Sex crimes such as sexual battery and sexual assault are among the severely punished sex crimes in California. The consequences for these crimes not only entail criminal fines and sentences but also civil liabilities such as victim restitution. To fight sexual battery charges and possibly have your charges reduced or dropped, we invite you to contact the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer for help. Our criminal defense lawyers are experienced in criminal law and are ready to help defend your rights and get your side of the story heard.

Understanding Sexual Battery

Sexual battery is legally defined as touching another person’s private parts without their consent for sexual gratification. It also occurs when a person overpowers another person for sexual enjoyment. The criminal sexual contact or touch by one person on another person without their consent is considered a grave violation of human rights and can be severely punished. Note that this offense doesn’t require any penetration or sexual intercourse for you to be charged.

Sexual battery can be committed anywhere and while the victim is clothed or unclothed. Some states use the term ‘sexual battery’ to refer to the sexual touch of a criminal nature on another person without their permission. Other states use the same term to refer to more serious sex crimes such as forced penetration or rape.

It is imperative to note that there is a big difference between rape and sexual battery. Rape is an act of use of force on another person so as to engage in sexual intercourse or other sexual activities with that other person. Criminal rape will involve penetration, and even the slightest form of penetration will count as rape. Sexual battery, on the other hand, is a sexual crime, similar to the definition above, but does not involve any penetration. When criminal rape and sexual battery are compared, the sexual battery will be a lesser offense even though it still attracts steep penalties in California. 

If a person has been accused of touching the intimate body parts of another person without their consent or by way of fraud, they will be accused of sexual battery. The touching should be done with the intention of sexual arousal or satisfaction. Actions that can be taken as sexual battery include:

  • Fondling or grabbing a woman’s breasts without her consent
  • Patting or spanking a person’s buttocks
  • Touching a person’s genital area
  • Forcing a person to touch another person’s intimate body parts
  • Forcibly kissing another person on the mouth

California Law Section 243.4 is the law against sexual battery actions, also called the state’s sexual assault law. This is the law that prohibits the touching of another person’s intimate body parts without their consent for the purposes of arousal, gratification or abuse. Sexual assault is treated as a separate offense from rape in the state. Rape, as provided under California’s Penal Code 261, requires sexual intercourse or actual penetration for a person to be convicted of the crime. Note that a person can be accused of sexual assault in California even if they are already involved with their victim in an ongoing sexual relationship.

Elements of Sexual Battery

There are several elements that a prosecutor needs to prove for a person to be guilty of sexual battery.

Touch

There must be proof that the defendant touched the accused inappropriately. The touch, in this case, means making contact with a victim's intimate part. Touching in sexual abuse can be done indirectly or directly. A direct touch can happen when the victim is without clothes and indirect touching can be done through clothes. For it to be a felony offense, the touch must have been done on the victim's bare skin. This could have been done on anyone, including an unlawfully restrained person or even a physically or mentally incapacitated person. If the touching was done indirectly on the victim's clothing, the battery, in this case, will be treated as a misdemeanor.

The intimate part

The touch must have been done on another person’s intimate part for the crime of sexual battery to be proved. There are several intimate parts that can be considered in such a case, including a woman’s breasts, groin, anus, penis, buttocks and sexual organs.

The touch must have been done against the victim’s will

Any case of battery involves touching a person against their will, which is the same case with California’s sexual battery offense. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender indeed touched the victim against their will, meaning that the victim did not give consent to that touch. For consent to be there, the person who is being touched must have acted voluntarily and freely, knowing too well the nature of the act they are consenting to. The person being touched must also be of legal age to be able to consent to that kind of act.

Note that consent may not be there even if the defendant and the victim have a close relationship. Consent is not always presumed and so, it could be withdrawn if it is communicated.

In case of fraud, or misrepresentation for the purpose of gaining consent, consent will be negated in that case and the defendant will be guilty of sexual battery.

For the purpose of sexual gratification

The touch must have been done for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal for the defendant to be proven guilty of sexual battery. A person who touches another person with a specific intention of causing sexual abuse also intends to humiliate, injure or intimidate that person and cause them to suffer pain or discomfort in one or more of their intimate parts. Even without the intention of sexual gratification, this too can be treated as sexual battery.

Can the touch be accidental? Yes, in which case it will not be treated as sexual battery. However, if the touch was meant to bring some form of sexual satisfaction to the defendant or to arouse the sexual desires of the victim, this will be a straight case of sexual battery.

Unlawful restraint

Restraining a person against their will can happen through the use of comments, the act itself or through authority. Note that unlawful restraint doesn’t have to mean that the offender had handcuffed or tied up their victim. It could be both physical and emotional/mental. A person may be unlawfully restrained if their offender blocks their ability to get away. It can also be done through intimidations, making the victim fearful and unable to get out of the situation.

The prosecutor, in this case, will try to prove that the defendant used his/her authority to prevent their victim from leaving, thereby battering them sexually.

Example: a supervisor who threatens to fire a junior staff if he/she refuses to stay in the office to submit to the supervisor’s intimidating touch or sexual act can be charged with sexual battery.  

A restraint becomes unlawful if a person controls the freedom of movement of another person through the use of actions, words or authority and that restraint is used against their will. The restraint will require more than the defendant's physical force for him/her to accomplish the objective, which in this case is sexual touching.

An accomplice

Sexual battery can be done by the defendant alone or with an accomplice. A person who assists the accused to perform the act is equally guilty of the crime and so, you could be charged with sexual battery if it is proved that you had aided or abetted in the crime. The charges for an accomplice will be just the same as those of the actual offender, and the punishments of aiding the crime will be the same as those that the perpetrator faces.

