Sex crimes are classified as grave offenses and are, therefore, punished severely. Convicted sex offenders may be required to register as sex offenders, serve jail/prison term, pay fines, and other assessments fees. If you are facing any form of sex charges, it is imperative to understand their corresponding legal implications. Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm is ready to represent you if you are facing sex crimes.
Types of Sex Crimes and Their Implications
There are various forms of sex crimes under different circumstances, and each is punishable by stipulated laws. Every jurisdiction has "statues of limitations," which refers to the timeframe victims have to report any instance of sex crimes.
1. Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is a general term for unwanted sexual contact, and there are state penal codes and federal laws to prohibit such incidences. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) indicates that one person is sexually assaulted every 92 seconds, translating to 570 sexual assault victims per day. Even if the network says sexual violence has declined by 50% since 1993, these statistics tell a story where such crimes are an everyday occurrence. There are various forms of sexual assault:
- Unsolicited sexual contact
- Forcing someone to engage in sexual acts like oral sex
- Attempted rape
- Rape, which happens when the victim is penetrated
Penalties for Sexual Assault in California
PEN section 220 indicates that assault with the intention to rape is a lesser crime when compared to the actual violation, but this crime doesn't absolve anyone of penalties. If you are convicted with any form of sexual assault, you will face minimum and maximum sentences, which are determined by several factors. For instance, the judge will scrutinize aggravating factors (your criminal history, the severity of assault) and mitigating factors, with the latter helping in getting a more lenient sentence.
The determinate sentence includes serving two, three, or four years in prison and a possible fine of $10,000. The presiding judge will then examine the mitigating and aggravating factors to determine the exact sentence, which means you could face more prison time. Speaking to a defense attorney with a proven track record of winning sex crime cases can make a huge difference in how things turn out for you.
California's Penal Code Section 243.4 stipulates the following penalties for sexual assault/battery:
Misdemeanor Sexual Assault – this crime is punishable by a maximum of six months in county jail and a maximum of $2,000 in fines, which can increase to $3,000 if the victim is under the employ of their alleged assailant.
Felony Sexual Assault – this crime attracts various penalties, including a sentence of one year and a fine of up to $2,000. These penalties can increase to a sentence of up to 2, 3, or 4 years and monetary fines of a maximum of $10,000.
The Possible Defenses for Sexual Assault
The most common line of defense for sexual assault is consent. If your attorney can question the victim's claim that they did not permit these actions, the prosecutor may find it harder to proceed. Nonetheless, you cannot use consent when the victim is a minor, or they are mentally disabled. If there is no DNA evidence connecting you to the alleged assault, your attorney can argue you are falsely accused. Perhaps someone else committed the crime, and the victim is unclear on who hurt them, especially if the assault happened in darkness. Without definitive proof that you are the transgressor, the prosecutor may have to drop the charges.
The term rape is often used interchangeably with sexual assault, but there is a difference, and these crimes carry different penalties. A violation is penetration of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, including oral penetration without permission from the victim. It is vital to understand that force doesn't only refer to physically subduing someone. Victims can be forced into sexual activity through psychological, emotional methods, and threats to cause physical harm. The risk of official action, such as reporting someone to immigration agents is another kind of force.
RAINN data shows that one in five women encounter rape in the course of their lifetime, and this can either be completed or attempted rape. The figures are much lower for men with reports showing that one in 33 men suffer the same fate. There are near-daily rape incidences on college campuses, on the streets, and many other arenas proving just how pervasive such crimes are.
RAINN surmises that someone who knows the victim commits eight out of ten rape cases. This summation is even more so when it comes to sexual assault on young children and teenagers. Penal Code 262 declares sexual intercourse with a spouse without their consent is spousal rape and therefore punishable by law. When the victims are in correctional facilities, 60% of these rapes are done by prison staff. RAINN notes that rapists are usually serial offenders having been charged with felonies or they were released on bail pending trial for other crimes.
What's more, RAINN finds that 11% of rape incidences are perpetrated using a weapon such as a knife, including personal arms like hands and legs to subdue victims. These disturbing statistics point to a culture of sexual violence, and law enforcement everywhere is keen to apprehend suspects and have them tried.
There are various forms of rape:
Spousal rape – Penal Code Section 261 PC acknowledges that even slight penetration is still considered unlawful.
Statutory rape – PC 261.5 declares that anyone who deliberately engages in sexual intercourse with a person under 18 can be charged with statutory rape.
Date rape – this form of sexual assault happens when sexual intercourse is not consensual on one party. For instance, a woman can be raped by their date partner while intoxicated and so the issue here is proving consent or otherwise.
