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.
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.
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.