A sex crime charge is serious in California. A conviction for a sex offense could result in a lengthy prison or jail time, mandatory requirement to register as a sex offender, loss of fundamental rights like gun rights, and hefty fines. It helps to partner with a competent criminal attorney to develop a solid defense against your charges if you face sex crime charges in San Diego. Our attorneys at San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer have the skills and experience you need to obtain a fair outcome of your situation. Contact us today for quality advice and support, and let us make the legal process smooth for you.

Common Sex Crimes in California

Sex crimes are a general term describing all sex-related offenses under California laws.

A sex-related offense is any felony or misdemeanor of a sexual nature. It includes all manner of offenses, including rape, sexual battery, prostitution, soliciting for sex, and sex crimes against minors.

California has stringent laws against sex-related offenses. Therefore, punishment for all sex crimes is usually quite severe and could include penalty enhancements in specific conditions, like cases involving the elderly or minors.

It helps to understand the details and gravity of your charges if you face sex-related charges in San Diego. But most importantly, seek the advice and support of a competent criminal lawyer to fight your charges. The outcome of your case could be fair.

Here are some of the most common sex crimes in California. Their penalties depend on the details of the case and the offender’s criminal history:

Rape — PC 261

Rape in California involves using threats, fraud, or force to engage another person in sexual intercourse without their consent. The crime is a felony, attracting a maximum of eight years in prison upon conviction. California rape charges also attract additional consequences, including a mandatory requirement to register oneself as a sex offender for life. However, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt. They are the facts of the offense that make up its legal definition:

  • You engaged in sexual intercourse with someone else
  • You were not married to the person at the time
  • That other person did not give consent to the intercourse
  • You accomplished the offense by force, menace, duress, fraud, or threats of bodily injury or retribution

The prosecutor will prove other details of the case to support your rape charges, including that the victim was alive at the time.

As used under this law, sexual intercourse refers to any penetration, however slight, of a person’s private parts by a penis. Private parts could be the genitalia or vagina. Ejaculation is not necessary for this offense to be accomplished.

The offense must be against the victim’s consent. The victim’s lack of consent or approval means that the victim did not engage in the act freely, voluntarily, or understand its nature.

Sexual Battery — PC 243.4

Sexual battery is sometimes referred to as sexual assault. It occurs when you touch another person’s intimate parts against their will for sexual arousal, abuse, or gratification. The offense is mainly a misdemeanor but could be a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. For instance, if you had unlawfully restrained the alleged victim, or you forced the victim to masturbate or touch your private parts, you could receive up to four years in prison upon conviction.

The elements of sexual battery are as follows. Remember that the prosecutor must prove them in court for the judge to find you guilty of the offense:

  • You touched someone else’s intimate part
  • You did so against their will
  • You did so for sexual abuse, sexual arousal, or sexual gratification

Note that the offense does not require sexual intercourse or any amount of penetration. Also, you could still face sexual assault charges in California even if you are in an intimate relationship with the alleged victim.

Touching another person’s intimate parts means any amount of contact with the victim’s private parts. It could be direct or indirect (through their clothes). But a felony charge will require a direct touch of the victim’s bare skin or through your clothes.

An intimate part could be a woman’s breast, or any person’s buttocks, anus, sexual organ, or groin.

Sex Abuse of a Minor — PC 288.5

Sexual abuse of a minor is a serious felony. This statute makes it an offense for any adult to abuse a child below 14 sexually continuously. The adult must be living in the same residence as the victim, and the abuse must have occurred over three months or more.

Here are the elements of this offense that the prosecutor must prove for the court to find you guilty:

  • That you live in the same home or has continuous access to the child
  • You engaged in specific sexual abuse acts with the minor
  • The abuse did not happen once, but several times over at least three months
  • The victim was below 14 years when you committed the offense

Acts of sexual abuse on a minor could include masturbation or oral copulation of a child or offender or sexual penetration of a minor’s or offender’s rectum or vagina. The penetration could be by a penis or a foreign object.

Oral copulation occurs when a person makes contact between their mouth or the other person’s mouth with a sexual part or anus. Oral copulation does not require any penetration. Even slight contact counts as an offense.

Continuously sexually abusing a minor is a felony offense in California, punishable by a maximum of sixteen years in prison. The crime is also a strike under the state’s Three-Strikes law. It means that it will impact penalties for other felony convictions in the future.

A conviction under this offense also requires lifetime registration as a sex offender. Note that the registry for sex offenders in California is publicly available. Thus, it could impact your relationship with the people around you.

