When someone gets accused of committing a sex-based criminal offense, it is one of the worst days of their life.
Not only do sex offenses subject a defendant to serious criminal penalties, but just the accusation alone carries a hugely negative stigma.
If you are being investigated or have been arrested for a sex crime, you need professional legal representation. You should hire an experienced sex crime defense attorney as soon as possible.
At the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, our San Diego sex crimes defense lawyers provide compassionate representation to our clients. Our law firm is committed to protecting the rights of the accused. As sex crime defense attorneys, we have a strong record of exonerating clients and getting false charges dismissed.
If you or your loved one was charged with a sex offense in San Diego County, please contact our legal team for a free initial consultation.
If you would like to know more about defending sex crime charges in California, keep reading advice from our sex crime defense lawyers. We’ll cover the following topics:
- What charges do our San Diego County sex crime attorneys handle?
- How does the legal process work for sex crimes charges?
- What are defenses in sex crimes cases in Southern California?
- What is Megan’s Law?
- How our San Diego sex crimes lawyers can help
What Charges Do Our San Diego County Sex Crime Attorneys Handle?
Our San Diego sex crimes defense lawyers have the skills, experience, and legal knowledge to handle all types of sex-based offenses. If you are charged with a sex crime in California, we will work to protect your rights and your reputation.A sex crime is a sexual act that the victim does not consent to (or cannot consent to), or an act that the victim consents to under threat or coercion. Here is a sampling of some of the sex crimes charges that our San Diego sexual assault defense attorneys have experience defending.
Some people think exposing themselves in public is a joke, but it can lead to criminal charges. Indecent exposure occurs when a person:
- Exposes their private parts in any public place;
- Exposes their private parts in a place where people may be offended or annoyed;
- Encourages or assists someone to expose their private parts in public; or
- Encourages or assists someone to display themselves in a way “adapted to excite to vicious or lewd thoughts or acts.”
In California, indecent exposure is a misdemeanor offense. That being said, it is still a serious crime. Under California Penal Code section 314, it is punishable by up to six months in jail and lifetime sex offender registration. *Note: The new sex registration three-tiered system does not go into effect until January 2021.
California has strict solicitation and prostitution laws on the books. These acts could result in criminal charges as a California sex crime:
- Soliciting anyone to engage in a lewd act in public,
- Soliciting any act of prostitution, and
- Agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution.
California law defines prostitution as “any lewd act between persons for money or other consideration.” An adult who solicits sex from a minor can be charged with solicitation. However, a minor who engages in prostitution does not face charges.
If you were charged with either solicitation or prostitution, you need to contact us right away. These are misdemeanor crimes of disorderly conduct with a sexual nature. Do not plead guilty, even to a misdemeanor offense, when a sex crime defense attorney could attempt to preserve your reputation and get your charges dismissed.
Felony sexual battery occurs when someone touches an intimate part of another person while:
- The victim is unlawfully restrained, or institutionalized and seriously disabled;
- The touching is against the will of the person touched; and
- The touching is for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse.
A medical professional who falsely represents that sexual touch serves a professional purpose can also be charged with sexual battery. Also, a person who forces someone to masturbate or touch a third person by any of the above methods of coercion can be charged with sexual battery.
Under California Penal Code section 243.4, sexual battery can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Sexual battery is often charged as a misdemeanor when the allegations are groping or a similar type of misconduct. In most circumstances, felony sexual battery involves some form of unlawful restraint, whereas misdemeanor sexual battery does not involve unlawful restraint.
Rape occurs when sex is not consensual. Rape can be charged when a person has sex in the following circumstances:
- With a mentally or physically disabled person who cannot consent;
- Against the victim’s will by force, violence, duress, or fear of injury;
- With a victim who consents out of fear of retaliation, incarceration, arrest, or deportation;
- With a sleeping or unconscious victim; and
- When a doctor sexually penetrates a patient.
Rape is a very serious felony offense. A conviction for rape will result in a lengthy prison sentence and automatic sex offender registration.
