A person below the age of 18 is considered a child in California and incapable of giving consent. Any sexual abuse, conduct, or indecent act intended to satisfy or arouse the sexual desires of a child or committed to a child to satisfy or arouse the sexual desires of an adult is illegal. Child molestation is a severe crime in the state, punishable by a lengthy prison time and hefty penalties. A conviction for child molestation in your criminal record will likely affect various aspects of your life, including your efforts to find suitable employment and relationship with others.
You need competent legal guidance and defense to avoid a conviction if you face child molestation charges in Los Angeles, CA. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we could help gather sufficient evidence and plan a solid defense against your charges to compel the jury to dismiss or reduce your charges.
Legal Definition of Child Molestation
Child molestation is listed as a severe sex crime under California laws. It is an offense whose conviction can expose you to severe criminal penalties, lifetime consequences, and stigma upon conviction.
Child molestation is a collective term referring to all sexual offenses involving inappropriate physical contact with a minor. The minor is used for the sexual arousal or satisfaction of the perpetrator or another person.
The police and anyone within the California justice system will take allegations regarding child molestation very seriously. Thus, you could face stigma and a possible conviction even when you’re innocent. Without proper legal representation and defense, a wrong accusation for child molestation might cause an innocent person to face the severe consequences of the offense as provided under the constitution. That’s why you need the assistance of an aggressive criminal lawyer to avoid a conviction.
Child molestation doesn't refer to only one offense but a wide range of illegal sexual activities committed against minors by adults. Molestation goes beyond sexual intercourse. It includes activities like inappropriate touching, exposure to pornography, non-penetrating contact, or causing a minor to view sexual activities. The main element of this crime is using a minor as an instrument for sexual stimulation or gratification by an adult.
California law lists crimes under child molestation, each separately defined and carries severe penalties upon conviction. They include:
Oral Copulation With a Minor
As defined under California PC 287, oral copulation occurs when one person’s mouth comes into contact with another’s private parts. A person’s private parts could include their vagina, penis, or anus. Even a slight contact will count as an offense.
Penalties for oral copulation with a child depend on the child’s and the perpetrator’s age.
For instance, when the victim is over 16 and the perpetrator is 21 years or younger, the crime is a wobbler, attracting a maximum prison sentence of three years and a fine of not more than $10,000.
But if the victim is younger than 16 and the perpetrator is older than 21, the offense is a straight felony, punishable by a maximum of eight years in prison.
The offense becomes even more severe if the victim is younger than 14 and the perpetrator is more than ten years older than the victim. In that case, you could receive up to eight years of prison time upon conviction.
Lascivious or Lewd Acts With a Child
The law against lascivious or lewd acts with a minor is under California PC 288. That law defines the offense as any touch done on a child below 14 years for sexual arousal or gratification.
You could face charges under this law if you willfully touched or caused a minor to touch themselves to sexually excite or gratify yourself, the minor, or another person.
Note that any degree of touch will count, however slight it is, as long as it is done for sexual purposes. The touch doesn’t necessarily have to be done on the skin or sexual organs. It can be on any part of the body, on bare skin, and even through clothing.
The offense is a felony, but the severity of penalties will vary based on whether or not the perpetrator accomplished the offense through force or fear.
If you didn’t use force or fear to accomplish the act, you are likely to receive a maximum of eight years in prison if found guilty under this law. But if you accomplished the act through threats, force, violence, or coercion, you could receive up to ten years of prison time upon conviction.
Sending Explicit Materials to a Child
California PC 288.2 makes it a severe offense for anyone to distribute, exhibit, or send obscene or harmful material to an individual below 18 years, intending to sexually excite or gratify themselves, the minor, or another person. You can commit the offense in many ways, especially in this digital era, including sending a minor an email with sexual images, intending to seduce him/her.
The prosecutor must prove before a jury that you knowingly or intentionally committed the offense, with the knowledge that the recipient of the explicit content was a minor of below 18.
California PC 288.2 is a wobbler offense. It means that the prosecutor can charge it as a felony or misdemeanor. As a misdemeanor, it attracts a maximum jail sentence of one year. But as a felony, you could receive a prison time of up to three years.
Arranging a Meeting With a Child for Lewd Purposes
California PC 288.4 makes it an offense for anyone to arrange a meeting with an individual below 18 years with sexual intentions. The offense is also referred to as solicitation of a minor. The offense only requires proof that you arranged a meeting with a child for lascivious or lewd purposes, even if you never engaged in any sexual acts with the victim. You could still be guilty under this law even if you never attended the said meeting.
The offense is generally a misdemeanor, attracting a maximum jail sentence of one year. But you could face felony charges for the offense if you have a prior sex-related conviction that required you to register as a sex offender.
You could still face felony charges under this law if you showed up for the meeting with the victim. If convicted for this, you will likely receive a maximum prison sentence of four years.
Continued Sexual Abuse on a Minor
California PC 288.5 makes it an offense for anyone to abuse a minor below 14 continuously sexually. Continuous abuse occurs when the abuse happens in three or more instances. The offender must also be someone living in the same home as the victim or have had recurring access to the minor for over three months.
Examples of crimes that could count as continued sexual abuse on a minor include:
- A teacher who continuously touches a child under her care for two years
- A stepfather who has sex with a stepchild six times for one year
The prosecutor will prove several elements of the offense to compel the court to announce a guilty verdict, including the fact that you lived in the same house with the alleged victim and you engaged in three or more specific sexual acts with the minor. The minor must have been below 14 years of age at the time.
