The Me-too movement has revealed the prevalence of sexual crimes, including sexual battery. Touching another person to gratify yourself might not seem as gross a crime as raping the victim.

However, under the law, no sexual act (including touching the victim’s intimate part) can be committed without the knowledgeable consent of the victim.

Sexual battery occurs when you touch the intimate parts of a victim against his or her will to gratify or arouse yourself or another person or to abuse the victim sexually.

Sexual battery charges can soon get out of hand, and land you in prison for a felony offense. Not only will this negatively affect your freedom, but you might also have difficulties with employment, education, residence, and social reintegration.

We at Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm work hard to minimize or avoid these consequences through strategic defense. We work on your case from the time you contact us through the conclusion of your case.

Legal Definition of Sexual Battery

California Penal Code 243.4 PC defines sexual battery as the crime of touching another person’s intimate parts for arousal, sexual gratification, or abuse.

Sexual battery is a part of the broader crime of sexual assault, which includes other offenses including rape, non-consensual oral penetration, among other non-consensual sexual acts.

The elements that the prosecution must prove for you to be convicted of sexual battery include:

  • You touched the intimate part of the victim
  • Against his or her will
  • With the specific intent of sexual gratification, arousal or sexual abuse

Touching refers to the direct or indirect contact that the offender makes with an intimate part of the victim. Indirect touching can be achieved through either the clothing of the defendant or the victim.

An intimate part of another person refers to his or her groin, anus, sexual organs, buttocks, and female breasts.

If the act is against the will of the alleged victim, it means that the victim did not consent to the touching. Determining whether the person consented depends on factors like the age of the victim and whether the consent is given freely with the knowledge of the action to which he or she consents.

Some of the cases that the law does not consider as consent include:

  • The person is a minor
  • The person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Consent can also be limited to one action. For instance, a person who consents to oral sex does not automatically consent to vaginal sex.

The victim is also allowed to change his or her mind along the way.

Thus, falsely representing the nature of the act or the purpose it serves to obtain the consent of the victim is considered an aggravated form of sexual battery.

Sexual abuse under California’s sexual battery laws refers to the intent to harm, humiliate, injure, or intimidate the alleged victim. Sexual abuse could also mean the intent to cause pain or suffering in at least one of the intimate parts of the victim.

The law still considers it sexual abuse if you meet the definition above regardless of your intention to derive sexual pleasure or gratification from the act.

Some cases of sexual battery occur when the victim is unlawfully restrained. Unlawfully restraining another person means that you control the words, actions, authority of movement illegally against the will of that person.

Unlawful restraint, for purposes of sexual battery laws, can also occur when lawful restraint is ongoing. For example, if a police officer arrests Jack for a traffic violation, and is taking him to the police station, Jack is lawfully restrained. However, if he or she starts to touch the intimate part(s) of Jack without his consent, then it becomes unlawful restraint.

Sexual battery affects not only the perpetrator but also any other person who aided the crime. You become an accomplice of the perpetrator if:

  • You knew the offender was committing a crime.
  • You intended to and did help, facilitate, or encourage the commission of the crime or conspired with the defendant to commit the crime.

An accomplice will receive the same prosecution and penalties as the defendant.

You could be charged with sexual battery if you touch another person’s intimate will against that person, for sexual gratification, sexual abuse, or sexual arousal, under the following circumstances:

  • When the victim is unlawfully restrained by the perpetrator or an accomplice of the perpetrator
  • If the victim is in an institution for medical treatment and that person is severely disabled or medically incapacitated.
  • The victim is unaware of the nature of the act because the perpetrator fraudulently represented the act as one that serves a professional purpose.
  • The perpetrator forces the victim to masturbate for the gratification of the offender or an accomplice while the victim is unlawfully restrained, in an institution for treatment and is medically incapacitated or has a serious disability.

Medical incapacitation refers to helplessness or weakness arising due to the use of prescribed medication. For instance, if a doctor touches the intimate parts of a sedated patient for sexual gratification, abuse, or arousal, then he or she commits sexual battery.

The circumstances discussed above are a form of aggravated sexual battery and are usually convicted as felonies.

Legal Defenses

Sexual battery has both personal and professional consequences that will be hard to live with if you are convicted.

Allegations of sexual battery can lead to suspension of professional licenses and loss of your reputation, even before a conviction. 

However, you can fight these allegations using defenses not limited to:

1.      The Victim Gave His or Her Consent

Consensual sexual activities are not against the law. Therefore, you cannot be punished for sexual battery if the victim agreed to the touching. Consent can be explicit or implicit.

