The details can be fuzzy in alleged molestation cases, so California law gives prosecutors two main options with how they pursue them.
If the defendant has been accused of illicit contact with a minor over a long period of time, but there isn’t a lot of evidence to identify specific dates and details of each incident, the defendant can be charged with “Continuous sexual abuse of a child.”
In cases where there was no pattern or illicit contact, or if the prosecution feels it has enough evidence to charge the defendant for each incidence of illicit contact, the prosecution will likely bring charges for “Lewd acts with a minor.”
Lewd acts with a minor charges are serious, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and mandatory registration on the California Sex Offender Registry. If you or someone you love has been accused of lewd acts with a minor, it’s important to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
What is ‘Lewd acts with a minor’?
Lewd acts with a minor is defined in California Penal Code 288 PC as:
- Touching a child under 14 on any part of its body for the purposes of sexual gratification. This means that someone can be convicted of “Lewd acts” even if the touching was above the clothes or not on a genital area.
- A child under 16 touching someone else on their person for the purpose of the adult’s sexual gratification, on their urging.
It’s important to emphasize that, in order to qualify as lewd acts with a minor, the incident must be done for the adult’s sexual gratification. In other words, if an adult inadvertently touches a minor on a sensitive area, then it is not lewd acts with a minor.
Penalties for ‘Lewd acts with a minor’
Lewd acts with a minor is always treated as a felony in California, and the punishment depends on a number of factors in the case:
- The age of the child
- The age of the defendant
- If “force, fraud, threats or duress” were used
- If there was a pattern of abuse
In cases where no force is used, penalties include:
- Three, six or eight years in state prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
When force is used, penalties rise to:
- Five, eight or ten years in state prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
In addition to this, a conviction for lewd acts with a minor will add a strike to your record under California’s “three strikes” law.
Will you be required to register as a sex offender with a ‘Lewd acts with a minor’ conviction?
Yes. You will also be required to register as a tier-three lifetime sex offender on the California Sex Offender Registry. This is the most severe tier, and offenders cannot be removed from it.
Defenses against ‘Lewd acts with a minor’ charges
If you’ve been accused of a lewd act with a minor, it’s important to understand the gravity of the situation. In California, this is considered a serious sex crime, and it can result in harsh penalties if you’re convicted.
However, there may be defenses available to you. With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you may be able to avoid a conviction and the lifelong consequences that come with it.
As we mentioned above, details can be fuzzy in alleged child molestation cases. Your attorney can evaluate the evidence in your case, expose flaws in the prosecution’s case and fight to defend your constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Robert M. Helfend is a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who specializes in sex crimes cases, practicing since 1983. Call today for a free case evaluation – 800-834-6434.