Especially over the past year or so, sexual assault claims, claims of inappropriate sexual advances, and sexual harassment have been widely discussed in the news.  While many of these news stories go into details about the specific conduct alleged, many of the broad terms discussing the inappropriate actions do not necessarily use terminology that lines up with the legal definitions.  While the popular definition of “sexual assault” or “sexual harassment” may be simple enough to cover a wide variety of issues, many of these terms have very specific definitions in the law.  If you were accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault in California, it is important to understand what exactly those legal allegations mean.  The Ventura sex crimes defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth explain.

Sexual Assault vs. Sexual Harassment

Both sexual assault and sexual harassment are against the law, but that does not make both of them crimes.  Sexual assault is certainly a crime in California, called “sexual battery” under Penal Code § 243.4.  On the other hand, sexual harassment is not a crime, but is instead inappropriate workplace behavior that can get you fired.

California’s sexual assault statute criminalizes touching “an intimate part of another person” under various circumstances.  Obviously, it is not illegal to touch someone else if they consent, but it becomes sexual battery to touch someone in a sexual way…

  • Without their permission,
  • While they are being unlawfully restrained,
  • While they are undergoing medical treatment,
  • After lying that you are a medical professional,
  • While they are unconscious,
  • While the victim is institutionalized, or
  • While the victim is “seriously disabled or medically incapacitated.”

These conditions either explicitly make it clear that the victim does not consent to the touching or illustrate situations where the victim cannot give legal consent.  This crime can be punished with a fine up to $10,000 and a state prison sentence of up to 4 years.

Sexual harassment is very different.  In the workplace, California law protects each worker’s right to be free from unwanted sexual attention.  Sexual harassment is when one worker (usually a supervisor or boss with some sort of authority) makes sexual advances, says inappropriate things, or acts in a sexual manner toward another worker.  Men and women can both be accused of sexual harassment.

There are two types of sexual harassment, though the law does not distinguish between them.  Quid pro quo sexual harassment is when someone either requests sexual favors in exchange for employment benefits (e.g. a raise) or threatens punishment unless a sexual activity is performed (e.g. threats of firing).  The second type is “hostile work environment” sexual harassment.  In this type, a co-worker or supervisor’s repeated and constant sexual come-ons or behavior makes the workplace dangerous or intolerable for the victim.

While sexual harassment is not a crime, it can certainly lead to civil fines, firing or other disciplinary measures at work, and can damage your reputation.  However, some cases of sexual harassment include sexual assault.  For instance, groping a coworker without their permission or after cornering them may constitute sexual assault.

What to Do if You Are Accused of Sexual Assault or Sexual Harassment

If a coworker or any other individual accuses you of sexual assault, it is important to talk to an attorney.  If the assault or harassment allegations come from your workplace, you may need to discuss your case with an employment law attorney who can help you keep your job and fight the allegations on the civil side.  If it appears that your actions may be reported to the police or investigated as a crime, it is vital to talk to a criminal defense attorney.

Assault crimes, in general, have a potential for very serious jail time and fines.  Sexual assault crimes may have increased penalties due to the sexual nature of the offense.  In many cases, prosecutors are very tough on sexual assault and rape charges, and it is vital to have an attorney represent you in your case.

The maximum penalties for sexual assault in California are very high and can include up to 4 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.  However, the statute does give judges an option to give lower punishments, including less than a year in county jail and fines up to $2,000.  Talk to an attorney about California’s sentencing laws and what potential sentence you could be facing in your case.

In some cases, your attorney can help you beat the charges against you and avoid jail time altogether.  The government must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you.  Your attorney can present testimony and evidence in your defense and fight to have testimony and evidence blocked from being used against you.  Talk to an attorney today about your case.

Ventura, CA Sexual Assault Defense Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

If you were charged with or arrested for sexual assault, it is important to talk to a defense attorney today.  The Ventura criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth offer free consultations on new charges.  For your free, confidential consultation, contact our lawyers at (805) 643-5555