Those who live in tree houses with no Internet access aside, few people are unaware of the recent barrage of sexual misconduct accusations against public figures. The accused (and in some cases admitted) offenders include media moguls, respected journalists, and politicians. While some of the stories being told appear to be instances of exceptionally poor judgment and not criminal conduct, others do involve disturbing incidents – sometimes continuing over years or even decades – of forcible sexual contact and sexual activity involving children.
Other than homicide, few criminal offenses carry a greater stigma or more serious penalties than those involving sexual misconduct. As we have seen in recent months, even an unsubstantiated accusation denied by the alleged perpetrator may be sufficient to end a career.
We represent clients accused of a variety of sexually-based offenses, including:
‒ Statutory Rape According to California law, persons under the age of 18 cannot have consensual sex with an adult. Some of the more high profile cases involving adult teachers and minor students have been pursued as statutory rape cases, sometimes in conjunction with charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
‒ Lewd and Lascivious Acts This is a charge frequently brought in connection with incidents of child molestation. The specific charges and penalties can vary greatly, depending in part upon the specific acts alleged and the age of the child.
‒ Forcible Rape While often accompanied by significant violent acts against the victim, rape occurs whenever sex between two otherwise competent adults is (or becomes) non-consensual.
‒ Sexual Battery While often called “assault”, “battery” occurs whenever an individual makes unreasonable and uninvited contact with another person. If the contact is sexual in nature, a charge of sexual battery may be brought. This offense is sometimes charged when one or more elements of rape or another offense are not present.
‒ “Sexting” and Related Offenses The typical case involves an adult communicating in a lewd manner with a person known to him or her to be a minor. The fact that the adult is engaging in pure fantasy is not a defense.
‒ Sex Offender Registration Violations California was one of the earliest states to adopt a sex offender registry. We defend individuals who are charged with failing to register or to comply with other requirements, such as reporting a change of address.
Possible Defenses to Rape and Sexual Assault Charges
The outcome of many sexual assault trials turns on who is more credible, the victim or the accused. Your attorney will carefully review whether any of several defenses may be viable in your case.
‒ Did the Alleged Act Really Happen? – This question may or may not be relevant in a given case, depending upon the nature of the state’s evidence.
‒ Was the Defendant the Assailant? – If there was clearly an assault, questions may be raised regarding the accuracy the identification of the defendant. Advances in DNA technology have made it easier in some cases for the prosecution to overcome this hurdle, though it may also exclude an individual from suspicion before he or she is even charged.
‒ Consent ‒ Assuming the victim is a mentally competent adult who was not severely intoxicated, the question of whether an alleged rape or sexual assault was actually consensual is often at the heart of a defense team’s case.
California’s “rape shield law” prohibits introduction at trial of evidence concerning the victim’s past sexual conduct as a means of proving consent. There is a narrow and technical exception which allows such evidence to be used to “impeach” the victim; that is, to call into question the trustworthiness of his or her testimony. An experienced and knowledgeable sex crimes defense attorney will explore whether this exception may apply in your case.
In the case of many other crimes, it is often possible for the defendant to avoid the risk of conviction of a serious crime at trial in exchange for pleading guilty to a less serious one. However, California’s sex offender registration statutes apply to a wide variety of sexually-based offenses, and a defendant cannot ordinarily avoid registration by pleading guilty. Because of this, defendants will often forego any possible plea agreement.