For example, Julia and Shawn are on a date. Shawn attempts to fondle Julia's breasts, and she tells him to stop and moves away. In this case, if Shawn continues fondling her breasts, he is guilty of sexual battery. The same case is true if Julia does not ask him to stop, but she moves away from him.

If Julia had neither moved away from Shawn nor asked him to stop, Shawn would reasonably believe that Julia consents to the touching. In this case, he cannot be charged with sexual battery.

However, being in a current relationship with the victim does not equal consent. If your partner indicates that he or she does not want to be touched, then it is wise not to.

You also cannot use consent as a defense if the victim was under 18 at the time of the offense. Under California law, a minor does not have the legal authority to consent to sexual acts.

2.      Insufficient Evidence

Insufficient evidence is a common defense against sexual battery since this crime often leaves little physical evidence, unlike rape, where the victim might have the physical and DNA evidence of the crime.

The prosecution has the burden of proving that you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Any evidence presented must, therefore, point at the guilt of the defendant and convince the jury that he or she did commit the offense.

However, if the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt, some of the elements of the crime, then you cannot be convicted of sexual battery.

3.      Lack of Intent

One of the elements of sexual battery is that you acted with the intent to achieve sexual gratification, arousal, or sexual abuse.

However, if your actions were accidental, you do not meet the intent requirement and are not guilty for sexual battery.

For example, if you are a doctor and you accidentally touch the breasts of a patient when reaching out for something, or you bump into them, that would not be considered sexual battery.

4.      You Did Not Touch the Intimate Part of a Victim

While touching is an element of sexual battery, it must be on an intimate part, notably the female breast, the anus, buttocks, or genitals. However, if you touched another part other than these, you are not guilty of sexual battery.

5.      False Accusations

Sex crimes are often marred with false accusations, especially crimes like sexual battery, which leave little physical evidence.

Some false accusations arise due to innocent mistaken identity by the victim. In other cases, the victim might have a mental illness, thus unable to understand the nature of what he or she might be saying.

In some cases, the “victim” files false accusations of sexual battery due to malicious intentions including anger, jealousy, revenge, or spite.

Regardless of the motivation behind the false accusations, you can fight these charges by asserting that you are innocent of the offense.

The best way to do this is by hiring an attorney as soon as you are arrested for the offense. Your attorney will have sufficient time to gather evidence supporting your innocence.

The most common ways attorneys use to identify false accusations include:

  • Investigating the procedures used by the police during witness identification
  • Interviewing the victim
  • Interviewing any possible witnesses to the crime

A successful defense against false accusations will lead to dismissal of your charges, or acquittal. You could also file a civil lawsuit against the accuser if you suffered any damages (such as job loss or a tainted reputation) due to the false accusations.

Penalties and Consequences of Sexual Battery

Sex crimes often have far-reaching physical, emotional, and psychological effects on the victim. These effects can last a lifetime or for extended periods.

Due to such effects, California law is tough on offenders with stiff penalties for crimes like sexual battery. Penalties for the offense vary depending on the circumstances of the crime, and the condition of the victim.

Sexual battery can be a misdemeanor or a felony. Basic sexual battery is considered a misdemeanor. This is where you touch someone’s intimate parts with the intent to achieve sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse against the will of that person.

Without additional aggravating factors, the offense is a misdemeanor. The penalties for such a conviction include:

  • A maximum term of six months in county jail
  • A fine not exceeding $2,000 or $3,000 in case you are the employer of the victim
  • Summary probation for a maximum of five years

The court may impose additional conditions if you are placed on probation. These conditions include:

  • Community service
  • Attending a batter’s program
  • Completing a course that targets people with sexual abuse or compulsion issues
  • Registration as a sex offender for ten years (tier one)

You must fulfill these conditions to prevent additional legal issues like arrest or tougher conditions.

Felony sexual battery charges arise when there are aggravating factors including:

  • The victim is a minor, and you have a prior conviction of a sexual crime
  • The victim is unlawfully restrained.
  • The victim was institutionalized for medical care or due to a serious disability.

The presence of these aggravating factors makes sexual battery a wobbler offense, meaning the prosecution can choose to charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances and your criminal history.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will face the following penalties:

  • A county jail term not exceeding one year
  • A fine of up to $2,000 or up to $3,000 if the victim was your employee

When charged as a felony, the penalties include:

  • Formal probation
  • Two, three, or four years in state prison
  • An additional three to five years if the victim suffers great bodily injury
  • A fine not exceeding $10,000
  • Lifetime registration as a tier-three sex offender (the court might allow you to register as a tier-one sex offender for at least ten years if the victim of sexual battery was institutionalized for medical incapacity or was seriously disabled.)

The Prosecution Process

The first step in the prosecution of sexual battery is the filing of a claim.

