Understanding What “Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child” Means in California

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Allegations of child sexual abuse often engender sympathy for victims, especially if the allegations span a prolonged period.

Charges like continuous sexual abuse of a child often leave the accused feeling as if the constitution’s protections do not apply to them.

If the government has charged you with such a crime, a strong, accomplished, and aggressive advocate can level the playing field for you.

We believe in superior service and support at The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC. That means we give you the emotional support and the legal advocacy you need and deserve.

Relying on nearly 40 years of criminal defense experience with over 150 trials, we will work to alleviate the damage this accusation has wrought in your life. 

What Is Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child?

California Penal Code § 288.5 defines this offense. It states that continuous sexual abuse of a child occurs when: 

  • A person who is living with or who has access to a minor child under 14 years of age;
  • Has substantial sexual conduct or three or more acts of lewd and lascivious conduct with the child, and
  • That sexual conduct lasted for at least three months. 

Access means having an authoritative relationship with the child, such as teacher-student, coach-player, or priest-penitent.

But to understand this offense, we must also discuss what substantial sexual conduct and lewd and lascivious means.

Definition of Sexual Conduct

The California Penal Code § 1203.066 defines substantial sexual conduct as penetration of the vagina or rectum of either the victim or accused by the penis of the other.

It also includes penetration by a foreign object, oral copulation, or masturbation by either the victim or the offender. 

Definition of Lewd and Lascivious Acts

According to the Penal Code § 288, lewd and lascivious acts involve touching the body of a child under 14 with the intent to obtain sexual arousal or to gratify the lust, passions, or sexual desires of the accused or the child. 

Prosecutors like to use this statute when child victims cannot recall certain details like the specific dates that abuse occurred.

The law allows the prosecutor to charge the perpetrator with this offense without having to prove individual events.

Instead, the State can claim a series of events that transpired over a minimum of three months. 

What Is the Sentence for Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child?

The violation of Penal Code § 288.5 is a felony, punishable by incarceration in state prison for 6, 12, or 16 years.

A conviction for this crime carries other consequences as well.

For instance, such a conviction could qualify you for prosecution as a subsequent offender or another sentencing enhancement if you pick up another charge down the road.

Moreover, you must register as a sex offender for life after a conviction under this statute. 

Fierce Advocates When Your Life Hangs in the Balance

As you can see from the severity of the penalties, you will need aggressive lawyers like Kerry L. Armstrong and his team to protect your rights and preserve your future.

As a board-certified legal specialist in criminal law, Kerry L. Armstrong has built a reputation as an outstanding lawyer, winning Trial Attorney of the Year and Attorney of the Year in 2012.

Attorney Armstrong has surrounded himself with other award-winning attorneys, making The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong a formidable and effective defense team.

Contact us online or call us at 619-776-3166 for a free, confidential consultation. 

Author Photo

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.

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