Sexual-based offenses are challenging for all parties involved. The victims suffer significant physical and emotional trauma, which results in considerable outrage and a need to see offenders prosecuted. The public attention on the cases also complicates most of these cases. In the public’s eye, the accused is guilty. This results in significant pressure on the prosecution to convict. The law operates under the presumption of innocence until the accused is proven guilty. Therefore, prosecutors must provide irrefutable evidence that the accused is guilty.
You could face prosecution following accusations for any of the following sex crimes. The Leah Legal: Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer team breaks down each offense into the legal definition, what prosecutors must prove, and the potential sentences if convicted. Be sure to call our team if you need clarification or legal representation should you or a loved one face charges for a sex crime in Los Angeles.
Types of Sex Crimes
The following briefly summarizes the various offenses recognized under California law.
Penal Code 261 defines rape as sexual intercourse that occurs against an individual’s will through force, violence, duress, menace, or the fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury to the person or another.
The law states that any sexual penetration, however slight, is sufficient to constitute rape. It also clarifies that lack of consent is critical in determining whether rape has occurred. Per Penal Code 261, engaging in sexual activity without consent constitutes rape. This applies even if the sexual penetration is minimal. Additionally, if the victim is unable to permit the act due to factors including mental disability, unconsciousness, or intoxication, any sexual activity that occurs is considered rape.
Elements of the Crime
To prove rape, prosecutors must demonstrate that the accused engaged in sexual intercourse with the victim without his/her consent. To achieve this, they must establish the following components of the crime:
- Sexual intercourse — Prosecutors must demonstrate that you engaged in sexual intercourse with the victim.
- Lack of consent — Prosecutors must demonstrate that the sexual intercourse was non-consensual. They must present evidence, including witness testimony, physical resistance, or indications of the victim's mental or physical incapacitation.
- Force, fear, or duress — The prosecution must prove that you used force, retribution, fear, fraud, or coercion to overcome the victim's lack of consent. Force can include physical force, while fear or duress can involve threats of harm or intimidation.
- Your knowledge — Prosecutors must show that you knew that the victim did not consent to the sexual intercourse. This can be established through evidence, including the victim's verbal or physical resistance or your statements or actions.
Penalties if Convicted of Rape
Rape is a felony offense. Convictions result in the following penalties:
- 3, 6, or 8 years in prison, and sex offender registration if the victim was 18 or older at the time of the crime. The courts could require you to renew the sex offender tag for 20 years or life, depending on the facts of the case.
- 9, 11, or 13 years in prison, and a lifetime sex offender registration, if the victim was aged between 14 years and 17 years.
- 7, 9, or 11 years in prison. Additionally, a lifetime sex offender registration if the victim was under 14 years of age at the time of the crime.
The courts would impose an additional three to five years' imprisonment if the victim sustained a great bodily injury (a significant physical injury).
Statutory rape is a crime. Sexual intercourse between an adult aged 18 or older and a minor below 18 constitutes statutory rape. The minor's consent is immaterial. The state acknowledges that children cannot give legal consent to sexual activity with adults due to their age and the inherent power imbalance present in such relationships.
Penal Code 261.5 states that anyone who engages in sexual intercourse with a minor is guilty of statutory rape. The law specifies that the adult could still face statutory rape charges even if the child consented.
Note: Statutory rape is a strict liability offense. You can be found guilty regardless of your intent or knowledge of the minor's age. The fact that the victim consented is not a defense in a statutory rape case.
Elements of the Crime
In a statutory rape case, prosecutors must prove the following elements:
- You engaged in sexual intercourse with the victim — Sexual intercourse is any penetration of the vagina or anus by the penis, no matter how slight.
- The victim was under 18 during the sexual intercourse.
- At the time of the offense, you were not legally wed to the victim — It is worth noting the courts will not excuse you of culpability if the victim was married to another person.
A conviction for statutory rape does not require the prosecution to prove the following elements:
- Lack of consent — Unlike a conventional rape case, establishing non-consent by the victim is not necessary for a statutory rape case. The prosecution must show that the victim was below the age of consent and hence, incapable of providing legal consent.
- Knowledge of the victim's age — The prosecution does not need to prove you knew the victim was under 18.
- Use of force — The law does not require prosecutors to prove you used force to accomplish the sexual act.
Note: A defendant’s age is only relevant during sentencing since California does not have a Romeo and Juliet law. Without this legal provision, teenagers who engage in sexual acts with other minors could face statutory rape charges.
Penalties if Convicted of Statutory Rape
Statutory rape is a wobbler offense. You can face misdemeanor or felony penalties depending on the facts of the case, the age difference between you and the victim, and whether you have a criminal past.
- You will face misdemeanor charges if the age difference between you and the alleged victim is not more than three years.
- You will face misdemeanor or felony charges if the age difference between you and the alleged victim is more than three years.
- You will face misdemeanor or felony charges if the crime occurred when the alleged victim was under 16 and you were 21 or older. However, the felony penalties under these circumstances are steeper.
