Sex crimes attract severe penalties in California. Given the social stigma attached to these charges, a conviction can affect your life. This includes your professional and personal relationship and your educational pursuit as well. That’s why it's recommendable to seek help from a high-caliber attorney to protect your livelihood from the ramification of sex crime sentences.

At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm in Pasadena, we understand the social ramifications associated with sex crime conviction. That’s why we keep an eye on all potential pieces of evidence that would potentially exonerate you. Please schedule an appointment with us for a detailed review of your case and learn how we can help you.

Definition and Types of Sex Crimes in California

"Sex crime" is an umbrella term used to define any illegal form of sexual conduct against an individual. These crimes range from indecent exposure to another person to severe crimes like rape. These crimes can be misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the specifics of the criminal conduct that led to the charges. Below is a detailed review of common types of sex crimes in California.

California Penal Code 261: Rape

Penal Code 261 defines rape as using force, fraud, or threats to have unconsented sexual intercourse with another person. An accused can accomplish this act through the following:

  • Menace
  • Violence
  • Duress
  • Fear of bodily injury
  • Fraud
  • Retribution

The alleged rape victim should be alive during the commissioning of the offense to be guilty of this crime.  Under this statute, sexual intercourse refers to any means of vagina or genitalia penetration, no matter how slight it is, by the penis. Ejaculation is not necessarily required for the act to be referred to as sexual intercourse.

When referring to “committing the act without consent,” any non-verbal form of not consenting that a reasonable person can understand can have you prosecuted for this crime. Therefore, the victim does not need to physically resist or fight back to communicate a lack of consent. 

Penal Code 261 also makes it a crime to have sex with particular people incapable of consenting. These people include the following:

  • Someone who’s too intoxicated to consent
  • Someone with a mental disorder
  • An unconscious person

Penalties for Rape in California

Rape is a felony crime in California punishable by:

  • Imprisonment for eight years
  • Felony or formal probation

Custody in prison can also be increased based on the following factors:

  • Increase to a maximum of eleven years if the accuser was a minor under 18 years old
  • Increased to 13 years when the accuser was a minor under 14 years

The offender will also have to register as a California sex offender for a lifetime. A rape conviction can also lead to the deportation of an immigrant and marking as inadmissible into the United States. 

You should also note that a conviction for rape can adversely affect your gun rights since California laws restrict felons from owning or possessing a gun.

California Penal Code 261.5: Statutory Rape

Penal Code 261.5 defines statutory rape as having sexual intercourse with a child below 18 years, even if the sex was initiated by a minor or unconsented. California’s legal age of consent is 18 years old.

Please note, when a minor is married to someone else does not excuse liability for this offense. Additionally, the prosecution doesn’t need to prove that the defendant used force to accomplish the sexual intercourse or the alleged victim didn’t consent to the intercourse. This creates a striking contrast with ordinary rape under California, in which lack of consent to intercourse is the main element of the crime.

Minors can also be charged with statutory rape, although prosecutors don’t prioritize prosecuting teenagers for having sexual intercourse with other teenagers. However, this doesn’t mean that the prosecution can’t occur. However, teenagers will probably be prosecuted in a juvenile court.

Penalties for Statutory Rape in California

Statutory rape is a wobbler crime in California. The prosecution usually determines how the offenses will be charged based on the following three circumstances:

  • If the defendant is at least three years older than the alleged victim, the case becomes a misdemeanor
  • If the defendant is three years older than the alleged victim, this offense is charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony
  • If the defendant is twenty-one years old and the alleged victim is below 16 years at the time of the offense, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony

In scenarios where you can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, the district attorney will decide on the charges based on the specifics of your case and your criminal history.

If you’re charged with misdemeanor statutory rape, a conviction may lead to the following penalties:

  • Misdemeanor or informal probation
  • A maximum of one year of custody in jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000

If you’re charged with felony statutory rape, a conviction may lead to the following penalties:

  • Formal or informal probation with a maximum of one year of custody in jail
  • 16 months, two years, or three years of imprisonment
  • 2,3, or 4 years of custody if the accuser was below 16 years and the defendant was 21 years and above
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Statutory rape can also lead to civil penalties on the defendant, apart from the sentences provided above. Civil penalties are non-criminal fines paid in addition to serving time or paying fines. They can only be paid by defendants who are 18 years and above. These penalties are as follows:

  • $2,000 if the accuser was two years younger than the accused
  • $5,000 if the accuser was at least two years younger than the accused
  • $10,000 if the accuser was at least three years younger than the accused
  • $25,000 if the accuser was below 16 years and the defendant was over 21 years

California Penal Code 243.4: Sexual Battery

California Penal Code 243.4 defines sexual battery as touching another person’s intimate parts, against that person’s will, to gratify or arouse yourself sexually, or abuse that person. Under this statute, intimate parts include the following:

  • Female’s breast
  • Anyone’s else anus
  • Groin
  • Buttocks
  • Or sexual organ

Penal Code 243.4 also prohibits aggravated forms of sexual battery include the following:

  • Restraining a person unlawfully, whether done alone or with assistance from someone else
  • Institutionalizing another person for medical treatment or seriously disabling or incapacitating the alleged victim
  • Fraudulently touching the other person by representing the action as a professional action
  • Making a victim masturbate or touch your intimate part, whether done alone or with an accomplice

Prosecutors could charge you with misdemeanor sexual battery if you contacted the victim’s intimate part directly or through your clothing, whether it’s yours or the alleged victim’s clothes. On the other hand, prosecutors can charge you with felony sexual battery if the defendant makes contact with his bare skin directly or through his clothes.

