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California Penal Code Section 288 is the statute that addresses lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age. This law prohibits any acts that are of a sexual nature or are indecent.

California’s age of consent is 18, so you can be convicted of a lewd act even if the child is an active participant in the encounter.

If you have been accused of committing lewd or lascivious acts with a child, you need an attorney’s help. The law is fairly complicated, and building a proper defense takes experience. As mentioned above, simply arguing that the child was an active participant in any contact is not a defense that will work in these types of cases. Please contact our firm to schedule a confidential consultation so we can get to work right away on your case.

What Is a Lewd Act on a Child Under Penal Code 288(a)?

To obtain a conviction, the prosecution must do more than simply accuse you of behaving inappropriately around a child. Instead, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The child was under the age of 14 at the time of the incident.
  • You touched any part of a child’s body willfully and lewdly, or you willfully and lewdly caused a child to touch another person’s body, including your own.
  • You committed the acts with the goal of arousing, gratifying, or appealing to your sexual desires or the sexual desires of the child.

For example, accidentally bumping into a child is not a lewd act, since you did not commit it willfully. Having a child lewdly touch you is also not a crime—so long as you did not willfully and lewdly encourage it. However, adults and children often have conflicting memories about what happened, and the prosecutor will need to decide who to believe.

Other Offenses Under the Statute

The statute has other subsections that criminalize other conduct and potentially award greater or lesser penalties:

  • PC 288(b) is similar to the section above but involves lewd or lascivious acts committed through fear, duress, violence, or force. Conviction under this section of the statute carries a greater punishment.
  • PC 288(c) involves lewd or lascivious acts with a child who is age 14 or 15 if the defendant is at least 10 years older than the minor. It carries a lighter sentence than PC 288(a).
  • PC 288.5 is like PC 288(a) but involves multiple incidents. If you committed 3 or more acts within a 3-month period, you can be charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child if you lived in the same home or had recurring access to the child.

Punishments for Committing Lewd or Lascivious Acts

California’s law provides for severe penalties for violations of the statute. Each case is different, and not all defendants will receive the same punishments. However, some prosecutors will seek the maximum, depending on your criminal history:

  • PC 288(a). It is a felony to commit lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age. A defendant can face 3, 6, or 8 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted.
  • PC 288(b). Committing a lewd or lascivious act using force, duress, violence, or fear is a felony and carries a sentence of 5, 8, or 10 years and a $10,000 fine. A defendant is also ineligible for probation, so prison is unavoidable.
  • PC 288(c). Committing a lewd or lascivious act with a child who is 14 or 15 is a wobbler. It could be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor can result in up to 364 days in jail, while a felony could send you to prison for 3 years.
  • PC 288.5. Continuous sexual abuse of a child can net a defendant 6, 12, or 16 years in state prison.

Registration as a Sex Offender

Lifetime registration as a sex offender is required for conviction of any offense under Penal Code 288. If you fail to register, you can face additional criminal charges and possibly spend up to 3 years in prison. Simply for failing to register.

With registration, you will need to update local law enforcement of your personal information. Your personal information, such as name, address, and photograph, will also be posted to the public website.

There Is Hope

At the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, we remind clients that an arrest or accusation is not a conviction. 

Many children make up stories to strike back at a teacher, coach, or parent. It is vital that you find a trustworthy attorney who will advocate for you. We have many successful stories we want to share with you. 

Our attorneys have handled well over 100 trials and have decades of experience. Please contact us to schedule a free consultation.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong

Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm, the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, in June 2007. Prior to that, he was employed as the senior associate attorney for a large criminal defense firm in San Diego for nine years, eventually being placed in charge of that firm’s branch office in downtown San Diego. At one point, he was managing six attorneys at that firm, as well as several support staff and law clerks. In 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys. In 2017, he was also selected for the Super Lawyers Top 50 in San Diego list. In 2014, he was selected as a Top Attorney by Los Angeles Magazine. Additionally, Mr. Armstrong was also named as a Top Attorney by the San Diego Business Journal in 2014.

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