What Counts as a "Sex Crime?"
In some ways, "sex crime" is a bit of a nebulous term, and it is certainly a broad umbrella term that covers everything from relatively mild violations to extremely violent and heinous acts. Even rape varies greatly in severity based on the facts of each case under consideration. Thus, you will find both misdemeanor and felony level sex crimes in California.
In general, any criminal act that involves sex or sexual touching or pornography or anything at all sex-related can be called a "sex crime."
But here are some specific examples of sex crimes in California: Rape, Statutory Rape, Oral Copulation by Force, Child Sexual Abuse, Lewd Acts With a Minor, Lewd Conduct, Indecent Exposure, Sexual Assault or Battery, Possessing Child Pornography, Prostitution, Soliciting a Prostitute.
Sentencing in Sex Crime Cases
The exact sentence that applies to any particular sex crime allegation varies greatly. But many will require incarceration time and/or probation, mandatory attendance at state-approved "rehabilitation" classes, heavy fines and full victim restitution, and life-long registration with the state of California as a sex offender.
A felony level sex crime conviction will require you to disclose your criminal record to prospective employers when applying for a job, cancel your right to won a firearm, and make it very difficult to get an expungement.
On the other hand, if there are mitigating factors that your defense attorney brings to the attention of the presiding judge, your sentence could be reduced in severity even if you are convicted. Mitigating factors include:
- Lack of any previous criminal record or of anything very serious.
- The defendant did not realize he/she was committing a crime.
- The defendant admitted guilt voluntarily and early in the process.
- The defendant already made full restitution to the victim.
Possible Defense Strategies
At Long Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys, we understand the various defense strategies that apply to each type of sex crime and under which circumstances it is best to use each defense. We will build your defense based on the precise facts of the case — we never use a "cookie cutter" approach.
Nevertheless, there are common basic defense strategies that we use to great effect. These include:
- Whatever touching occurred, it was not of a sexual nature. It may have been a physician, for example, performing his/her normal duties.
- Sex took place, but it was consensual and between two adults.
- The defendant reasonably believed that the sex was consensual.
- The accusation is simply fabricated. False charges were filed out of revenge or some other motive.
- The defendant is a victim of a case of mistaken identity.
- The evidence is simply inconclusive, not meeting the high bar of "beyond all reasonable doubt."
But contrary to a popular myth, you cannot defend yourself against a California sex crime by arguing you were "too drunk to realize what you were doing."
But also note that you don't have to wait until you are actually charged with a sex crime to begin building your defense. If you know you are under police investigation, we at Long Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys can intervene early to give you every possible advantage in pursuing a dismissal/acquittal.
Some strategies that can be used in your favor before you ever step into a court room include the following:
- Skilled and timely negotiations with police. It is not uncommon for police to make a sex-crime arrest just "to play it safe" even without good evidence, based on a mere accusation. We have seen many cases dropped by simply showing up and presenting to police "the other side of the story" or by pointing out to them glaring weaknesses in their case that would make a conviction unlikely.
Thorough preliminary investigation. We don't walk into court without first thoroughly investigating your case. We may even hire a private eye to gather more information on the alleged crime scene, any history of bias the accuser may have, or anything that would diminish the credibility of witnesses or evidence brought against you.
Use of a private polygraph test. While a lie detector test is not valid evidence in court, nonetheless, these tests can influence juries and affect the outcome of a sex crime case. A private polygraph test showing the result "telling the truth" can be used to help get the prosecutor to drop the case or reduce the charges. It may also counteract any police polygraph result to the contrary. But if the private test has a bad result, the prosecution will never know it took place.
Filing a pre-trail motion or negotiation with the prosecutor. It is often possible to file a motion and get evidence suppressed that was illegally obtained, and this can effectively end the prosecution's case. Other times, we can point out weak points in the prosecutor's case and get him/her to drop the case to avoid a loss in court.
Many times, we can keep your case from ever even going to the trial phase. But if we do go to court, we know how to cross-examine witnesses, expose holes in the case against you, and find exculpatory or mitigating evidence/testimony in your favor. We know how to effectively present our arguments to the court and when to accept or reject an offered plea bargain.