Penalties for Sexual Battery in California

Sexual battery is a wobbler in California. A misdemeanor conviction carries the following penalties:

  • Up to six months in county jail
  • A maximum fine of $2,000 or $3,000 if the alleged victim was the defendant’s employee
  • Up to five years of informal or summary probation

The summary or informal probation might carry the following conditions as part of the sentence:

  • Completion of a batterer's education program
  • Community service
  • Completion of a program designed to help people with sexual compulsion or abuse issues
  • Registration as a tier-one sex offender for at least ten years

When any of the above-stated factors apply, the sexual battery becomes a wobbler. Therefore, the prosecution may still decide to charge you with a misdemeanor even when they come into play. However, the maximum county jail sentence increases to one year rather than six months.

Felony sexual battery is punishable by:

  • Formal or felony probation
  • Imprisonment for 2,3 or 4 years
  • Imprisonment for three to five years if the alleged victim sustained significant bodily injury
  • A maximum fine of $10,000
  • Mandatory registration as a lifetime tier-three sex offender

Please note, if you’re convicted of a felony sexual battery when the victim is institutionalized for medical treatment or is seriously disabled, you might be required to register as a tier-one sex offender for a minimum of ten years.

California Penal Code 314: Indecent Exposure

Penal Code 314 defines indecent exposure as willfully exposing your nudity or genitals to another person to offend, annoy, sexually gratify that person or yourself.

Under this statute, “exposing yourself” refers to revealing your nudity. “Exposing your private parts” refers to revealing your bare genitals. Therefore, you don’t commit this crime if you reveal your underwear regardless of its revealing or by displaying a female breast for breastfeeding or sexual purpose.

Additionally, you should commit exposure in the sight of a person who can be annoyed by this action. Therefore, if you committed the act in a hidden place, your action doesn’t count as indecent exposure.

However, “being annoyed or offended” doesn’t consider the specific audience in indecent exposure. Therefore, exposing your nudity to a police officer, unsuspicious young woman, or a prison warded suffices as indecent exposure.

Penalties for Indecent Exposure in California

Most first-time offenders are convicted with a misdemeanor for indecent exposure. A simple misdemeanor conviction for indecent exposure carries the following penalties:

  • A maximum of six months of custody in county jail
  • A fine that amounts to $1,000
  • Mandatory registration as a sex offender for a minimum of ten years

There are specific forms of indecent exposure referred to as aggravated indecent exposure. Defendants can face aggravated indecent exposure charges when they reveal their naked body in a building, trailer, or home and enter this specific place without permission.

An aggravated form of indecent exposure is charged as a wobbler. A misdemeanor conviction carries the sentences defined above, although the maximum custody in county jail increases to one year. Felony charges for aggravated indecent exposure are punishable by:

  • 16 months, two, or three years of custody in prison
  • fines of up to $10,000
  • Mandatory registration as a sex offender for ten years

You could be charged with a felony automatically if you were previously convicted with indecent exposure or a lewd act with a child. An automatic felony conviction carries the same felony sentence.

California Penal Code 647(b): Prostitution or Solicitation

Penal code 647(b) makes it illegal to engage or to solicit prostitution. This means paying or accepting money or something of value in exchange for a lewd or sexual act. This statute applies to both prostitutes and customers.

This statute defines a lewd act as anything involving touching a female breast, buttocks, or the genitals of another person to arouse or gratify yourself or that person sexually.

Soliciting prostitution refers to requesting another person to engage in prostitution. The prosecutor determines whether to charge you as a customer or prostitute depending on who initiated the interaction.

The prosecution must also prove that you had the intent to engage in a position to be guilty of solicitation. The prosecution proves intent when you pay money, drugs, or anything of value in exchange for sex. However, it doesn’t mean that the other party shared a similar intention to be guilty of soliciting prostitution. For instance, a person can still be charged with solicitation even when:

  • The target person wasn’t a prostitute
  • The alleged prostitute was a decoy or undercover officer
  • The target person didn’t agree to the proposed transaction

The intent to solicit prostitution must also be clear. Therefore, some actions might appear potentially innocent but are proof of an intention to solicit prostitution. For instance, the following can be mistaken as the intent of soliciting prostitution:

  • Being in a place known for prostitution
  • Waving to a vehicle that’s passing by
  • Nodding to a stranger
  • Standing on a street corner in a miniskirt

Penalties for Prostitution in California

Prostitution is usually charged as a misdemeanor in California. Punishment depends on whether it’s your first or subsequent offense and the place where the violation took place. A first offense is punishable by a maximum of six months of custody in county jail and fines of up to $1,000.