Statutory Rape — PC 261.5

Statutory rape is the offense against sexual intercourse with a person below 18 years. Statutory rape charges will still hold even if the alleged victim willingly took part in it. California law clearly states that minors are legally not capable of consenting to sexual acts. However, the law exempts teenagers who are lawfully married to the offender at the time of the offense.

Statutory rape is legally defined using the following elements of the offense, which the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt for the court to find you guilty:

  • That you had sexual intercourse with the victim — Sexual penetration, however slight, will constitute sexual intercourse, even in the absence of ejaculation
  • The person you were sexually involved with was not married to you at the time— If the minor was married to someone else at the time, you could not use it as an excuse for your conduct
  • The person was a minor (a person below 18 years) when the offense occurred

The law does not require the prosecutor to prove that you used force, threats, or fear of bodily harm to accomplish the crime or that the victim did not consent to the act. The age of the victim is the most crucial aspect of statutory rape.

Statutory rape is a wobbler offense in California. It means that the prosecutor can charge it as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the facts of the case and your criminal history. For instance, it is a misdemeanor if the offender is not more than three years older than the victim, and a straight felony if the offender is over 21 years and the victim is below sixteen.

A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by a maximum of one year in jail, while a felony conviction attracts a prison sentence of up to four years.

Child Molestation — PC 288

Child molestation is a California law prohibiting any lewd or lascivious acts with a minor. The offense entails touching a child below 14 for sexual reasons.

A lewd act refers to any touch on a child done for a sexual purpose. It could also refer to causing a child to touch themselves, you, or someone else for a sexual purpose.

This law is meant to protect minors below 16 years of age and is often referred to as lewd or lascivious acts on a child. The elements of the offense are:

  • Engaging in a lascivious or lewd act
  • On the body of a minor below 14
  • Intending to gratify the lust or sexually arouse yourself, the minor, or someone else.

You commit the offense by:

  • Willfully touching any part of the victim’s body
  • Willfully or deliberately causing the victim to touch any part of their body, your body, or someone else’s body

Remember that a willful act is committed willingly or on purpose. Thus, it requires you to know the nature of the touch and its purpose.

Punishment for this offense depends mainly on the child’s age, case details, and the defendant’s criminal history.

If the victim was below 14 years, and you did not use threats or force to accomplish the offense, you will face felony charges, punishable by a maximum of eight years in prison. Using threats or intimidation to accomplish the crime aggravates it and could result in a prison sentence of up to ten years.

If the victim was below 14 years, and your action caused him/her bodily harm, you will be subject to a sentence enhancement for inflicting physical harm on a minor below 14, under California PC 288(i).

General Consequences of California Sex Crimes

Sex crimes are among the gravest offenses in California. Therefore, they attract more severe punishment. Some violations are more severe than others, attracting a lengthy prison time and additional consequences that will affect various aspects of your life. The general implications of California sex crimes include:

Prison Sentence

A prison sentence will keep you away from your life and loved ones for years. Most sex crimes in California are punishable by several years in prison. The judge could be kind enough to send you on felony probation, but only after serving a part of your prison sentence. In that case, incarceration is a high possibility after a conviction.

If sent on probation, you will serve the remaining part of your sentence out of incarceration but under strict probation conditions, like no crime while on probation and mandatory enrollment to a counseling program. A violation of any probation condition is an offense in itself.

Sex Offender Registration

A requirement to register as a sex offender is among the mandatory requirements of those convicted of specific sex crimes in California. The requirement is under California Penal Code 290. When your sentence carries this requirement, you will have to register annually with the local police within five days after your birthday. You will also register every time your physical address changes.

California sexual offender registration is three-tiered.

Under tier-one registration, you will have to register yourself for a minimum of ten years. Tier-one registrations are mainly for low-level sex misdemeanor offenders, like those convicted of sexual battery.

Tier-two registration requires you to register for a minimum of twenty years. It is for those convicted of mid-level sexual offenses like consensual sodomy with a 14-year old minor.

Tier-three registrations are for more severe sex crimes like rape and most sex crimes involving minors. Under this requirement, you will have to register as a sex offender for life.

A Damaging Criminal Record

Unfortunately, a California sex crime conviction will leave you with a damaging criminal record. It could affect many aspects of your life, including your effort to find suitable employment. A conviction for any sex crime in California requires you to disclose the conviction when applying for a job.

Many employers judge prospective employees on their criminal records. Thus, you might face some challenges in finding a job even after serving your sentence.

That is why you need the help of a competent criminal attorney in fighting your charges.