You could be accused of being an accomplice in a sexual battery crime if:

  • You were aware that what the primary offender was doing was criminally wrong but you did not stop him/her or report the matter
  • If you intended or you, in fact, aided, encouraged, promoted or instigated the commission of a crime of sexual battery
  • If you intended to, or you actually took part in the commission of that crime

Penalties for Sexual Battery

Sexual battery in California could be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the details of the crime and the evidence presented before the court.

Misdemeanor Sexual Battery

Misdemeanor Sexual Battery will be the simple form of the offense. The sexual assault crime will be considered a misdemeanor if it only consisted of touching of a person's private parts against their consent for the purposes of abuse, sexual gratification, and arousal, but without other aggravating factors.

If a person is found guilty of misdemeanor sexual battery without any aggravating factors, they could face the following penalties:

  • County jail sentence for a maximum of six months
  • A fine that cannot exceed $2000 or up to $3000 if there is proof that the victim was your junior or employee
  • Informal or summary probation, for a period not exceeding five years. During the probation period, the offender may be obligated to participate in community service, to complete a batterer’s education program
  • Registering as a tier-1 sex offender as provided in California Penal Code 290, for at least 10 years

Felony Sexual Battery

The crime of sexual battery with aggravating factors will be a straight case of a felony offense. Some of the aggravating factors include unlawfully restraining a victim, a case of an institutionalized victim, a disabled or incapacitated person and a victim that is fraudulently convinced that the touch is for their well-being or done for medical purposes among other similar factors.

If these factors are involved in the sexual battery, then the offense is treated as a wobbler. The prosecutor can charge you with either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the evidence presented on the case plus your past criminal records. This means that even though there are aggravating factors in your case, the prosecutor can still charge you with a misdemeanor, whose penalties have been provided above. However, for this case, the maximum jail sentence will go up to one year.

However, if the aggravating factors apply and the prosecutor charges you with a felony offense, you could face more serious penalties, which are:

  • A felony or formal probation
  • 2, 3 or 4 years in state prison. You can get more years in prison (3-5) if the victim sustained a serious bodily injury as a result of the battery
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • The requirement to register as a tier-3 sex offender for the rest of your life

A person charged with felony sexual assault on a victim who has been institutionalized and in need of medical care or on a victim who is medically incapacitated or seriously disabled, and the offender touched such a person against their consent for the intent of sexual gratification, arousal, and abuse, the offender will be required to only register as a tier-1 sex offender, something that should be done for a minimum of ten years.

Possible Defenses for California Sexual Battery Charges

Sexual battery can be a serious allegation that could affect your life for good. Working with a good criminal lawyer may help a lot in not only keeping you out of jail or prison but also proving that you are not liable to the crime you are allegedly committed. There are several legal defenses that can be used in your defense:

The victim gave consent

This is the main and most common defense to many sex crimes. If the victim gave consent to the action or you had reason to believe that they were willing to go on with the act, you may not be found guilty of the offense. Victim’s consent could have been inferred through their comments and failure to object. However, in a case where the defendant misrepresented him/herself, used coercion or intimation, the victim may not have been able to object, but this will not be considered as consent. Again, if the victim was unconscious or under alcohol or drugs’ influence, they may not object to the touching and cannot give consent and so, the defendant will be liable to the crime.

In the case of dating partners, it is important to know that a person may withdraw consent any time they want. If one partner proceeds with the act even after the other partner have withdrawn consent, they could be charged with sexual battery.

Insufficient evidence

Many sexual battery cases have been withdrawn as a result of lack of sufficient evidence to convict the offender. If an accusation is made by a victim but there are no visible signs or no witnesses to support the accusation, the prosecutor may be forced to drop the charges against the offender. Some of the signs sought after in such cases may include bruises or any other evidence that could show aggressive physical contact on the victim.

A false accusation

There are many possibilities of being accused falsely of a sex crime you did not commit. There are victims who suffer from mental conditions that could lead them to make false accusations against other people just to get attention. There are also cases of an alleged victim accusing a person of a sex crime to get back on them for something they did in the past. This could be done to seek retribution or revenge against someone that caused you suffering sometime back, maybe an ex-spouse or partner. Other people may accuse others falsely to extort money from them or for other personal gains. If that is the case, your charges will be dropped and legal action could be taken against your accuser.

Sexual Battery and Related Offenses

There are several crimes that are closely related to California sexual battery and sometimes could be charged together with it.

Rape: As per Penal Code 261, rape happens when a person engages in non-consensual sexual interaction with another person. The act could have been accomplished through force, threat or fraud. The only difference between rape and sexual battery is the element of intercourse in rape, which is not present in a battery case. Rape is a straight case of a felony, attracting a maximum sentence of up to 8 years plus a fine of up to $2000.

Battery: As provided under California’s Penal Code 242, battery happens when you touch another person against their consent (sexually or not), or you take a person’s hand and then place it on your intimate body parts. Most battery cases are charged as misdemeanors, attracting a sentence of not more than 6 months in jail and a fine that could go up to $2000.

Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Near Me

If you or your loved one is accused of sexual battery, what you need is the help of an experienced sex crimes lawyer. If you are in Los Angeles, California, you can rely on the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer for help in mounting a strong defense against the charges you are facing. Call 310-502-1314 to speak to a sexual battery/sex crimes lawyer today.