California’s law seeks to protect children from being targeted or exposed to sexual encounters before they are old and mature enough to understand and legally consent to such action. The best way that the state has to protect our children in this manner is to hold no-bars when it comes to persecuting child sex crimes.
These crimes come with severe punishments if you are found guilty. We’ll first look at the penalties that come from a child molestation charge, as well as the many different classifications these crimes are broken up into. From there we’ll briefly look at statutory rape, a similar crime. Once we understand how the law views these crimes, it will be much easier for us to look at how we defend you against a charge of child molestation here in L.A.
What are the Penalties for a Child Molestation Crime in California?
There are a number of crimes that fall under the umbrella of “child molestation” in L.A. These all come with penalties that will cost years of freedom and thousands of dollars should you be convicted. They also trip Penal Code Section 290, which requires sex offender registration.
The various child molestation crimes are as follows:
- Penal Code Section 288(a): It is illegal to engage in any kind of lewd or lascivious act with a person under the age of 14. This covers lewdly touching any part of the child’s body, even if it is covered in clothing. Note that it is any part of the body and not just the sexual organs. Being found guilty could result in eight years in state prison and a fine of $10,000.
- Penal Code Section 288(b): An upgrade of the previous charge to include that the act was done through force or fear. Section 288(a) could be charged even when a minor gives their consent, as a minor cannot legally consent to sexual acts. But this charge, which sees up to 10 years in state prison and a fine of $10,000, is received when the sexual act is forced.
- Penal Code Section 288(c): Another lewd or lascivious acts crime, this one is for when a child of age 14 or 15 is involved and the perpetrator was at least ten years older than them. This could be charged as a misdemeanor crime or as a felony. A misdemeanor will see one year in county jail while a felony conviction gets three years in state prison.
- Penal Code Section 288a: This is the crime of committing oral copulation with a minor through force. It can be charged as a felony of up to three years in state prison, eight years, or even twelve years depending on the age difference between the victim and the aggressor.
- Penal Code Section 288.4: This is the crime of soliciting a minor for lewd purposes. This means arranging to meet with a person you believed to be a minor with the intention of engaging in lewd acts. It can be a misdemeanor or a felony which could result in a year in jail and a fine of $5,000 or three years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
- Penal Code Section 288.5: This charge is for the repeated sexual abuse of a child. It can get you up to sixteen years in prison and counts towards California’s three-strikes law.
- Penal Code Section 288.7: For engaging in sexual activity with a child under the age of 10. It results in 25 years to life in state prison for intercourse and 15 years to life for oral copulation.
- Penal Code Section 647.6: This is a broader charge that includes annoying or molesting a child. This means that behavior that isn’t in and of itself illegal can be charged when a normal person would consider it to be inappropriate. Things like making repeated sexually suggestive comments to a child or repeatedly putting yourself in a place where you can touch a child can trigger this charge and it could result in a misdemeanor or a felony charge with a three-year state prison term. This charge even covers things like sending messages online.
What is Statutory Rape in California?
Statutory rape is what it is called when someone has sex with a minor under the age of 18 where the two aren’t married. Some states have laws to make exceptions for cases where the individuals are close in age, such as a 17-year-old boy with his 18-year-old girlfriend or vise-versa. California, however, does not.
Statutory rape is covered under penal code 261.5 which is considered one of the “wobbler” offenses. These are the offenses that could be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances.
- Misdemeanor charges could see $1,000 in files, a year in jail, and probation.
- Felony punishments are probation, up to four years in jail, and a fine of $10,000.
Unlike child molestation charges, statutory rape charges will not require the guilty party to register as a sex offender.
What Defenses are there to a Sex Crime Involving Children?
The defenses applicable in cases of sex crimes involving children depend on the circumstances of each individual case itself but they include defensive strategies like:
- Showing the count that you were unaware that the individual was a minor
- Arguing that the offensive touching on trial was accidental rather than willful
- Proving that there was no intent to get aroused or seek sexual satisfaction from the interaction in any way
- Showing the court that fear and force was not a part of the interaction and so the charges leveled against you are incorrect
- Proving that the accusations against you are false
- Showing the courts that no intercourse occurred
What Do I Do if I’ve Been Wrongfully Charged with a Sex Crime Involving a Child?
The best thing to do when faced with a sex crime involving a child is to get an experienced attorney that will fight day and night to prove your innocence. You can find attorneys of this type here in L.A. at the Miranda Rights Law Firm. Give us a call today for a consultation about your case.