Overview of Some Specific California Sex Crimes
While the details of specific sex crimes are too voluminous to be adequately treated of here, and are addressed on other pages of this website, we can give a brief overview here of some of the most commonly charged California sex crimes:
- Rape (PC 261): Engaging in sexual intercourse with someone without his/her consent is rape. Any non-consensual sex where the perpetrator used physical force, threats, or deceit to obtain the sex falls under PC 261. A rape conviction can get you 3 to 8 years in state prison, and 7 to 13 years if the victim was a minor.
- Spousal Rape (PC 262): It is not legal to force sex on someone based on a marriage relationship, but this crime is dealt with separately under California law. The penalties for PC 262 are largely the same as for PC 261, but you may also be charged with domestic violence.
- Statutory Rape (PC 261.5): When sex takes place between an adult and one under 18 (unless the two are married), then it is statutory rape even if consent was given for the sex. This crime is a misdemeanor if the defendant is three years or less older than the victim, but in other cases, it is a felony. The penalties are harsher if the victim is under 16 and the defendant is 21 or older.
- Oral Copulation by Force (PC 288a): This is a form of rape, but involving oral sex. PC 288a is a felony crime, punishable by 3 to 8 years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and lifelong registration as a sex offender.
- Prostitution (PC 647b): Prostitution is defined as engaging in any sex act in exchange for money or anything else of value. Both the prostitute and the one using her/him can be charged with this crime. Those acting as "pimps" would be prosecuted under other statutes. And managing a prostitute business or loitering for the purpose of committing prostitution are also distinct crimes. Soliciting a prostitute is generally punished the same as prostitution. PC 647a is a misdemeanor, if a first-time offense, punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
- Sexual Battery (PC 243.4): Touching a person sexually while he/she is restrained, or coerced by force or fear, and against that person's will for the purpose of sexual arousal or abuse, is sexual battery. Sexual assault would be the attempt to commit sexual battery. Sexual battery is punishable by 12 months in county jail and a $2,000 fine if a misdemeanor, and by 2 to 4 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine if charged as a felony.
- Indecent Exposure (PC 314): When someone exposes his/her genitals in public or to the public for the purpose of sexual arousal or to purposefully offend, it is defined as "indecent exposure" in California. Normally, this crime is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. A repeat offence is a felony, however.
- Lewd Conduct in Public (PC 647): PC 647 is very similar to indecent exposure (PC 314) but with the distinction that PC 647, lewd conduct in public, also involves the touching of one's own or someone else's genitalia, female breast(s), or buttocks. Engaging in sex in public can also fall under this statute. This crime is usually a misdemeanor, punishable by 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine and not requiring registration as a sex offender.
- Sex Acts With a Child Under 10 (PC 288.7): This crime of sexual intercourse or oral copulation with a minor under the age of 10 is a felony and can be punished by 15 to 25 years in state prison, or even life imprisonment.
- Lewd Acts With a Child Under 14 (PC 288): This crime addresses the sexual touching of a child under the age of 14 for the purpose of sexual arousal or abuse. It is a form of child molestation and is a felony, punishable by 3 to 8 years in prison, heavy fines, victim restitution, and lifetime registration as a sex offender.
- Possession of Child Porn (PC 311): It is a crime in California to knowingly possess child pornography, or to transmit, duplicate, print, distribute, sell, or create child porn. Misdemeanor PC 311 is usually punishable by up to 12 months in county jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Felony level PC 311 is punishable by from 16 months to 8 years in state prison and a fine that can run as high as $100,000.
Contact Us Today For Help
At Long Beach Criminal Defense, we stand ready to assist you with top-tier sex crimes defense services at a moment's notice. We have a deep understanding of the California Penal Code as it applies to all manner of sex crimes, and we have a longtime local presence in Long Beach, CA, that gives us intricate familiarity with local court procedures.
We will know how to expose weaknesses in the argument and evidence of the prosecution and build you a strong defense. We have won numerous cases just like yours in the past, and we can do the same for you.
Call us 24/7/365 at (562) 308-7807 for a free consultation on the details of your case or schedule an in-person consultation at our Long Beach office.