Pasadena Criminal Attorney

Sharen Ghatan- Lead Attorney
Over 20 Years of Experience Practicing Criminal Defense

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Sex Crimes

Sex crimes are always a hot-button, high-profile public issue, and with the proliferation of such crimes in California and throughout the U.S. in recent years, it is no wonder that penal codes are stricter than ever and prosecutors more determined than ever when it comes to this class of crimes.

Yet, at the same time, false accusations of sex crimes and exaggerated claims are also on the rise. It is not at all uncommon for a person to be falsely accused of a sex crime out of vengeance or for a mistaken identification to lead to an innocent party's being labeled a sex criminal.

At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we make ourselves the place for you to turn if you or a loved one have been accused of a California sex crime. We do not, as some law firms do, shy away from taking on this class of cases or assume that it is too difficult or even impossible to consistently win sex crimes defense cases. Instead, we have equipped ourselves with a thorough knowledge of California sex crimes law and have obtained deep, hard-earned experience in this practice area.

To learn more about sex crimes defense in Southern California, contact us anytime 24/7 for a free legal consultation by calling 626-689-2277.

About California Sex Crimes in General

The very accusation of a sex crime, regardless of whether or not you are ultimately convicted and even before your trial gets underway, can seriously and permanently damage your reputation. And, unlike other crimes where your penalties end after a specified period or incarceration or community service, with many sex crimes, you must register with the state as a sex offender. This will involve checking in and re-registering, from time to time, for the full remainder of your life — no other class of crimes (short of those punished by execution or life imprisonment) have such a permanent form of punishment.

That said, it should be abundantly clear how much is really at stake and how important it is to avail yourself of the best possible legal defense.

But the second thing to consider is whether you are facing a misdemeanor or a felony sex crime charge. There is often a vast difference in how misdemeanors vs. felonies are punished.

For misdemeanor sex crimes, like indecent exposure, prostitution, or soliciting a prostitute, you might get at most 12 months in county jail. That is a substantial penalty, but felony sex crimes, like rape, child pornography, or sexual battery, can get you from a year to life in state prison.

Below, we take a look at some of the most common types of sex crimes we routinely handle at Pasadena Criminal Attorney, noting their legal definitions, possible penalties, and commonly employed defense strategies:

  1. Indecent Exposure (PC 314)

According to California Penal Code Section 314, it is a crime to willfully expose one's genitalia in a public place, or uninvited in a private place, for the purpose of sexually gratifying yourself or another person. Committing such an act is referred to as "indecent exposure."

Indecent exposure is normally a misdemeanor charge, punishable by 6 months in county jail, a $1,000 fine, and mandatory registration (for life) as a sex offender under PC 290.

However, if one exposes him or her self in a residential building without permission from the owner, it is called "aggravated" indecent exposure and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If a misdemeanor, it is punished as mentioned above. If a felony, it is punishable by up to 3 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine.

Also note that a repeat indecent exposure offense will be a felony and punished as would be a felony-level aggravated indecent exposure charge.

The most common defense strategy against an indecent exposure charge is simply "lack of sufficient evidence to convict." There is a lot of evidence needed to prove all elements of the crime, and prosecutors often have weak spots in their cases, which skilled defense attorneys will not miss. Two other common defenses are mistaken identity and false accusations.

  1. Lewd Conduct

Lewd conduct is very similar to indecent exposure, except that it can only be charged as a misdemeanor and it covers other actions besides just exposing oneself. For example, lewd conduct could cover not only all that PC 314 covers but also such things as public masturbation (including in a public restroom), sex in public, or oral sex in public.

Usually, lewd conduct charges arise from sting operations, and the arresting officer is the only witness. This gives the defense the opportunity to challenge the testimony and past reliability of the arresting officer. If he/she has been accused of planting evidence and falsifying police reports in the past, this could work in the defendant's favor.

PC 647a is the reverse side of lewd conduct, concerning solicitation of lewd conduct, and is similar in most ways to the "main crime."

The maximum punishment for a lewd conduct charge, a misdemeanor, is up to 12 months in county jail. In some cases, life registration as a sex offender will also be required.

Common defenses include: police misconduct or entrapment, lack of intent to commit lewd conduct, lack of any sexual or vengeful purpose, and lack of anyone present at the time and place of relevance to witness the lewd act in question.

  1. Lewd Acts with a Child (PC 288)

PC 288a defines a lewd act with child, or "child molestation," as the willful and "lewd" touching of the body (whether directly or through the clothes) of a child under the age of 14 for the purpose of the sexual gratification of the adult or of the child. It makes no difference if the child "consented," for he/she is not deemed legally of age to give such consent. And the touching need not even be specifically "sexual," so long as it was done for sexual gratification.

