Peter Blair | June 8, 2022 | Criminal Defense
The terms states use to describe sexual crimes vary.
Some states refer to touching another person in a sexual manner against their will for the purpose of sexual gratification as sexual imposition. Other states might describe the offense as sexual assault or forcible sexual abuse.
Many states break down sexual crimes into different categories. For example, a state might have a separate criminal statute for sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual imposition. The state might further classify the crimes as “aggravated” when the crime involves specific elements or circumstances.
However, California does not break down sexual crimes into these categories. Instead, most sexual crimes in California are classified as sexual battery, except for crimes involving the sexual abuse of a child or the rape of another person.
What Is the Definition of Sexual Battery in California?
California Penal Code §243.4 defines sexual battery as:
- Touching another person’s intimate parts;
- Against that person’s will;
- For the purpose of sexual abuse, sexual gratification, or sexual arousal.
Sexual battery is a “wobbler” offense. The prosecution can charge a wobbler offense as a misdemeanor or a felony crime. The facts and circumstances of the case determine the charge.
Generally, misdemeanor sexual battery involves touching another person’s intimate parts without their consent with no other aggravating factors. Intimate parts are a person’s genitals, groin, buttocks, anus, and a female’s breast. Sexual battery can occur even if the person is wearing clothing.
The statute also specifies circumstances that make the crime more serious such as:
- Unlawfully restraining the victim while committing sexual battery
- The victim is seriously disabled or mentally incapacitated
- The victim is committed for medical treatment at the time of the sexual battery
- The perpetrator fraudulently led the victim to believe the touching was done for a professional purpose
- The victim was forced to touch themselves or another person while institutionalized or unlawfully restrained
The prosecutor may consider various aggravating circumstances when charging the perpetrator, such as injuries to the victim, the perpetrator’s criminal record, and whether a deadly weapon was present during the crime.
Penalties and Sentences for Sexual Battery Convictions
The penalty imposed by the court depends on the charge and the facts of the case.
Generally, the sentence for misdemeanor sexual battery is a fine of up to $2,000 and a maximum of one year in county jail. However, if the victim is the perpetrator’s employee, the fine increases to $3,000.
The penalty for felony sexual battery increases to a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to four years in prison.
In addition to fines and jail time, a person convicted of sexual battery must register as a sexual offender. Typically, the person must register each year with the sex offenders registry for ten years.
Defending Yourself Against Allegations of Sexual Battery
For the prosecutor to prove you are guilty of sexual battery, the state must present evidence to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that you:
- Touched the victim’s intimate parts;
- Against the victim’s will; and,
- You did so for the purpose of sexual abuse, sexual gratification, or sexual arousal.
If the state is pursuing a felony charge, the prosecutor must also prove one of the aggravating factors, such as fraud, unlawful restraint, coercion, or mental incapacity.
There are several defenses to charges of sexual battery. Your sexual battery defense attorney may argue that the state has insufficient evidence to prove each of the elements of sexual battery.
Another defense is the victim’s consent to intimate touching. You may have had cause to reasonably believe that you had the victim’s consent to touch their intimate parts. This defense does not apply in sexual battery cases involving fraud.
There could also be evidence that the victim’s allegations are false. The defense strategy used depends on the facts of the case.
What Should You Do if You Are Charged With Sexual Battery?
Do not argue with the police officers or try to explain what happened. You could be charged with resisting arrest or another crime.
Instead, remain calm and quiet. Do not answer questions or make a statement without a criminal defense lawyer present.
When you are released from police custody, do not attempt to contact the victim. You might believe that you can resolve the criminal charges by “working things out” with the victim. However, attempting to contact the victim will likely make things worse for you.
As soon as possible, contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. An attorney assesses the case to provide a legal analysis of your options for defending yourself against the criminal charges.