felony violations.
You will be convicted of misdemeanor violations if the jury is satisfied that the prosecution has proved all the above elements. The conviction is punishable by:
- Up to six years in jail
- A maximum fine of $2,000 or $3,000 if the alleged victim was the defendant's employee
- Summary or informal probation of up to five years as an alternative to jail time
The jury considers additional factors beyond the elements outlined in felony sexual battery cases. Prosecutors must prove the following aggravating circumstances as true to secure a guilty verdict for a felony sexual battery charge.
- The victim was unlawfully restrained — The law is not specific on who restrained the victim. Thus the actual perpetrator of the sexual abuse or another person can be held liable.
- The victim was unaware of the nature of the act because the accused fraudulently represented the touching as aiming to serve a professional purpose.
- The victim was institutionalized for medical treatment and medically incapacitated or seriously disabled.
- The victim was institutionalized and restrained, and the defendant made him/her masturbate or touch an intimate part of the offender, accomplice, or a third party.
If you are convicted of felony charges, you will likely face the following penalties:
- 2,3 or 4 years in prison
- A maximum fine of $10,000
- Formal or felony probation as an alternative to time in prison
- Registration as a Tier III sex offender for life
- An additional 3 to 5 years in prison if the alleged victim suffers great bodily injury
The sexual battery becomes a felony if the defendant has a prior conviction for felony sexual battery, even without the aggravating factors.
Note: Individuals who aid, encourage, facilitate, instigate or promote the commission of sexual battery or participate in a criminal conspiracy to commit sexual battery will be subject to penalties similar to those the alleged offender receives.
Penal Code 261 addresses rape. The statute makes it a crime to use threats, force, or fraud to engage in non-consensual sexual intercourse with the victim.
The above definition requires the prosecution to prove the following facts of the case.
- The defendant had sexual intercourse with another victim — Any penetration, no matter how slight of the vagina or genitalia by the penis, is sexual intercourse,
- The accused and the victim were not married at the time,
- The victim did not consent to the sexual intercourse, and
- The defendant accomplished the act using fraud, violence, coercion, retribution, fear of bodily harm, menace, or force.
PC 261 requires the victim to be alive when the crime was committed.
Note: Rape does not always involve the use of physical force. The lack of consent is the critical consideration. For an individual to consent, he/she must act freely and voluntarily and understand the nature of the act.
Therefore, rape also occurs,
- If the victim was unconscious
- If the victim is unable to consent due to intoxication
- If the victim is incapable of consenting to the acts due to a mental illness
Further, it is equally important to understand that you no longer have consent if the individual offers consent and later withdraws it. Engaging in a sexual act after an individual has withdrawn consent amounts to rape.
Penalties for Rape
Rape is a felony. The penalties vary depending on the victim’s age.
- If the victim was 18 years or older at the time of the offense, a conviction results in the imprisonment of 3, 6, or 8 years and registration as a sex offender for 20 years to life.
- Rape of victims aged between 14 years to 17 years, a prison sentence of 9,11, or 13 years with lifetime registration as a sex offender
- Rape of victims under 14 years, 7,9, or 11 years in prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender.
c) Statutory Rape
Penal Code 261.5 protects minors from engaging in sexual intercourse with adults. Under the law, children are incapable of giving consent, a requirement for any engagement in acts of a sexual nature.
According to PC 261.5, it is a crime for any individual to have sexual intercourse with a child below 18. These acts amount to statutory rape. You will be criminally liable under PC 261.5 even if the child willingly participates.
Prosecutors must establish the following as true:
- The defendant had sexual intercourse with the child — Sexual intercourse under this statute includes penetration, even if slight. Ejaculation is not required.
- The victim and the defendant were not married to each other when the offense was allegedly committed — Courts do not excuse a defendant’s criminal liability for statutory rape if the child is married but not to the defendant or used to be married.
- The alleged victim was a minor at the time of the offense — Minors are people who are 18 years old or younger.
PC 261.5 does not require prosecutors to prove that force was used to accomplish sexual intercourse. Further, prosecutors do not also need to prove that the victim did not consent to the sexual encounter. This provision is fundamental because the lack of consent is key in rape cases (PC 261 violations).