The offense is a straight felony, punishable by a maximum of sixteen years in prison. It also counts as a strike under the California Three Strikes Law. Additionally, you’ll be required to register yourself as a sex offender for life.
Sexual Acts With Children Below 10
The law against sexual acts with minors below ten is under California PC 288.7. The law prohibits any adult from sexually engaging with a child of ten years or younger. Any sexual act will count here, including sexual penetration, oral copulation, sodomy, and sexual intercourse.
- Sexual penetration includes any penetration of the genital or anal part of a person through a foreign object.
- Oral copulation involves bringing into contact the mouth of one person and the sexual organ or anus of another.
- Sodomy includes penetrating the anus of one person using the penis of another.
- Sexual intercourse includes penetrating the vagina or genitalia of one person by another’s penis. Note that ejaculation is not required as proof of sexual intercourse.
The offense is a straight felony, attracting a severe prison sentence based on the particular sexual act against the minor. For instance, sodomy or sexual intercourse with a minor below ten could be punishable by 25 years to life imprisonment.
All crimes under the general umbrella of child molestation are serious offenses, attracting severe criminal penalties. Some offenses are charged as misdemeanors, while others as felonies, depending on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal background. As a misdemeanor, an offender is likely to receive a maximum of one year in jail and a hefty penalty. A felony charge will attract graver criminal penalties, including several years and sometimes life in prison. Some charges attract additional criminal penalties, including a requirement to register as a sex offender. The nature and severity of your penalties will depend on the particular underlying charge and the circumstances of your case.
On top of these criminal penalties, offenders are subject to other life-altering consequences after conviction. For instance, most child molestation offenses could carry severe immigration consequences. It is because they are categorized under crimes of moral turpitude. Crimes of moral turpitude include those offenses that are vile and an insult to morality. Sexual acts with a minor, however minor the offense might seem, go against our society’s morals. It means that you could face deportation if you are a non-citizen or be marked as inadmissible if you try to obtain residence in the United States. Deportation will change your life, especially if you have your family, a job, and other strong ties in the United States.
A conviction for child molestation could also impact your gun rights. California residents are allowed to purchase or possess firearms but under strict conditions. You might lose your right to own or buy a gun in the state if you have a felony conviction in your criminal record. Thus, a felony conviction for any offense under child molestation laws might cause you to lose your gun rights. It means that you will not be allowed to purchase a firearm. If you have a gun at the time of conviction, the judge will order you to surrender it immediately.
A sentence for child molestation will also leave you with a damaging criminal record that could affect various aspects of your life. For instance, a criminal record might make it a challenge to find suitable employment or even obtain certain services. It becomes increasingly hard for employers and other influencers to trust anyone with a criminal record. If you have training in an area where you’re required to work with children, employers will find it hard to trust you with any role within their organization/institution. There is also the stigma of having a criminal record, which could cause people to treat you differently.
Best Defense Strategies
Child molestation charges are grave and a conviction life-altering. But, you can avoid a conviction if you put up a good fight against your charges during the trial. California law allows defendants enough time to plan for trial and a chance to fight their charges in court before a jury aggressively. However, that would be possible if you worked alongside a competent criminal lawyer. An experienced lawyer will know the right defense strategies to use in your case to compel the court to dismiss or reduce your charges. The most common of these strategies are:
Victim Doesn’t Meet Given Age Criteria for the Offense
Child molestation charges can only hold if the alleged victim of the offense is a minor. If the victim were an adult at the time of the crime, you’d not face charges under this statute. In California, a minor is an individual below 18 years of age. The victim must not have attained the legal age of 18 at the time of the offense to be considered a child and incapable of giving consent.
Different statutes under California child molestation laws have provided age criteria that guide the prosecutor in determining charges against the perpetrator. Some statutes require the victim to be at least 14 years of age, while others only protect victims of ten years and below. Your attorney will follow the guidance of the particular law you are alleged to have violated in using this defense.
The Contact Wasn’t Sexual
Your attorney can use this defense against child molestation charges that require sexual contact between you (the perpetrator) and the minor. Most child molestation charges require some form of sexual contact between the offender and the victim, however slight. But, the contact might not have been sexual in the first place.
For instance, an innocent contact between a teacher and his/her pupils might be misinterpreted as sexual, especially when it involves parties of the opposite sex.
It could also be that the victim bumped into you by chance and caught you unawares. In the course of defending you or the child against harm, you may have touched them in a manner that would have been considered inappropriate.
An aggressive criminal lawyer will put up a good fight to prove your innocence before the jury.
Sometimes a child may be confused about the identity of the person who sexually abused them or touched them inappropriately. It could happen when the perpetrator was unknown to the child, or the offense occurred in an unfamiliar or dark place. It becomes even more challenging for the child if the perpetrator is of a different race or the child is very young. Due to that, the child may accuse another individual, who might end up facing grave charges for an offense they know nothing about.
Other times a child could falsely accuse an innocent person due to adult manipulation or an ulterior motive. Sadly, many people have been wrongly convicted due to false accusations and face severe penalties for offenses they did not commit.
If that is the case, your attorney should be able to convince the court of your innocence.
Find an Experienced Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Child molestation charges could result in criminal and other consequences that will affect several aspects of your life upon conviction. But you could avoid a conviction if you engage the help of a competent criminal lawyer. Your lawyer will offer legal advice and guidance and put up a solid defense against your charges. He/she will also guide you through the legal process until you obtain a favorable outcome of your case. If you face child molestation charges in Los Angeles, you can find competent legal help from Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer. Call us at 310-502-1314 for more information and quality legal assistance. We might compel the judge to reduce or dismiss your charges.