Lewd Acts with a Child
Section 288 of the California Penal Code defines a lewd act as the physical contact with a minor (anyone 15 years of age or younger) for sexual arousal or satisfaction (of either party). The law regards such an act as a lewd and lascivious conduct and serious penalties are imposed on those whom California Courts find guilty.
The crime can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony based on elements which are discussed later in this article. If convicted, you could be sentenced to between 1 and 8 years in a state jail (as opposed to a county jail) and fined up to $10,000. Furthermore, a variety of other serious punishments could also be ordered as penalties by a judge.
What exactly are the penalties for those found guilty of having lewd and lascivious contact with a minor?
If the prosecution proves that you had lewd contact with a minor, you will most probably have to face a jail sentence of not less than one year. If your act is proved beyond doubt and you had a duty to care for the child (e.g. you are a parent, teacher or the child’s relative), the sentence could be as long as 8 years behind bars. Furthermore, a fine of $10,000 is also imposed on everyone found guilty under this section of the Penal Code.
Other possible penalties on those found guilty
- You will be registered as a sex offender for the rest of your life: This penalty is found in Section 290 of the California Penal Code. Registration as a sex offender means your name and details will be listed online for anyone interested to search and find out. This will make it difficult for you to find work, to rent houses or even to join certain societies. In turn, this new reality can cause embarrassment and depression.
- Five more years to your sentence if the child suffered bodily harm: If the lewd contact with a child resulted in bodily harm you could get five additional years to your sentence. So in some cases, such acts could result in up to 13 years imprisonment.
- Felony charges are often counted as a strike under the state’s Three Strikes Law, which means you could serve an even longer sentence if the conviction is your third strike.
It is clear from the legal penalties above that the consequences of being convicted under Sections 288 and Section 290 of the California Penal Code are dire. You could lose your job, your social status, and even your freedom. This is why it is necessary to hire the right criminal defense attorneys. Experienced attorneys can defend you and help you get the best outcome considering your circumstances. Our attorneys have many years of experience in defending individuals across the state. They can build a strong and formidable defense for your case. Contact us now 619-880-5474 for assistance.
What must the D.A. prove to the court to win the case?
For the prosecutor to prove the charge of lewd acts with a minor under Section 288 of the Penal Code, he or she must demonstrate beyond doubt that indeed you:
- Had contact with the minor directly or through their clothes
- Did it “willfully”/ intentionally
- Did it for sexual arousal or satisfaction of yourself, the child or someone else
Defenses for those Accused of having lewd acts with a minor
At our law firm, we understand how serious the charge of Lewd and Lascivious Acts with a minor is. That’s why we take time to build a strong defense to ensure our clients and their reputations are defended with skill and tact so as to guarantee the best outcome. In the years we’ve worked in San Diego, we have won many of such cases including some that other attorneys referred to us because they feared failure. We’ve highlighted some of the defenses below so that you know your case may not be as bleak as you think it is.
- Not a minor as defined by the law: For a charge of lewd and lascivious acts with a child to stand in a California law court, the minor must be 15 years old (or younger) and the accused must be at least 10 years older at the time the act is alleged to have taken place. If this is proved not to have been the case by your defense lawyers, the charge will be dropped. However, you can still be charged under another Section of the California Penal Code.
- Accidental contact: If the contact/ touching was not intentional or willful and it is proven so in a court of law, then the charge will not stand. However, as mentioned in the previous point, other sex crimes charges might still be levelled against you.
- No Sexual intent: The Section 288 of the state’s Penal Code defines lewd acts as those which take place with the intention of bringing about sexual gratification. If your criminal defense attorney proves that the touching/ contact didn’t have any sexual intent, then the prosecution’s case against you will most likely fail.
- Polygraph tests: Polygraph tests can be used to convince the prosecution (The District Attorney) to drop a case that the D.A. already thought was weak. But still, it must be noted that such evidence cannot be presented in court as it is inadmissible. Also, such tests can only help if you pass.
- The credibility of the accuser: One of the most important bits of defending a criminal case is the cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses so as to make the court to not attach that much weight to their evidence. Before cross-examining we dig deep into the witnesses’ backgrounds to find out all about who they are. Do they lie? Are they under medication? What do they do? Do they have an ill-motive? By revealing either of these and other facts to a court of law, we can reduce the impact any evidence they have might have on the final decision.
- Mistaken identity: Witness identification is often discredit-worthy in most criminal cases.