Unlawful Sexual Intercourse (aka “Statutory Rape”)
In California, the age of consent is 18. This means that a person under 18 cannot consent to sex. Even if the minor willingly participates in sex, you can still be charged a sex crime. Under California Penal Code section 261.5, unlawful sex with an underage person is a crime. It is commonly known as “statutory rape.”
This is a felony offense if you were more than three years older than the person accusing you. But even if you were close in age to the victim, you can be convicted of a misdemeanor that potentially requires sex offender registration.
California has developed and enacted a wide range of child pornography laws and computer sex crime laws. Possessing a sexually explicit photo or video of a minor is considered child pornography.
It is also criminal behavior to ask a minor to share sexually explicit photos over a computer or via text or any other means. A person accused of possessing or distributing child pornography or any related offense will almost certainly face felony charges.
Sexting and Related Crimes
If someone texts a child or a non-consenting adult in a lewd manner, it can become a sexting crime. Adults who consensually share sexually explicit images with one another usually do not face charges unless the images are of child pornography or part of revenge porn.
How Does the Legal Process Work for Sex Crimes Charges?
Like other criminal charges, sex crimes defendants proceed through a series of legal steps. A skilled criminal attorney can help you at each step of the legal process.
Grounds for Arrest
A police officer can arrest you for a sex crime if:
- The police have probable cause that you committed the crime,
- You committed the crime in front of the police, or
- The police have a warrant for your arrest.
The police cannot usually arrest you in your home without a warrant. The exception is if you are fleeing from them and run into your house.
If you are arrested for a sex crime, are in custody, and the officer asks you questions about the allegations against you, the officer will read you some important rights known as Miranda rights:
- You have the right to remain silent,
- Anything you say can and will be used against you,
- You have the right to an attorney, and
- If you can’t afford an attorney, the court will provide one for you.
It is extremely important to take advantage of these rights. Do NOT speak to the police without an attorney present. You should invoke your right to silence and unequivocally ask to speak to an attorney right away. Then do not answer any questions until your attorney arrives.
The reason it’s so important to use these rights is that the police will try to get you to admit to acts or omissions related to your charges. You may not realize that you are providing critical evidence when you are nervous or intimidated by the interrogation.
Police and Prosecutors Gather Evidence
Before or after your arrest, the police will gather evidence. They may obtain a search warrant for your home, office, car, and electronic devices. The police can obtain a search warrant for your DNA evidence as well.
The police may interview people who have knowledge of the sex crime facts. Any time you face a police search, you should contact an attorney to protect your Fourth Amendment rights against illegal searches and seizures.
Prosecutor Files Charges
Next, a prosecutor files a criminal charge against you. A prosecutor examines the submitted police reports and decides whether charges should be filed, and if so, what charges should be filed. The prosecutor also has wide latitude in deciding whether many crimes will be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.
In California, the prosecutor can also submit the case to a grand jury (although this is quite rare). If the grand jury thinks there is enough evidence, they vote to issue an indictment (formal charge).
After a criminal charge is filed, the defendant is arraigned. This means that the judge formally instructs you on charges, potential penalties, and the right to an attorney. The judge sets release conditions, which might include restrictions like not leaving the state and refraining from contact with the alleged victim. The defendant enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
Sometimes, the prosecution offers a plea deal and the defendant chooses to accept it. A plea bargain allows the defendant to receive reduced charges or a lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty or no contest plea. Your sex crimes attorney can advise you on the benefits and consequences of any plea deal to help you make a decision.
Eventually, the case may go to trial if the defendant rejects the plea bargain or, in some cases, no plea bargain is offered. The defendant can choose whether to have a jury trial or a bench trial (before a judge).
The prosecution presents evidence of the crime, and the defense may (but does not have to) present evidence to cast reasonable doubt on the charges. The judge or jury decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty and issues a verdict. If no unanimous verdict is reached, then the judge declares a mistrial and the defendant can be retried.
If the defendant is found not guilty, the defendant is released and cannot be criminally tried for the same crime again.