A prosecutor has the burden to prove that you indeed engaged in sexual intercourse, there was no consent, and you accomplished this by using force. Moreover, the prosecutor must prove the victim is not your spouse at the time of alleged incidence, and if so, the charge is considered spousal rape.
Penalties for Rape
California considers all forms of sexual assault without consent as rape, and the victim's feelings about this act are essential determinants. You may face the following penalties:
- A felony conviction on your record
- Summary probation of up to one year in county jail
- In severe cases, you could spend 3, 5, or 8 years in state prison
Apart from the above sentencing guidelines, the judge could increase the penalties and assessments under certain conditions.
Significant body harm on the victim attracts:
- An extra 3 to 5 years in state prison
- A maximum of $ $10,000 in fines
- A strike on your record as per California’s Three Strikes Law
When victims are under 18:
- A state prison term of up to 7, 9, or 11 years if the victim is over 14 years
- A state prison term of up to 9, 11, or 13 years if the victim is below 14 years
The majority of rape cases require convicts to register as sex offenders, and failure to oblige constitutes a felony under the California Penal Code section 290. You can also expect to face a civil lawsuit by the victim in civil court where the burden of proof is much lower. The burden of proof is the highest legal standard of testimony, and it means the evidence presented cannot be refuted as there is no other logical explanation apart from you doing the crime. If the suit prevails, you will be asked to pay punitive damages, medical expenses directly related to the incidence, loss of income, emotional distress, loss of consortium by the victim's spouse, diminished quality of life, etc.
The Possible Defenses for Rape
As seen above, the state of California handles rape cases very seriously, and therefore, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight these charges. Your attorney can use these defense strategies:
You can prove to the court that the victim permitted the alleged sexual intercourse. The accuser may claim to have consented to sexual intercourse and then asked to stop, but they failed to make things clear.
Having a rational belief that your accuser permitted the alleged sexual activity is a viable line of defense. Therefore, if the person gave permission at the beginning and then changed their mind, they must have communicated this explicitly.
The accuser could be targeting you for one reason or another, so they leverage rape charges to harm your reputation. If you are their boss, they could be using these charges to get you fired or to get monetary compensation from you or the company. The alleged victim could also have a history of filing rape charges, even when things are consensual. Whatever the case may be, an experienced attorney will examine the details of the case to identify any elements of falsification.
3. Indecent Exposure
California stipulates that exposing private parts of your body in public with the intent to offend others is unlawful and therefore punishable by law. Most perpetrators of indecent exposure do so for sexual gratification or to elicit sexual responses from others. For these charges to stick, the prosecution must prove you purposefully wanted to insult or offend others sexually, or you were seeking sexual arousal. If you unknowingly exposed your genitals in public, they cannot prove the elements of indecent exposure.
The California Penal Code Section 314 stipulates indecent exposure must have occurred in a public area in full view of other people or a residence where the unwanted display of genitals happened. If you exposed yourself when relieving yourself away from the sight of passersby, usually such an act will not qualify as criminal.
This law also covers anyone who may assist another to perform such actions, including artistic performances in public, with the sole aim of evoking impure thoughts or actions from a handful of people or the general public. Such persons will be charged with misdemeanor offenses.
Penalties for Indecent Exposure in California
If this is your first charge, the crime is likely to be considered a misdemeanor offense, and you could spend a few months in jail. Misdemeanor offenses are regarded as "crimes of moral turpitude" as there is a possibility of a jail term as opposed to only paying fines as the case with infractions. If the indecent exposure happened inside a residence without permission from the occupants, you could face a sentence of up to one year in county or state prison.
The second strike of indecent exposure becomes a felony under California legal guidelines. The same case applies when you are facing the first strike of indecent exposure but have a conviction for another sex crime on your record. A felony charge automatically requires you to register as a sex offender with the Sex Offender Registry, something that will bring ramifications on your education, housing, and career prospects. Please note, this register is accessible across the country, so moving out of California will still make the record public.
When facing indecent exposure charges, however trivial, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you fight these claims, so you don't end up with a criminal record.
4. Internet Sex Crimes
The nature of the internet means we rely on it for many things ranging from education to work and shopping. Unfortunately, technology and the World Wide Web has also facilitated the sexual activity, and most of these are classified as crimes under federal and state guidelines. Examples of criminal sexual activity on the internet include:
Child pornography – producing any explicit content featuring minors is deemed unlawful under federal laws like the 18 U.S.C. § 2251, which prohibits the sexual exploitation of children. First time offenders of these statutes, either by producing or distributing such content on the internet, are likely to face a prison sentence of 15 to 30 years. They must also register with the National Sex Offender Public site, and this record will present barriers in your life.
