What Is the Difference Between Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Assault in California?

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Many people use the phrases sexual misconduct and sexual assault as if they mean the same thing. However, one refers to a form of behavior, while another represents a criminal offense.

If you have questions about sexual misconduct versus sexual assault, contact a criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, today.

Our California sex crimes lawyers can explain the difference between sexual misconduct and sexual assault in California.

What Is Sexual Misconduct?

Sexual misconduct refers to problematic sexual behaviors that may or may not violate a criminal statute.

California does not have legislation addressing sexual misconduct specifically. However, it does have statutes that criminalize behaviors that may be considered sexual misconduct.

Sexual misconduct may include acts like the following:

Thus, sexual misconduct itself is not a defined criminal offense in California. Instead, sexual misconduct is an umbrella term that describes many different problematic sexual behaviors.

Sexual misconduct is also used to describe prohibited sexual acts in the workplace, like dating your subordinate or direct supervisor. 

Remember, you cannot face a sexual misconduct charge, but some forms of sexual misconduct may be considered a violation of California law. 

What Is Sexual Assault?

In California, sex crimes that do not involve rape or abuse typically fall under the umbrella of sexual battery crimes. Sexual battery in California is the same as sexual assault in other states.

California defines misdemeanor sexual battery as touching an intimate part of another person against their will for sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.

Misdemeanor sexual battery carries the potential for up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. 

Sexual battery is considered aggravated sexual battery when the victim is:

  • Unaware of the nature of the act because the offender fraudulently made them believe the touching served a professional purpose,
  • Coerced to touch themselves or someone else while being unlawfully restrained or institutionalized,
  • Unlawfully restrained, or
  • Committed for medical treatment and seriously disabled or mentally incapacitated. 

Felony sexual battery carries the potential for up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Sexual battery is a serious crime in California. If you or a loved one are facing charges of sexual battery, contact a criminal defense lawyer right away. 

Get in Touch With a San Diego Sex Crimes Lawyer Today

Our team of criminal defense lawyers knows how to navigate allegations of sexual battery.

Our founding attorney, Kerry L. Armstrong, understands the implications a criminal conviction can have on your life, and he thrives on ensuring he gets the best possible result for his clients.

Mr. Armstrong has earned the respect of other attorneys in the area, earning the distinction of 2012 Trial Attorney of the Year awarded by the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association. 

He is also a California State Bar-certified specialist in criminal law.  

When your liberties are at stake, you need a criminal defense lawyer with the resources and experience to secure a favorable outcome.

Start your fight today by scheduling an appointment with a member of our team.

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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