Sexual Assault Crimes in California

According to RAINN, an American is the victim of sexual assault every 98 seconds. The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault reports that between 2011 and 2012 rape crisis centers in the state served nearly 32,000 victims of sexual assault. Sexual assault is a problem and can have lifelong consequences for victims and perpetrators. The potential criminal and non-criminal consequences of a sexual assault conviction are severe. The best way to reduce the severity and likelihood of these consequences is by hiring a criminal defense attorney to represent you.

California has many laws that criminalize certain sexually-related behaviors. If you are accused of sexual assault, you may face criminal charges under one of a few different statutes. Sexual battery, rape, and forcible penetration with a foreign object are some of the more commonly charged California sexual assault crimes.

It is important to understand the differences between California’s sexual assault laws. Each crime, while similar, prohibits specific conduct. The penalties you may face, if convicted, will depend on the crime(s) of which you are accused, charged, and convicted.

Sexual Battery

Sexual battery, defined in California Penal Code Section 243.4 PC, is the crime of touching another person’s intimate parts while they are restrained. The touching must be against his or her will for sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse. If you are charged with sexual battery, the California prosecutor handling your case will have to prove each element of the crime in order to convict you. The prosecutor must prove:

  1. You touched another person’s intimate parts while they were restrained, either by you or another person;
  2. The victim did not, or could not, consent to the sexual contact; and
  3. You touched the victim’s intimate parts for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse.

The contact does not have to be direct, or skin-to-skin. The contact can be indirect or through clothing. Intimate parts include the sexual organ, anus, groin, buttocks, or female breast. In California, sexual battery is a wobbler that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The degree of the charge will depend on the facts of your case and your own personal criminal history. A conviction for misdemeanor sexual battery is punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and fines of up to $2,000. A conviction for felony sexual battery is punishable by 1 to 4 years in California state prison and fines of up to $10,000.


Rape, defined in California Penal Code 261 PC, is the crime of engaging in sexual intercourse with another person without their consent or with the knowledge that they cannot consent using force, violence, threats, or deceit. This is the general definition, but there are a few different scenarios in which the crime of rape can be committed. You may be convicted of rape in California if:

  1. You knew the victim was unable to give legal consent because of a mental disorder or physical disability;
  2. You used force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate bodily injury on the victim or another person;
  3. You administered an intoxicating or anesthetic substance for the purpose of committing the sexual act;
  4. The victim was “unconscious to the nature of the act,” meaning that he or she was not fully aware of the circumstances and activities surrounding the sexual conduct;
  5. You induced the victim to believe that you were someone else, and they consented to sex with that other person;
  6. You threatened to retaliate in the future by kidnapping, falsely imprisoning, or inflicting serious bodily harm or death on the victim or another person; or
  7. You used a position of authority to threaten the victim in a manner that would make him or her consent.

Rape is one of the most serious crimes in California. Rape is a felony, but the penalties will depend on the age of the victim, the degree of force used, and other facts that may be relevant to the crime. A conviction of rape, without aggravating or mitigating factors, can carry a prison sentence of 3, 6, or 8 years. If a victim is a minor or under the age of 14, the prison sentence can be as long as 13 years. If a victim suffers great bodily harm or injury, the prison sentence can be extended by as many as 5 years.

Forcible Sexual Penetration

Forcible penetration with a foreign object, defined in California Penal Code Section 289 PC, is the crime forced sexual penetration of another person’s genital opening without his or her consent with a foreign object. You can also be charged with forcible sexual penetration if you force a victim to penetrate his or her own genital opening. What qualifies as a “foreign object”? Any object, including a body part, other than a sexual organ. You may remember ex-Stanford swimmer Brock Turner. Turner was convicted of the crime of forcible sexual penetration after he stuck his finger into his victim’s vagina. Any foreign or unknown object – that is not a sexual organ – qualifies as a foreign object for the purposes of this statute.

Forcible penetration with a foreign object is a felony in California. If convicted of this crime you may face up to 8 years in California state prison and fines of up to $10,000. You may also be required to register with the state as a sex offender and attend sexual violence education courses. A judge may also issue a restraining order to prevent you from contacting or visiting the victim. The penalties for forcible penetration may be more severe if the victim is disabled, unconscious, or intoxicated.

Have you been charged with a sexual assault crime in California? If so, do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC. Over the past 19 years, Mr. Bajaj has represented thousands of San Diego-area clients. He has achieved positive results for his clients, including having charges against them reduced or dropped. He will tenaciously advocate for your rights and work to undermine the strength of the prosecution’s case against you.

Call or e-mail his office today to learn more about how he can help to limit the negative consequences of a sexual assault conviction in California.


Sex Crimes