Misdemeanor offenses are punishable by:
- Summary probation instead of jail time,
- Up to one year in county jail and/or.
- A maximum fine of $1,000.
On the other hand, felony offenses are punishable by:
- Formal or felony probation with a maximum of one year in jail, OR
- 16 months, 2, or 3 years imprisonment unless you were 21 or older and the victim was under 16. If so, you will serve 2, 3, or 4 years.
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
Sexual battery is defined under Penal Code 243.4. According to the statute, sexual battery is the act of touching an intimate part of another person without their consent for sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.
What Prosecutors Must Prove
The following are the elements that prosecutors must prove:
- Non-consensual touching — You must have touched an intimate part of the victim without their consent. Intimate parts include the genital area, buttocks, groin, anus, and female breasts.
- Sexual purpose — You must have touched the victim intending to sexually arouse, gratify, or abuse themselves or the victim. Direct touch or indirect touch through clothing suffices. Further, if you engaged in a sexual act aiming to abuse the alleged victim sexually, prosecutors must present evidence of humiliation, the victim’s injuries, or hurt.
- Lack of consent — Prosecutors must demonstrate to the court that the victim did not consent to the touching. Consent is a positive and voluntary agreement to engage in a specific sexual act.
- Knowledge of lack of consent — It must be clear that you knew or reasonably should have known that the victim did not consent to the touching.
Penalties If Convicted of Sexual Battery
Sexual battery is a wobbler offense.
The following are the likely penalties if convicted of a misdemeanor violation:
- Summary probation for up to 5 years.
- A maximum of 6 months in jail,
- A fine not exceeding $2,000 or up to $3,000 if the alleged victim was your employee and/or
You will face misdemeanor or felony charges if your sexual battery case has aggravating factors. The district attorney will exercise his/her discretion to determine which charges he/she prefers. These include:
- Unlawfully restraining the victim.
- Deceiving the victim by making false claims that the touching has a medical justification, or
- The alleged victim was incapacitated, disabled, or institutionalized.
If the D.A. prefers misdemeanor charges for sexual battery with aggravating factors, you will face penalties similar to those listed above. However, the jail sentence will increase to one year. If he/she pursues felony charges, a conviction will result in the following penalties:
- Formal probation.
- 2, 3, or 4 years in prison AND possibly an additional 3 to 5 years in prison if the alleged victim sustained a great bodily injury.
- a fine of up to $10,000 and/or
- A life registration as a tier-three sex offender.
Lewd Acts With a Child
Lewd acts with a child is a serious criminal offense. It involves engaging in sexual acts or conduct with a minor under 14. Penal Code 288(a) makes it a crime to willfully engage in any lewd or lascivious act upon or with the body or any part or member thereof of a child under the age of 14. A violation of this statute will result in felony charges.
Elements Prosecutors Must Prove
A jury will only return a guilty verdict if prosecutors establish the following elements:
- You engaged in sexual acts with a child under 14.
- The child involved in the sexual act or conduct was under 14 at the time of the offense.
- You acted willfully and with the intent to gratify yourself or offend others sexually.
Lewd Acts Accomplished Through Force or Fear
Using force or fear while engaging in lewd behavior with a child is a grave offense. A conviction will result in significant penalties. More specifically, PC 288(b) outlines the penalties if you commit the crime using force, fear, menace, coercion, or threat of violence directed at the child or his/her family members.
Lewd acts are any acts done to arouse or gratify oneself or a third party sexually, and that is considered obscene or offensive. Examples of lewd acts include, but are not limited to:
- Touching a child's intimate body parts or having a child touch your intimate body parts.
- Masturbating in the presence of a child.
- Engaging in oral sex or sexual intercourse with a child.
- Making sexual comments or propositions to a child.
- Exposing your genitals to a child.
Punishment for Engaging in Lewd Behavior With a Minor
The penalties under PC 288 vary depending on the facts of the case. That is, the child’s age, whether you used force or your criminal past. Let us look at the likely penalties.
The Minor Was Under 14 Years, and No Force or Threat Was Used
You will likely be charged with a PC 288(a) violation when no force was used. A conviction is punishable by:
- Formal or felony probation.
- 3, 6, or 8 years in prison and
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
The Minor Was Under 14 Years, and the Lewd Acts Involved the Use of Force or Fear
Using force or threats to commit lewd acts with a child under 14 is a felony and a violation of PC 288(b)(1). The penalties include:
- 5, 8, or 10 years in prison, and
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
The Minor Was 14 Years Old and Sustained Bodily Harm
- A life sentence for personally inflicting the child’s injuries, per PC 288(i).
- Twenty-five years to life if you inflicted the injuries the child suffered. This penalty is per PC 667. 61(d)(7).
- Five-year enhancement for inflicting great bodily injuries, per PC 12022.8.
The Child Was 14 or 15 Years Old
If the jury finds you guilty of engaging in lewd behavior with a minor and the child was either 14 or 15 years old when you allegedly committed the offense, you will face penalties for a PC 288(c)(1) violation. This offense is a wobbler.