Age is also pivotal in statutory rape cases. Courts take into account the age difference between the minor and the defendant. This consideration determines the penalties a defendant will get when sentenced. Thus, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s and alleged victim’s age at the time of the offense.
It also bears emphasizing that minors who engage in sexual intercourse with other children are criminally liable. While other states have an exception to the “no sex with minors” rule under the Romeo and Juliet exceptions, California does not have a Romeo and Juliet law. This law allows minors to engage in consensual sex, provided both are around the same age.
Penalties for Statutory Rape
PC 261.5 violations are wobbler offenses. Prosecutors will charge individuals accused of statutory rape with misdemeanor or felony charges.
If the prosecution proves their case beyond reasonable doubt and:
- You are less than three years older than the victim, you will be guilty of a misdemeanor offense.
- You are more than three years older than the victim, you will be guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony offense.
- You were 21 years old or older, and the alleged victim was under 16 years old at the time of the sexual engagement, the jury will find you guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony. However, the penalties are harsher.
Misdemeanor offenders receive the following penalties upon conviction:
- Up to one year in jail, or
- A maximum fine of $1,000, or both.
- Summary probation as an alternative to jail time.
Felony violations result in:
- Up to 16 months, 2, or 3 years in jail
- Imprisonment of 2, 3, or 4 years if the defendant was 21 years old or older and the victim was 16 years
- Formal probation with up to one year in jail
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Statutory rape convictions impose non-criminal fines referred to as civil penalties. In addition to the fines and time in custody, you will be required to pay:
- $2,000 if the alleged victim is less than two years younger than you
- $5,000 if the alleged victim is at least two years younger than you
- $10,000 if the alleged victim is at least three years younger than you, and
- $25,000 if the alleged victim was under 16 years and you were 21 years old or older at the time of the offense
d) Oral Copulation
Penal Code 287 makes it a crime to have non-consensual contact between an individual’s mouth and another’s anus or genitals. It is also a violation of this statute if the perpetrator achieves this act through fear, force, violence, menace, threat, or duress.
Additionally, under this statute, you will be criminally liable if the alleged victim was unconscious, intoxicated, or legally unable to consent to the act. Individuals who cannot legally consent include people with developmental or physical disabilities or individuals with mental disorders.
In an oral copulation case, prosecutors must prove that:
- You committed oral copulation with another individual
- The alleged victim did not consent to the act
- You accomplished the act through force, violence, menace, threat, coercion, or fear of immediate or future harm to them or their loved ones.
Note: The following actions do not mean consent by the victim.
- The victim requested you use a condom.
- You and the victim dated or were dating at the time of the offense
- You and the victim had been or were married at the time of the offense
However, if you reasonably believed the victim had consented to the act, you are not guilty under PC 287.
Penalties If Convicted for Oral Copulation
Oral copulation is a felony offense punishable by the following penalties.
- If the case involves a disabled person, 3, 6, or 8 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The judge could impose formal probation terms as opposed to time in prison.
- If the alleged victim was a child under 18 years at the time of the crime, a conviction results in 6, 8, or 10 years if the minor was 14 years old or older, or 8, 10, or 12 years in prison if the child was under 14 years at the time the crime allegedly took place.
A defendant would face enhanced penalties if another individual assisted the defendant in committing the crime. Both will receive enhanced penalties. Potential sentences upon conviction include:
- 5, 7, or 9 years in prison if the victim was not a minor
- 8, 10, or 12 years in prison if the alleged victim was a child aged between 14 and 18 years
- 10, 12, or 14 years if the victim was a child below 14 years
e) Child Sexual Abuse
Penal Code 288.5 defines continuous sexual abuse as engaging in three or more acts of significant sexual misconduct with a minor under 14 years of age within at least three months. Additionally, the perpetrator must be an individual who resides in the same house as the child or has regular access to the minor.
Prosecutors must prove:
- The defendant lived in the same residence with or had regular access to the child.
- The defendant engaged in at least three acts of sexual abuse with the minor — Courts consider masturbation, oral copulation, and penetration of the child’s rectum or vagina as sexual abuse acts, no matter how slight. However, for oral copulation, penetration is not required. Oral copulation refers to contact between an individual and another’s genitalia or anus.
