acts with a child in San Diego, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. Crimes involving children, especially of a sexual nature, are aggressively prosecuted in California. The state will not hesitate to thoroughly investigate your crime and pursue the harshed possible penalties allowed by law. Hiring an attorney can help to minimize the consequences of your arrest for child molestation and protect your future. Call the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC today to request a free consultation.
For over two decades, attorney Vikas Bajaj has been dedicated to defending clients against all criminal charges. We understand that your future is at stake and will do everything in our power to secure the best possible outcome in your case. Our aggressive approach makes it difficult for the state to build a strong case against you. In many cases, we are able to get the charges against our clients reduced or dismissed. Contact us today to find out how we can help you fight charges for lewd acts with a child in San Diego.
Understanding Lewd Acts With a Child
California Penal Code Section 288 PC explains that any person who “willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act” with a child under the age of 14 “with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires” of themselves or the child is guilty of a felony.
In simpler terms: it is illegal to engage in sexual touching of any kind with a child under the age of 14 with the intent to arouse yourself or the child. Lewd acts with a child, which is also known as child molestation, can include:
- Touching the child
- Having the child touch themselves, or
- Having the child touch you.
What is a Lewd Act?
What actions will be considered “lewd or lascivious” for the purposes of California’s child molestation law? Lewd behaviors include actions that involve inappropriate sexual contact, including any acts of sexual assault.
Lewd acts can include touching any part of a child’s body. The contact can be made directly with the child’s skin or indirectly through clothing. Lewd acts also include encouraging a child to engage in sexual contact with themselves or another person (including yourself).
What is Willful Behavior?
You can only face criminal charges for lewd acts with a child if you actions are willful. Willful behavior means that you intend to engage in the behavior. Mistakenly brushing up against a child or being pushed into a child would probably not be considered “willful” acts. You must do something on purpose for it to be willful.
Arousal Not Necessary
Penal Code SEction 288 PC requires that you commit a lewd act with a child with the intent to arouse. It is not necessary for you, the child, or another person to actually become aroused. It is enough that your intent was to elicit arousal or sexual gratification. The fact that you were not aroused is not a defense.
Age of the Child
While 288 PC focuses on lewd acts with children under the age of 14, it is actually a crime to commit lewd acts with any minor child. This includes children who are 15, 16, and 17. The penalties associated with lewd acts with children over the age of 14 can be less severe.
Penal Code 288 PC also prohibits caretakers from engaging in lewd acts with dependent adults.
Penalties for Lewd Acts With a Child
Child molestation, as defined in 288 PC, is a felony in California. The penalties that can be imposed will depend on a variety of factors, including:
- The child’s age
- The defendant’s age
- Whether the defendant used force, violence, duress, or threats
- Whether the child suffered bodily harm, and
- The defendant’s criminal record and history of similar behavior.
Lewd Acts With a Child Under 14
No Force Used:
- 3, 6, or 8 years in a California state prison
- $10,000 in criminal fines
- 5, 8, or 10 years in a California state prison
- $10,000 in criminal fines
Child Suffers Bodily Harm:
- Possibility of life in a California state prison
- $10,000 in criminal fines
Lewd Acts With a Child Aged 14 or 15
Defendant More than 10 Years Older Than Child:
- 12 months in a San Diego County jail and $1,000 in fines, or
- 1, 2, or 3 years in a California state prison and $10,000 in fines.
Lewd acts with a child can also technically be committed against 16 and 17-year-olds. These crimes are generally charged as sexual battery or statutory rape, rather than under the state’s child molestation law.
Consequences of Child Molestation
Committing lewd acts with a child can result in serious time behind bars, substantial fines, and require the successful completion of formal probation. Child molestation is also a strike offense that can have other significant consequences, including the requirement to register as a sex offender.
Committing lewd acts with a child in violation of 288 PC is considered a “strike offense” for the purposes of California’s Three Strikes Sentencing Enhancement Law. If you have prior strike convictions on your record, the penalties imposed for lewd acts with a child can be more substantial. If you have future convictions for other strike offenses, the penalties will be aggravated in those cases.
Sex Offender Registration
California state law requires you to register as a sex offender if you are convicted of child molestation as defined in 288 PC. Lewd acts with a child requires registration as a Tier 2 sex offender. Tier 2 offenders must maintain their status as a sex offender for a minimum of 20 years. This means that details about your crime and information about where you work and live will be available to the public for at least two decades.
If you are convicted for child molestation more than once, you will be required to register as a Tier 3 sex offender. Tier 3 offenders must register for life.
In addition to jail time, fines, and mandatory registration as a sex offender, the crime can have repercussions in your everyday life. Collateral consequences are social and civil penalties that are not necessarily directly linked to your crime, but rather the fact that you have a criminal record. Collateral consequences of a child molestation conviction can include:
- Inability to secure employment
- Prohibitions on working in certain fields (e.g., healthcare, education)
- Difficulty finding housing
- Prohibitions on participating in state welfare programs, and
- Adverse child custody decisions.
Defending Charges of Lewd Acts With a Child
It is important to fight any criminal charges for child molestation that the state decides to pursue. Many times, the state will lack physical evidence to supports its case. Arguing certain defenses can help to prevent prosecutors from building a strong case against you.
Defenses that can be argued include:
- Mistaken identity
- False accusations
- Contact was unintentional, or
- You did not have an intent to arouse.
Consent of the child is not a defense to charges for lewd acts with a minor. Children do not have the legal ability to consent to actions of a sexual nature.
Fight Criminal Charges for Child Molestation in San Diego
Have you been accused of engaging in lewd acts with a child? The criminal consequences of these accusations can be devastating for you and your family. You have the right to defend yourself against any criminal charges, and the experienced San Diego criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC can help. Call us today to request a free consultation and learn more.