You Could Lose Important Rights

A conviction for a sex crime could infringe on some of your rights in California, for instance, your gun rights. California residents can own or buy a gun except for narcotic addicts and convicted felons. If you receive a felony conviction for a sex crime, you will likely lose your gun rights. It means that you will not buy or possess a firearm in the state. If you already have a gun, you will be required to hand it over to the authorities right after the conviction.

Inability to Have Your Conviction Record Expunged

California laws allow people convicted of various misdemeanors and felonies to apply for expungement of their criminal record after serving their sentence. Expungement eliminates all liabilities and consequences of a conviction, giving you a fresh start in life. However, you may not qualify for expungement after a conviction for specific sex crimes in California. California expungement laws exclude certain offenses like sexual assault and lewd acts with a minor from expungement.

How To Fight Sex Crime Charges in San Diego

A sex crime conviction will have a significant impact on your life. Other than the criminal penalties, your relationship with other people could be affected. That is why you must fight your charges. Seek the help of a competent San Diego criminal attorney, and together, come up with a solid defense against your charges. An experienced attorney will use some of the available legal strategies to fight your charges and cause the judge to dismiss or reduce your charges. Some of these strategies are:

It is a False Accusation

A false accusation is not unusual in the corridors of justice. People often accuse others falsely for reasons like the desire for revenge, jealousy, or to settle scores. Hundreds of people are paying for crimes they did not commit. Thus, it will not come as a surprise to the jury when you cite false accusations as a defense.

If someone else is accusing you of a sex crime you did not commit, you must remain calm. Allow your attorney to handle it on your behalf. An experienced attorney will dig deeper into your life and that of the alleged victim to understand why the ‘victim’ is framing you. The attorney will then use the findings of his/her investigation to demonstrate in court that you are a victim of false accusations.

For instance, an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend could accuse their ex-partner of a sex crime like rape after their breakup. Cases like these are heard in California courts every day. Therefore, it is likely that the jury will understand your situation and drop your charges.

Lack of Sexual Contact

Sexual contact is an essential element in most sex crimes in California. You must have established sexual contact with the alleged victim against their will or against a minor. If no sexual contact occurred, you would not be guilty as charged.

Example: California statutory rape occurs when you engage in sexual intercourse with a minor. If no sexual intercourse occurs, you will not be guilty under the statutory rape laws.

Other sex crimes like sexual assault require you to have touched the alleged victim’s private parts without their consent. If no touching occurred, then the court will drop your charges.

The challenge prosecutors face when handling cases like these is in proving all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Offenses like sexual assault occur in private. It leaves the victim and defendant as the only witnesses to the crime. It becomes hard to tell what happened unless the two parties are willing to tell the absolute truth. That leaves room for your attorney to challenge the evidence against you.

The Act Was Consensual

Consent is essential when two people engage in sexual acts. Only minors are not in a position to give consent to sexual acts. Thus, if the alleged victim is an adult and consented to the act, you can use this strategy to compel the court to drop your charges. A person gives consent to a sexual act when they freely and voluntarily agree to participate. They must also know the nature of the act to which they are consenting. If that is the case, you will not be guilty as charged.

However, this does not apply to people who falsely or fraudulently misrepresent information to unsuspecting victims to obtain consent. For instance, lying to a female medical client that touching her breasts is part of a medical procedure while in the real sense, you are doing it to gratify yourself sexually. The fraud, in this case, cancels the consent.

Insufficient Evidence

Evidence is critical to support sex crime charges. As previously mentioned, these offenses occur primarily in private, and most offenders do not leave substantial evidence behind. It is usually the word of the alleged victim against the accused. Prosecutors have to dig deeper into the circumstances of the offense to obtain sufficient evidence to support the charges.

Your attorney can cite a lack of enough evidence to compel the court to drop or reduce your charges. Insufficient evidence will make it hard for the prosecutor to prove all elements of the offense. The court cannot give a guilty verdict unless the prosecutor proves all aspects beyond a reasonable doubt. If that is the case, you will be acquitted of all your charges or face a conviction for a less-severe charge.

Find a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

Do you or someone you know face a sex crime charge in San Diego?

Sex crimes are serious offenses and could result in grave penalties upon conviction. You need proper legal guidance, advice, and help to avoid the severe consequences. A competent criminal lawyer will study the details of your case, offer advice and walk you through the legal process. He/she will fight by your side until you obtain a fair outcome of your case. We have a team of well-trained and experienced criminal lawyers at San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer. Call us at 619-695-1677 for professional advice and aggressive defense for a favorable outcome.