If found guilty of a misdemeanor violation, you will face the following:
- Up to one year in jail.
- Registration as a sex offender.
If found guilty of a felony violation, you will face the following:
- Felony probation inclusive of up to one year in jail.
- 16 months, 2, or 3 years in prison, or
The Child Was 16 or 17 Years Old
You will face statutory rape under PC 261.5 or sexual battery charges under PC 243.3.
Any subsequent violation of PC 288 will result in 25 years to life imprisonment and a "habitual sex offender" tag.
Penal Code 314 makes it a crime to willfully expose your genitals to another person in a public location to gratify or offend the individual sexually.
Elements Prosecutors Must Establish in an Indecent Exposure Case
A jury will only return a guilty verdict if the prosecution establishes the following as accurate:
- You knowingly and willfully exposed your genitals to sexually gratify or offend another person. Accidental exposure does not meet PC 314’s threshold.
- You exposed their genitals to another person or persons who were present and could be offended by the exposure. Prosecutors must prove an intent to direct public attention to your genitals. Therefore, you could be convicted even if no one saw your genitals.
- You intended to gratify yourself sexually or to offend or shock the viewer.
Note: You could have exposed yourself in a public location. However, PC 314 requires prosecutors to prove that you reasonably believed you would get an audience. If your exposure was in an excluded area, the PC 314’s threshold is not met.
Penalties Upon Conviction for Indecent Exposure
First-time offenders face misdemeanor violation charges. This offense is generally considered a simple indecent exposure. Convictions result in the following penalties:
- Up to 6 months in jail.
- A fine not exceeding $1,000 and
- A sex offender registration requirement for ten years pursuant to Penal Code 290.
Aggravated indecent exposure is a wobbler. You commit aggravated indecent exposure when:
- You expose yourself in an inhabited building, home, or trailer and,
- You accessed the building, home, or trailer without permission.
If charged with a misdemeanor offense, the penalties remain unchanged from those outlined above. Should you face felony charges, a conviction could result in the following sentences:
- 16 months, 2, or 3 years in prison.
- A maximum fine of $10,000 and
- A sex offender registration for ten years.
Lewd Conduct in Public
Lewd conduct in public is a criminal offense under Penal Code 647(a). The statute makes it a crime for anyone to engage in lewd or dissolute conduct in any public place or area open to the public.
What Prosecutors Must Prove in a PC 647(a) Violation
You are only guilty of lewd conduct in public if prosecutors prove the following elements as true:
- You willfully touched your own or someone else's buttocks, genitals, or a female breast.
- You had the intention to arouse or gratify yourself or a third party sexually or to annoy or offend another person.
- The act occurred in a public location or a place that is accessible to the public or public view.
- There was someone present who could have been offended.
- You knew or should have reasonably known that another person who could have been offended was present.
Penalties if Convicted of Engaging in Lewd Conduct in Public
Engaging in lewd behavior in public is a misdemeanor offense. You will likely face the following penalties if convicted of the violation:
- Summary or informal probation.
- A maximum of six months in jail.
- A maximum fine of $1,000.
Prostitution and the solicitation of prostitution are illegal and considered criminal offenses. Prostitution involves engaging in sexual acts or sexual conduct in exchange for money or other forms of compensation. On the other hand, soliciting prostitution involves offering or agreeing to pay for sexual acts or sexual behavior.
Penal Code 647(b) makes it an offense for any person to engage in any act of prostitution or solicitation of another person for prostitution. The law also makes it illegal to offer or agree to engage in any act of prostitution, regardless of whether a sexual act occurs.
Elements of the Crime
To prove a prostitution or solicitation charge, prosecutors must establish the following elements:
- You willfully engaged in the act of prostitution or solicited another person for prostitution — Prosecutors will likely assert the following to prove willful action or participation in the crime:
- You consented to participate in a sexual act in exchange for payment with another individual.
- The intention was to engage in the act of prostitution with that person.
- You took some action to facilitate or encourage an act of prostitution to occur.
- You received or agreed to receive funds or other forms of payment in exchange for the sexual act or conduct.
Penalties If Convicted of Prostitution/Solicitation
Penal Code 647(b) is a misdemeanor violation. You will face the following penalties if convicted:
For a first-time offense:
- Six months in jail and/or
- A maximum fine of $1,000.
For subsequent violations of PC 647(b):
- A mandatory minimum of 45 days in jail for a second violation and
- A mandatory minimum of 90 days for a third violation.
Find an Experienced Sex Crime Defense Attorney Near Me
Sex crime charges can be complex and emotionally challenging. However, you can confidently navigate the criminal justice system and assert your rights with the right legal representation. If you are facing charges related to a sex crime in Los Angeles, promptly seek the assistance of a knowledgeable sex crime defense attorney. They can help you understand your legal options, provide guidance, and offer representation to help safeguard your future. Contact Leah Legal: Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, today at 424-600-7164.