California Child Molestation Law

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California prosecutors go after alleged child molesters very aggressively.

Someone accused of molesting a child cannot expect any sympathy from the media, the public, or from the state, so hiring an experienced sex crimes attorney to fight your child molestation charges is absolutely critical.

If convicted, you can expect to face negative repercussions, ranging from time in jail or prison to registering as a sex offender.

To give yourself the best chance of beating the charges, you need an attorney experienced in California molestation law.

Lewd and Lascivious Acts

California Penal Code Section 288 is the state’s main child molestation statute. It defines molestation as a “lewd or lascivious act,” which boils down to touching a child’s body in a sexual manner. You can face child molestation charges even if you do not touch a child’s sexual organ (such as a penis or vagina) or even if you do not touch bare skin. You can even be charged with molestation if you cause the child to touch you or someone else in order to satisfy your sexual desires.

This is a long statute and criminalizes many different types of molestation:

  • Section 288(a) criminalizes lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14. This is a felony which can carry a prison sentence of 8 years and a $10,000 fine.
  • Section 288(b) criminalizes lewd or lascivious acts with someone under 18 by use of force or fear. This is a felony that carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
  • Section 288(c) deals with defendants who commit lewd or lascivious acts with a child aged 14 or 15. This can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Misdemeanor convictions are punishable by up to a year in jail.

“He got my charges reduced significantly..”

Dan was referred to me by a friend, and I could not have been more pleased. He got my charges reduced significantly. He took the time to explain everything to me, and really made sure that I understood all my options. He was professional, responsible and did a great job. I would highly recommend Dan to anyone who needs a quality criminal attorney.

– Stephanie

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Oral Copulation

California’s law singles out oral copulation in Section 287 (formerly Section 288a) of the California Penal Code. It is illegal to have oral copulation with someone under 18. It is defined as any contact (no matter how slight) between one person’s mouth and another’s penis, vagina, or anus.

Punishment will depend on the ages of those involved:

  • If the defendant is 21 or older and the minor is under 16, then it is a felony that can land the person in prison for up to 3 years.
  • If the victim was under 14 and the defendant is 10 or more years older, then the crime is a felony punishable by up to 8 years in prison.

Annoying or Molesting a Child

A different statute also criminalizes annoying or molesting a child under age 18. You can find the law at California Penal Code Section 647.6. Basically, this law casts a wide net to include conduct that doesn’t technically violate Section 288 but that nevertheless shows an inappropriate sexual interest in a minor.

To obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must show:

  • The defendant engaged in conduct that was directed at someone under 18 at the time of the act.
  • The conduct would cause a normal person, without hesitation, to be offended, irritated, or injured.
  • The defendant was motivated by an unnatural sexual interest in the minor.

A defendant can be convicted of a misdemeanor, charged $5,000 fine, and sent to county jail for up to a year. Subsequent violations lead to stiffer penalties.

Showing Pornography to a Minor Case Result

Disclaimer: The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. The outcome of each legal case depends upon many factors, including the facts of the case, and no attorney can guarantee a positive result in any particular case

Verdict: Not-guilty

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Soliciting a Minor for a Lewd Purpose

California criminalizes arranging to meet with a minor for sex. A person can face child molestation solicitation charges if they:

  • Arranged a meeting with a minor or with someone they believed was a minor
  • Were motivated by sexual interest in the minor
  • Had the specific intent to molest the child.

Conviction under California Penal Code Section 288.4 can be for either a misdemeanor or a felony. Someone without a criminal record could be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries as punishment up to 1 year in county jail and a $5,000 fine. A person who has a prior sexually-related conviction could be sentenced to state prison for up to three years and face a $10,000 fine.

Sex with a Minor Under Age 10

California Penal Code Section 288.7(a) criminalizes sex with a child under the age of 10. It is a felony that carries as punishment 25 years to life in prison.

The statute also criminalizes oral copulation or penetrating a child with a foreign object, which are felonies as well. Punishment is 15 years to life in prison.

Avoid Sex Offender Registration

Under California Penal Code Section 290, anyone convicted of any felony child molestation charges must register as a sex offender.

To fight child molestation charges, please contact the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC. We offer a free consultation to those who need help.

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Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.