We will focus fully on making sure the case against you is dismissed or you are fully acquitted of the charges. However, if the circumstances and the evidence in the possession of the prosecution are watertight, we will redouble our efforts to ensure you only get a lesser sentence than what the prosecution will propose to the court. We will do this by showing that the act you are convicted of was only a blip in your otherwise generally good character. By showing the court that the incident was an isolated one and that it is unlikely to occur again, the presiding judge will most probably give you a lighter sentence or help you get probation after serving the minimum of your sentence.
What if it was just an attempt and nothing happened?
Attempting or organizing for sexual contact with a minor could result in a jail sentence if the prosecution proves the case. Section 288.4 of the California Penal Code outlaws abnormal/ unnatural sexual interest in children. The act may simply involve lewd acts, exposing genitals to a child or having a child expose their genitals or anal area to you.
The law is strict on such offences. And the prosecution simply has to prove that you believed or knew that the victim was a minor. To prevent such acts from taking place, the police often use sting operations to catch even those soliciting for sex with minors on the internet. It is considered an offence not just for minors under 14 but also for those teenagers who have not reached the age of consent (18 years). In other words, legally they cannot give consent even if they say yes to your attempts.
Accused arranging a meeting with a lewd objective?
If it was not just an attempt and you did organize the meeting online or through any other means, the sentence is heavier if convicted. However, for a successful conviction, the prosecution must prove that you:
- Did indeed arrange meeting the victim who you simply believed or knew was a minor
- Were motivated by an abnormal/ unnatural sexual interest in minors
- Wanted to expose you wanted to engage in lewd acts, to expose your genitals or to have the child do the same
Penalties for those found guilty of arranging a meeting for lewd or sexual acts
Under Section 288.4 of the California Penal Code, this kind of conduct can be regarded as a felony or a misdemeanor based on your criminal record. If you have no criminal record it you will be charged for the offense as a misdemeanor and you could be jailed (for up to 12 months in county). Alternatively, you could face informal probation. Almost all convicted sex predators are fined and you are required to register as a sex offender. If you are charged with arranging a meeting for a lewd objective as a felony, you will have to register as a sex offender, you could be fined up to $10,000, you could sentenced to three years behind bars, or you could be given up to 5 years of probation.
How accusations of lewd acts with children are handled in the state of California
The state of California considers lewd acts with children to be a serious offense. You need a lawyer to save you from jail time and to at least limit the damage to your reputation. At our law firm, we understand how serious the offense is and do everything in our power to get you full acquitted.
The police often assume that an accusation of lewd acts with a minor is true. So do other parties such as parents, investigators, friends, and even the media if they get wind of the matter. This assumption is based on another assumption that a minor would never invent such an accusation out of their own imagination.
However, as it has been proven so often, quite a significant number of accusations are often false. A child may make up such a story on his or her own or after being coached by an adult. The reasons for doing this are often varied. But still, most who hear the story will assume you are guilty. This makes it very necessary for you to find a formidable lawyer to build a strong defense for you.
How the police handle such accusations
The police will act quickly to such accusations and will dedicate plenty of resources to investigate and ensure they get a conviction. Specially trained investigators will be assigned to the case.
The first step often taken by investigators is to find and interview the alleged victim. The interview is often recorded. The interviewers must not lead or push the “victim” into saying things. The minor must tell his or her own story. The next step is often to get forensic evidence. This may involve the collection of the victim’s clothes and other effects in the vicinity of the scene of crime. The police will also try to discover other possible victims.
One of the easiest ways the police use to get convincing evidence that the accused actually did what is alleged is to get the victim to call the accused and then listen in. Anything said relating to the incident or showing knowledge of it could be near-watertight confirmation that the act did indeed take place.
After conducting their preliminary investigations, the police often then go for the accused. They can come with an arrest warrant if the evidence they have is solid enough to convince a judge. The police will try to get a confession out of you or to get you to admit to doing what is alleged. When the police approach you at your home or at the station, it is important to firmly and respectfully say no and ask to contact your attorney. Allowing the police to interview you on your own will only increase your likelihood of making an incriminating statement.
How can we help
Whether the accused is an adult or a minor, our San Diego Criminal Attorney are ready to thoroughly examine your case and build a solid defense for you. Whatever evidence the police or the prosecution is claiming to have against you, leave it to us to dissect it and form robust counter-arguments against them. We have helped many before with similar cases to get acquitted and we can help you too. Give us a call now at 619-880-5474 for a free phone consultation.