los angeles criminal defense lawyerIt’s illegal in California to touch an intimate part of another person for your own gratification or arousal without their permission.

If you do, you can be charged with sexual battery (also known as “sexual assault”) under California Penal Code 243.4 PC. Depending on the facts of the case, sexual battery can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, but the consequences of a conviction are almost always serious.

That’s because most convictions for sexual battery carry a minimum requirement to register as a sex offender. Being on the sex offender registry can sometimes be more disruptive than a prison sentence — as it leads to difficulty finding jobs, housing and personal relationships.

If you or someone you love has been accused of sexual assault, it is important speak with an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney skilled in sex crimes cases can help you understand the charges against you and build your defense.

What is sexual battery (sexual assault) in California?

As the #metoo movement has gained more prominence, sexual battery cases have come under the public eye. In California, sexual battery refers to cases of unwanted touching of a person’s intimate parts for the purposes of:

  • Gratification
  • Arousal
  • Abuse

In order to convict you of sexual assault, a prosecutor will have to prove that certain facts of the case were true. These are often referred to the “elements of the crime.”

Sexual battery has three elements:

  1. You touched an intimate part of another person. This can be over clothes, and it refers to touching the anus, groin, sex organs, buttocks or female breasts.
  2. It was against the other person’s will.
  3. It was for the purposes of sexual gratification, arousal or abuse. This can be for your own sexual pleasure, or to “hurt, humiliate, injure or intimidate” the alleged victim.

Let’s look at two examples:

Example 1: Steve is a dentist, working on Kerri. He places his dental instruments across the chair from her. When he reaches for an instrument, he purposefully brushes against her breasts his own gratification. Steve could be guilty of sexual battery (assault) here.

Example 2: Tom is riding a crowded subway car. He reaches and grab’s Terri’s hand and places it over his penis on his pants. Even though Tom acted lewdly for his own sexual gratification and could be guilty of another crime, he is likely not guilty of sexual battery by this definition. He did not touch someone else’s intimate parts.

Penalties for sexual battery in California

As we mentioned above, sexual battery can be charged either as a felony or misdemeanor in California. Sexual assault cases rise to felony status when any or all of the below are true:

  • The victim was unaware of the act because they were fraudulently convinced that the touching was for professional purposes. This is common with medicinal or therapeutic practitioners.
  • The victim was unlawfully restrained.
  • The victim was institutionalized and either medically incapacitated or seriously disabled.
  • The victim was forced to masturbate, touch one of your intimate parts or the intimate parts of another person in any of the above circumstances.

As a misdemeanor, sexual assault in California is punishable by:

  • Six months or one year in county jail
  • Up to $2,000 in fines ($3,000 if the victim was your employee)
  • A minimum ten-year requirement to register as a tier one sex offender

As a felony, punishments can range up to:

  • Four years in California state prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Lifetime registration as a tier three sex offender

In both cases, you could also be subject to civil penalties if the accuser decides to sue for damages.

Defenses against sexual assault in California

“Robert Helfend is one of the best criminal defense attorneys I’ve ever worked with. He was so knowledgeable, and always made sure I understood everything every step of the way. I would definitely recommend him to anyone who wants an understanding, caring, and truly helpful lawyer.” Pat, CA

The penalties for sexual battery in California are steep, but the good news is that there are defenses available to you. If the touching is consensual — or if you had a reasonable belief that it was consensual — then you cannot be convicted of sexual battery.

As well, in cases of unwanted touching, there is often not enough evidence to sufficiently prove that the defendant assaulted the alleged defendant.

It’s for that reason that working with a skilled criminal defense attorney can be so beneficial. An attorney skilled in sex crimes cases can carefully examine the facts of your case to get you the best possible result.

Attorney Robert M. Helfend is a SuperLawyers rated lawyer, practicing in the Los Angeles area since 1984. He is a specialist in sex crimes cases. Call today for your free case evaluation — 800-834-6434.