- The duration between the first and the last act of sexual abuse is three months or more.
- The victim was a minor below 14 years old when the offense was committed.
Penalties for Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse is a felony. The offense is punishable by:
- 6, 12, or 16 years in prison
- Registration as a Tier three sex offender, which imposes a lifetime registration requirement
- A strike on your criminal record as per California’s Three Strikes Law
f) Forcible Sexual Penetration
Under Penal Code 289, forcible penetration with a foreign object is a crime. Forcible penetration under this statute is using a foreign object to penetrate another person’s vagina or anus without consent through force or fear.
PC 289’s definition presents critical elements, namely:
- Sexual penetration using a foreign object — Any penetration, no matter how slight, is enough to find you liable for the offense. Additionally, instances of causing a victim to penetrate his/her, the defendant’s, or a third party’s genitals or anus is an act that will result in prosecution under PC 289.
A foreign object includes another’s body part other than his/her sexual organ used in the crime.
- Lack of consent — Individuals who act freely and voluntarily participate in the act while understanding the nature of the deed are the people who can give permission. People who do not meet this threshold cannot consent to the actions.
- Use of force or fear — Prosecutors must provide evidence that a defendant threatened or used force or violence on the victim when committing the offense. Only then is a jury likely to return a guilty verdict.
Penalties Under Penal Code 289
PC 289 violations are felonies punishable by the following penalties.
- If the case involves a disabled person, 3, 6, or 8 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The judge could impose formal probation terms as opposed to time in prison.
- If the victim was a minor at the time of the offense, convictions result in 6, 8, or 10 years in prison if the child was between 14 and 18 years old or 8, 10, or 12 years if he/she was under 14 years.
A conviction for a PC 289 violation imposes a sex offender registration requirement. Forcible penetration with a foreign object is a Tier 1 offense. You will thus register every year for ten years.
It is a violation of Penal Code 647(b) to solicit or engage in prostitution. The law defines prostitution as performing lewd acts or sexual intercourse in exchange for compensation. Therefore, it is a crime to offer or accept money or any other form of payment in exchange for a sexual act.
Prosecutors can charge the party paying for the sexual acts and the prostitute for PC 647(b) violations. However, individuals who are pimps would be charged under the pandering law, Penal Code 266i, because they handle the financial and business aspects of the trade.
There are three types of violations under PC 647(b). Prosecutors must prove any of them.
- You engaged in the act of prostitution — Willfully engaging in a lewd act or sexual intercourse in exchange for monetary considerations or other valuables.
- You solicited an act of prostitution — Requesting another individual to engage in prostitution and doing so with the intent of engaging in conduct associated with prostitution with another individual.
The law requires prosecutors to prove intent for the jury to return a guilty verdict. Waving at a passing car, standing in a corner in a provoking outfit, nodding at a stranger, or being present in a location known for prostitution is insufficient to prove your guilt.
- You agreed to engage in the act of prostitution — Prosecutors must demonstrate the following:
- You intended to engage in lewd conduct or sexual intercourse with another person
- You consented to engage in behavior associated with prostitution with that individual
- You took a step towards committing an act of prostitution — The action must be more than accepting a solicitation.
Penalties for Prostitution
Prostitution is a misdemeanor offense.
First-time offenders receive the following penalties upon conviction.
- Up to six months in jail
- Fines of up to $1,000
Convictions for second or subsequent offenders result in mandatory:
- 45 days in jail for second-time offenders
- 90 days in jail for third-time offenders
Additional Consequences of a Sex Crime Conviction
Defendants also deal with further consequences if convicted of a sex crime. Citizens will lose their gun rights and non-citizens risk deportation from the U.S.
It is a crime for individuals convicted of felony offenses to own or possess a gun, according to PC 29800. You risk facing an additional three years in prison for violating this statute.
As for non-citizens, deportation and denial of re-entry to the U.S. are likely after conviction since sex crimes are classified as offenses involving moral turpitude.
Contact a Defense Attorney Near Me
Early intervention is critical when facing sex crime charges. Contact a defense attorney with experience in sex crimes if you are under investigation or have been arrested for a sex crime. At the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we are ready to offer assistance. Contact our team at 424-333-0943 to schedule a free consultation.