Texting sexual messages with minors – sending messages of sexual nature is popularly known as ‘sexting,' and the law punishes such activity involving an underage person. The same applies to minors sending nude pictures to each other.
Sex trafficking – this crime has been going on for decades, but the internet has carved out a new market where traffickers can scout for victims. The "Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act" (FOSTA) empowers law enforcement in California and nationwide to close sex sections of commercial sites like Craigslist.
Sextortion – as the name suggests, this crime entails accessing personal identifying details to extort people for nude selfies or coercing them to perform sexual favors. Hackers could pretend to have nude photos of victims and threaten to expose them online unless they oblige to specific wishes. These extortion actions are common through social media sites like Facebook.
Sharing explicit material – in the age of oversharing on social media sites, users must beware of the content they post to avoid contravening federal and state laws. Posting nude photos or video clips of sexual content is unlawful, even when it is presumably meant as a joke, such as sharing details of someone's sexual behavior with followers.
5. Solicitation (for Prostitution)
This crime is defined as asking for, persuading, or demanding another person to perform some crime with the clear intention to facilitate them in doing so. When it comes to sexual matters, prostitution is a form of solicitation where one party asks the sex worker to perform favors for money. The prosecution must prove that you asked the person (e.g., sex worker) to perform sexual acts, and you had every intention to engage in said activity.
Prostitution is outlawed in every state apart from Nevada, where authorities regulate such acts. According to the California Penal Code 647b, it is a misdemeanor offense for adults too:
- Pay or accept money or other compensation for sexual work
- Present or participate in any act of prostitution
- Give consent to any act of prostitution
Under PC 647(b), when a sex worker and their customer participate in sexual activity or such vulgar actions, this is called an act of prostitution. Middlemen who facilitate prostitution on citystreets, brothels, or other places are customarily charged with violating "pimping and pandering" regulations under the Penal Code 266h and 266i.
Penalties for Soliciting Prostitution in California
The state categorizes prostitution and solicitation as misdemeanor crimes. If this is your first offense, you could face the following sentences and assessments:
- Serve a maximum of six months in county jail
- Fines of up to $1,000
California's PC 647(b) provides that prostitution and solicitation are "priorable" offenses, which means the penalties increase with every subsequent conviction and you could potentially get:
- Second offense – sentence of at least forty-five days in a county jail
- Third or subsequent offense – sentence of at least ninety days in a county jail
The sex worker and client will face a potential additional penalty if the crime was committed inside a vehicle and if the act happened within 1,000 feet of a home. Under these conditions, the other penalties may include the following:
- Suspending the driver's license for a maximum 30 days
- Restricting the driver's license for up to six months
Even though soliciting for sex work does not require you to register with a public registry, a judge may demand you register if the crime occurred to get sexual gratification or through sexual compulsion. More so, having a misdemeanor crime on your record is not a good thing as it could yield more legal trouble for you down the line. It is vital that you enlist the best Orange County criminal defense attorney to plead your case, so you possibly walk away with a clean record.
Possible Defenses for Soliciting Prostitution
Once you retain a defense attorney, they will examine your case meticulously, including the circumstances of your arrest to see if there is an instance of not following due process. They will then proceed to mount a vigorous defense to challenge these charges, such as below:
Lack of Reliable Evidence
If there is no definitive proof of your alleged solicitation, the prosecution will have to drop the charges. Your attorney will be hard at work examining any shred of evidence presented before the court and point out any anomalies that could have the case dismissed.
Entrapment by the Police
The lawyer can prove that you only engaged in this crime after the police entrapped you into doing so. Please note, pursuing this line of defense means you have the burden of proof to show the court that law enforcement lured you into committing these crimes. Entrapment laws only cover peace officers and persons acting under their direction (agents of the police), which means you cannot claim a civilian entrapped you.
Law enforcement officers can employ practical methods to gain people's trust, but they are not allowed to make false promises, feigning the proposed action is legal. Usually, an officer could entrap you by lying about the legality of the operation, promising you won't get apprehended, appealing to your sympathy, or offering rewards.
Other possible defenses when facing a prostitution charge is proving that you had not intended to engage in prostitution and, therefore, you couldn't have done so willingly. The overall aim here is to disqualify the charges, so the only recourse is to dismiss them.
Find the Best Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Having a criminal record for sex crimes marks you for the duration your name stays on the registry, and this will pose challenges on many fronts such as getting scholarships, finding work, or housing, etc. No matter how presumably minor the charges are, you need to do everything possible to fend them off, so your record stays clean. Time is of the essence, so don't hesitate to contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm to defend you at this critical time. Call us today at 714-740-7171 and let the best legal minds handle your case.