Sexual crimes and crimes against children often have higher penalties than other crimes. For instance, sexual assault is a much more serious offense than simple assault, and it carries higher penalties. Thus, it follows that sexual offenses committed against children carry quite severe penalties in California. To understand the potential penalties in your specific case, contact the Ventura sex crime defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today. Read on to learn more about the potential penalties for sexual assault of a child.

CA Laws for Sexual Assault against Child Victims

In California, there is no crime formally called “sexual assault,” but there are related offenses. The crime of sexually touching another person is referred to as “sexual battery.” In California, the terms assault and battery are related, but assault actually refers to the attempt to touch another person, while battery refers to the contact itself.

The term “sexual assault” is also commonly used to discuss rape offenses in terms that seem less harsh. However, California law refers to that crime as “rape,” not sexual assault.

The other major crime related to sexual assault is the crime found in Penal Code § 288. The section of the Code containing § 288 is Title 9, which contains “Crimes Against the Person Involving Sexual Assault, and Crimes Against Public Decency and Good Morals.” This section of the code contains laws against traditionally amoral conduct, such as bigamy and incest, but it also contains the statute outlawing any “lewd or lascivious act … upon or with the body, or any part or member thereof, of a child.”

This crime is the primary “sexual assault” statute that protects children. This statute makes it a felony offense to commit any act against a victim “under the age of 14,” which would exclude 14-year-old victims. Offenses against victims aged 14 or 15 are specifically covered under subsection c of this statute, and the offense is lowered slightly. Any contact or act of touching involving the child is illegal if it is done “with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child.

There is also a much more serious law that punishes “aggravated” sexual assault of a child. This statute, Penal Code § 269, adds additional penalties to any sexual offense committed against a child under 14 if the victim is 7 or more years older.

Traditional sexual battery (commonly called “sexual assault”) laws banning sexual contact with another person without their consent and rape laws banning sexual penetration without consent can also apply to cases with child victims. These laws carry their own penalties and can usually be charged concurrently with charges under Penal Code § 288.

Jail Time and Fines for Sexual Assault on a Child

Penal Code § 288, the primary sexual assault crime involving child victims, is a felony offense. Some crimes in California change between misdemeanors or felonies based on the circumstances of the offense, but this core crime is always a misdemeanor. Under certain circumstances, committing the crime against an older victim or a child in your care might change the offense’s classification and penalties.

In its basic form, this offense can result in 3, 6, or 8 years in state prison. If the actor uses force, the penalties are increased to 5, 8, or 10 years in state prison. Offenses committed against victims aged 14 or 15 are punished by up to 1 year in county jail or 1, 2, or 3 years in state prison if the actor was 10 years older than the victim (or more). This crime can also have a fine up to $10,000.

If the actor’s conduct constitutes an offense of sexual battery under § 243.4 or rape under § 261, they can face penalties for both that offense and this sexual assault offense. The base penalties for sexual battery committed against a minor – anyone under 18-years-old – include a state prison sentence of 2, 3, or 4 years and a fine up to $10,000 on top of the jail time and fine for this crime. Penalties for the rape of a minor are much higher. These offenses are typically punished by a prison sentence of 9, 11, or 13 years for offenses against a child under 14 and 7, 9, or 11 years for offenses against a child who is 14-17-years-old.

Some rape offenses are not as severe if the victim and the actor are close in age and there is no sign of force, coercion, abuse of authority, or another suspicious circumstance. This is typically called “statutory rape,” and it may be punished by up to a year in jail. However, the circumstances of that offense may still allow charges for sexual assault of a child under § 288, which can increase the penalties drastically.

The most strict penalties, however, come from § 269. This creates a penalty of 15 years in prison to life for any serious crimes, such as rape or sodomy, committed against a child under 14 by an actor at least 7 years older. These penalties can also be combined with penalties for the underlying offense.

Any of these offenses may also require sex offender registration, even after you complete any jail time and pay all fines.

Our Ventura Sexual Assault Defense Attorneys Offer Free Legal Consultations

If you have been accused of committing a sexual assault crime against a minor in California, talk to a lawyer immediately. The penalties for these offenses can include serious jail time, high criminal fines, and sex offender registration. For help with your criminal case, contact the Ventura criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth. Our attorneys offer free, confidential consultations. Call (805) 643-5555 today to schedule your consultation.