PC 288 is punishable by 3 to 8 years in state prison, fines and restitution, probation/parole, a restraining order to protect the victim from further contact with the perpetrator, sex-offender counseling classes, and registration for life as a sex offender. And 2 additional years in state prison can be added if the perpetrator used a deadly weapon, threatened the victim, was the child's caretaker, or has a previous sex crime on his/her criminal record.

Common defenses include: lack of evidence, especially due to the loss of physical evidence and of witnesses or witness memories during a long lapse of time between crime and court case; false accusation or mistaken identity; and undue influence on the child by adults, both police and parents, causing the child to conform to an account of events that never happened.

  1. Possession of Child Porn (PC 311)

Illegally and knowingly possessing, distributing, producing, or selling materials that depict a minor (anyone under the age of 18) as engaging in sexual activities is a crime in California under PC 311.

In most cases, child porn crimes are a felony. PC 311.11, possession of child porn, for example, is a felony that is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. But a repeat offense can get you 2 to 6 years in state prison.

Distribution of child porn (PC 311.1a) is often punished by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine; but in some cases, it is punishable by up to 3 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine.

Under PC 311.4a, hiring children to take part in child porn (thus, production of it), or using children to distribute such porn, is punishable by 12 months in county jail and a $2,000 fine. But if the child was coerced into taking part in child porn productions, it is punishable by 3 to 8 years in state prison under PC 311.4b.

Possible defenses include: lack of knowledge of the age of the people in the porn materials, lack of actual possession of the child pornography, lack of knowledge of the nature of the porn's content, someone else accessed your computer to use the child pornography, police entrapment, and illegal search/seizure.

  1. Prostitution and Solicitation (PC 647)

Anytime money or property or anything of value is given in exchange for sexual services of any kind, that constitutes prostitution under PC 647. And it is also illegal to solicit a prostitute or to agree to commit prostitution as either prostitute or solicitor.

As it is very difficult to prove these crimes, most cases arise from police sting operations that gather the necessary evidence and create witnesses. Oftentimes, a female police officer will pose as a prostitute in order to catch offenders in the act. The mere agreement is all that is needed to convict. The testimony of the officer, a recording of the conversation, and police video surveillance from a nearby car are often used as evidence.

Thus, either police misconduct or entrapment or lack of evidence are the two most likely courses to take in the defense. Mistaken identity, false accusations, and lack of intent are also possible defenses.

Usually, a PC 647 violation is a misdemeanor, punishable by 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Very rarely, registration as a sex offender will be required. But repeat offenses increase the jail time and the fines.

  1. Sexual Assault & Battery (PC 243.4)

Assault is the attempt to commit an unwanted touching of another person, while battery is the carrying out of an act of assault. When the touching is of the victim's "intimate parts" (directly or through the clothes), it is sexual assault and/or battery. If the assault leads to actual intercourse, then it is a rape crime instead.

The perpetrator must have restrained the victim in some way, acted contrary to the victim's will (except with minors), and acted for the purpose of gratifying him or her self or another person sexually.

Sexual assault/battery can be a misdemeanor or a felony. As a misdemeanor, it is punishable by a 6-month jail term and a fine of up to $2,000. As a felony, it is punishable by either 12 months in county jail and a $1,00 fine OR 2 to 4 years in state prison with a $10,000 fine.

Common defense strategies include the following: the touching was actually consensual between two adults with full mental abilities, the accusations are simply false, or the touching was professional or otherwise legitimate and not sexual at all.

  1. Rape and Statutory Rape (PC 261)

Under PC 261, "rape" is defined very broadly to include many different forms of the crime. In general, it is any form of non-consensual sexual intercourse where the perpetrator uses physical force, deceit, threats, and the like to coerce or force the victim to have sex with him/her.

Use of drugs to get someone intoxicated in order to force sex on him/her is also rape, as is sex with a minor or adult without mental capacity to understand what he/she is doing (regardless of consent). Rape of someone with whom perpetrator goes to a social event is called "date rape," but this is not a legal category. And rape of one's own spouse is also criminalized, though dealt with separately in the law code.

Also note that consent to sex can be withdrawn at any point and will make formerly consensual sex become rape if the other party forcibly continues.

Rape is a felony in California, but is punished very differently depending on the nature of the incident. A sentence of 12 months in county jail is possible as is 3 to 8 years in state prison. And punishments can be years longer even and carry heavy fines for more extreme cases. In all cases, those convicted of rape must register as sex offenders for life.

Defenses include: the sex was consensual, a reasonable belief exited that it was consensual, and the accusations are simply false.

Contact Us Today for Help

At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we stand ready to come to your aid in your hour of need with top-tier legal representation. We have extensive experience and a long track record of securing victory in sex crimes defense cases, and we will shy away from taking on your case based on the nature of the allegations.

For each and every client, we will apply the full force of our legal expertise and fight tenaciously to win the best possible outcome to his/her case, be that a dismissal, an acquittal, or a favorable plea.

For a free legal consultation on the details of your case, call us anytime 24/7/365 at 626-689-2277.

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