If the defendant is found guilty, the case moves to the sentencing phase. The defendant has the right to appeal the verdict.
What are Defenses in Sex Crimes Cases in Southern California?
When you are accused of a sex crime in California, you face the loss of your freedom and your reputation. Such a serious charge demands the best defense available. At The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, we will evaluate every defense for your case and skillfully advocate for you. Our goal is to get your charges reduced or dismissed.
A number of different defenses can be raised in sex crimes cases. In our free case evaluation, we will discuss the specifics of your case with you and determine which of these defenses is your best option. Our values of respect and confidentiality guide all of our conversations about your case.
Some of the most common defenses raised in sex crimes cases are also the most effective.
As with any other legal charge, innocence is always a valid defense. If the act in question did not happen, then we will try to persuade the judge or jury of your innocence. The burden of proof is on the prosecution.
If they cannot prove each element of the sex crimes charge beyond a reasonable doubt, the case should be dismissed or you should be found not guilty. We attempt to plant doubt into the judge or jury as to at least one element of the charge. Our goal in any sex crimes defense is to convince the judge or jury to set you free.
Another common defense in sex crimes cases is consent. With many sex crimes charges, a core element the prosecution must prove is that the defendant did not obtain consent. If the accuser consented to the sexual act, then that consent is usually enough to get your charge dismissed or you to be found not guilty.
It is important to remember that minors cannot give legal consent. This defense of consent is not applicable to a statutory rape case or a child molestation case. Also, consent does not apply to mentally disabled victims or victims of any form of sex-based coercion.
Mistake of Fact
In a limited number of cases, a mistake may be a viable defense. The most common example of mistake is when the defendant has a good-faith, reasonable belief that a person was actually of legal age. If a 17-year-old lies about their age, this may become a valid legal defense. However, this defense cannot be raised if the minor is under the age of 14.
What Is Megan’s Law?
One of the questions that our sex crime attorneys often get asked is, Will I have to register as a sex offender in California? It is important to know that California has
a very strict sex offender registration requirements.
Megan’s Law, named after a child who was raped and killed by a sex offender, was enacted in 1996. Under Megan’s Law, several mandates apply to sex offenders:
- A person who was convicted of any sex crime will be required to add their name and address to a national sex offender registry;
- The sex offender is required to notify law enforcement when changing addresses and within five days of their birthday;
- The California Department of Justice (CA DOJ) must notify the public about registered sex offenders; and
- Local law enforcement can notify the public about sex offenders who pose a risk to public safety, including listing the defendant’s address online.
As of 2021, California will have a three-tiered system for sex offender registration. While some convictions mandate lifetime registration, with others you may eventually be able to apply to get your name off the list after either ten or twenty years.
All states in the United States now have some version of Megan’s Law.
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How Our San Diego Sex Crimes Lawyers Can Help
We understand the immediate stigma that comes with a sex crime accusation. Our San Diego sex crimes defense lawyers handle every case with compassion and support.
We are here to help you understand your rights, clear your name, and protect your future. Our top-rated San Diego, California, sex crimes defense attorneys will:
- Conduct a confidential review of your case;
- Take the time to answer your questions and explain your options;
- Investigate the charges — getting any relevant, exonerating evidence; and
- Build a fully-personalized legal defense strategy.
Sex crimes charges must always be defended on a case-by-case basis. There is no one proper defense strategy. In some cases, the proper approach is an aggressive defense to get false accusations dismissed. In other cases, a sensible strategy is to focus on negotiating a plea bargain.
Speak To Our San Diego, California, Sex Crimes Defense Attorney Today
At The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, our California criminal defense lawyers have the skills and experience needed to handle the full range of sex crimes charges. We offer compassionate legal representation.
To schedule an initial consultation with a sex crimes attorney, please contact our office right away.
Our law firm represents defendants in San Diego and throughout the surrounding communities, including in Chula Vista, Oceanside, National City, and Encinitas. We have been to jury trial well over 100 times and achieved not guilty verdicts in all types of criminal cases (including many sex crimes cases). Contact us to provide your best defense against these serious charges.