A second offense is punishable by at least forty-five days of custody in county jail, while a third or subsequent offense requires ninety days in county jail.

Prostitution or soliciting prostitution in California committed while using a car and within 1,000 feet of a residence can lead to suspension of your driver’s license for up to thirty days or issuance of a restricted license for up to six months. 

Please note, prostitution or solicitation does not lead to a mandatory requirement to register as a sex offender. However, judges have the discretion to require registration if the offense resulted from sexual gratification or compulsion.

California Penal Code 647(a): Lewd Act in Public

Lewd act in public is prohibited under Penal Code 647(a). This statute defines lewd acts in public as touching your or another person’s genitals, buttocks, or female breast for sexual gratification, knowing that the other person will be annoyed by your conduct.

Lewd act in public is also referred to as solicit lewd act in public. Under this statute, a public location refers to a place open to the public or exposed to the public view. Some of the places commonly referred to as public include:

  • An adult bookstore or a private movie booth
  • A car that’s parked on the street
  • Common hallways in apartment buildings
  • A massage parlor

Locations like a hotel room, a place of business, or a hotel room are not public. However, you can violate this statute if these places are exposed to public view, especially when the blinds or curtains are open.

The requirement of a third party to be present to make these charges valid is usually mistaken. This law has little interest in prohibiting lewd actions in public if a third party is not present and offended by your conduct. Therefore, there must be the actual likelihood that a third person is present, whether that person can see you or when no one viewing the activity is offended by it.

Penalties for Lewd Act in Public

Lewd act in public is a misdemeanor punishable by:

  • A maximum of six months of custody in county jail
  • A maximum fine of $1,000

A judge might issue an informal or summary probation with little or no custody in jail with the following conditions:

  • Fines
  • Mandatory AIDS testing
  • The requirement to stay from the location of your arrest
  • Counseling

Common Legal Defense Strategies for Sex Crimes

Several defense strategies apply in several sex crimes, despite being different. The success of every defense depends on the skills of your attorney. A good defense strategy requires adequate trial preparation and extensive research to ensure that it’s compelling. Here are some of the defense strategies that you can use in your case.

Victim’s Consent

In a case where the alleged victim is not underage or incapacitated, consent can be a primary legal defense strategy in your sex crime. However, establishing consent in a sex crime from a legal perspective can be tricky since most of these crimes' consent is based on he-said/she-said scenarios.

Therefore, your defense attorney can only emphasize indirect evidence of consent like the alleged victim’s actions before and after the incident or the current and past relationship between the two. Targeting the sexual behavior of an alleged victim can be a contentious subject, especially when the jury’s perception is in play. Though tough to prove this, you can accomplish it with the help of an experienced sex defense attorney.

Involuntary Intoxication or Insanity

Legal insanity refers to a state of the mind where a person cannot act without knowing the nature and extent of the conduct. If you’re capable of proving your legal incapacity about the actions, this can be a suitable legal defense.

You cannot distinguish between right and wrong in the above two scenarios, meaning that you didn’t intend to engage in sexual conduct.

Mistake of Age

Mistaking the alleged victim’s age isn’t necessarily a suitable defense in sex crime charges. It’s only useful in specific scenarios where the alleged victim is below 18 years old. However, it can’t work if the alleged victim is below 14 years old.

It is only useful when reducing your charges since penalties can be severe when the alleged victim is a minor.

Mistaken Identity or Police Abuse

The prosecution or police can be overzealous when looking to punish someone for a sex crime. Therefore, they tend to rush into making errors while processing a case. Your attorney should analyze your case and interview relevant people to check for any errors related to your case.

This might help determine whether your rights are violated if the evidence collected is right to create a strong defense.

Mistaken Identity

You can rely on mistaken identity as your defense to a sex crime charge if you can prove that you were misidentified as the perpetrator. In this case, the person mistakenly identified as the perpetrator of the sex crime in question should demonstrate that the prosecution made the case out of mistaken identity. DNA evidence could be highly compelling in this situation.

False Allegation

A sex crime accuser’s motivation is relevant in creating doubt with jurors. Accusers can falsely accuse a defendant of sexual conduct as a way of vengeance or contempt. Your attorney should do a proper pre-trial investigation of the accuser and the circumstances under which the allegations were made.

Find a Sex Crimes Attorney Near Me

A conviction for any sex crime can be embarrassing.  It also brings the worries of being humiliated for life, especially when you’re required to register as a sex offender. You may also end up losing some of your rights when convicted as a sex offender. At the Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm in Pasadena, we believe that everyone deserves another chance. That’s why we aggressively defend our clients to achieve the best results possible. For more information, contact us today at 626-628-0564 and let us help you go through these difficult times.