The victim or a witness to the crime can file the charges. In the case of a minor, the parents could report the incident on behalf of their son or daughter.

Once the offense is reported, the police will investigate and forward the report to the prosecuting agency. This prosecuting agency decides whether to file charges against the defendant or not.

If the prosecution files charges against you, you will be taken into custody until you post bail or are acquitted of the charges.

We advise you to hire an attorney soon after your arrest to protect your rights. Your attorney can help you find a bail agent to restore your freedom. He or she can convince the prosecution not to file charges against you, especially if you are a first time offender or are innocent.

After the arrest, comes the arraignment where the judge will issue or deny bail, and you will take a plea. In some cases, the prosecution usually offers a deal to admit guilt and get lesser sentencing.

Most attorneys recommend that you take a not guilty or contest plea so that you have a chance to examine the evidence against you.

After the arraignment, if you took a guilty plea, you will be convicted with penalties, as discussed above. However, if you took a no contest or not guilty plea, then the case goes into the discovery process and pretrial process.

The discovery process involves the exchange of evidence between the prosecution and the defense. Both parties can challenge the evidence from either side through court motions.

Your defense attorney will also present the defenses, as discussed above, depending on the circumstances of your case. These defenses aim at punching holes in the prosecution’s case, to create enough doubt as to whether you committed the crime.

Most cases usually end at the pretrial stage, where the prosecution and the defense agree on a certain course of action.

Some of these actions could include:

  • Dismissal of the case if the prosecution learns that it has insufficient evidence to convict the defendant
  • A plea bargain where you plead guilty to lesser charges or accept an offer of lesser sentencing

Plea deals are common where the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove that you committed the crime. In that case, dismissal would not be possible, but a plea deal would result in a favorable sentence.

Sometimes, the prosecution and defense cannot settle, and the case proceeds to trial. Cases that proceed to trial are often those with contentious issues that neither the prosecution nor the defense can agree on.

In such cases, a jury has to listen to both sides and determine the outcome of the case. The prosecuting and defense attorney will each present their evidence and witnesses and statements before the jury.

The decision of the jury can be to convict or acquit you for the charges. An acquittal means that the jury finds you innocent of any wrongdoing. If you are convicted, the criminal penalties will be as discussed above.

You can appeal a conviction at a higher court with the help of your attorney. An appeal will result in the reevaluation of the case and possible reaffirmation of the conviction or acquittal.

Your attorney will counsel you on whether an appeal can help your case.

Related Offenses

Sexual battery is a form of sexual assault. It relates closely to other crimes in the same group, like rape and other non-consensual sexual acts. Whether you are charged with these forms of sexual assault or additional crimes like battery will depend on the circumstances of the offense.

For example, if you are charged with a sexual battery, but it turns out that you did not touch an intimate part of the victim, but you touched him or her offensively, you will be charged with battery.

Battery under PC 242 refers to any unwanted or offensive touching, both sexual and non-sexual nature. The battery does not have to involve the intimate parts of the victim, as long as the act was unwanted.

You could also be charged with battery if you cause the victim to touch you without the victim’s consent.

Simple battery is a misdemeanor with penalties such as a maximum term of six months in county jail and a fine not exceeding $2000.

Rape is also related to sexual battery and usually occurs when battery proceeds to include intercourse. For instance, if you touch the victim on their intimate parts, and he or she stops you, and you stop, then the offense is sexual battery.

If you proceed to have intercourse, however, slight the penetration, you have committed rape. Rape is always charged as a felony in California with a state prison sentence of up to 8 years.

The penalties could also vary depending on the age of the victim and the circumstances of the offense. For example, you face a sentence of up to 11 years if the victim was a minor above the age of 14 and 13 years if the minor was under 14 years.

You could also be charged with indecent exposure under PC 314 if you willfully expose your genitals to offend another person or cause sexual gratification. Indecent exposure can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on your criminal history and the circumstances of the offense.

Find a Sexual Battery Defense Attorney Near Me

California is strict on punishing sexual offenders. Therefore, you must have an experienced legal expert working on your case.

Charges of sexual battery could lead to jail time and, sometimes, a state prison sentence. You will also have to register as a sex offender; therefore, the conviction will haunt you for months or years to come.

Having an attorney working on your case can bring significant change, such as reduced charges, lesser sentencing, and dismissal of charges or acquittal.

The Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm understands the negative consequences of an arrest, charge, or conviction for sexual battery. Therefore, we dedicate our resources and expertise to develop a strategic defense to fight for your rights.

We offer a free consultation to understand the aspects of your case and help you choose a law firm with which you are comfortable. Call us now at 714-740-7848, so we can start the defense journey with you today.