California Penal Code 288 makes it illegal to engage in any lewd or lascivious act with a child. Per this statute, lewd conduct is any sexual or indecent act. Any form of touching intended to sexually arouse the minor or the defendant may prompt an arrest and prosecution for lewd acts with a minor.
In California, children are considered vulnerable members of society, and the law is stringent on individuals who try to harm them. Facing a charge for lewd conduct with a minor attracts severe consequences that may affect your life even after you have completed your sentence.
If you or a loved one faces criminal charges for lewd acts with a minor, it is vital to seek the legal guidance of a criminal attorney. Thanks to our extensive experience in defending sex offenses, we will help you understand the nature of your charges and build defense strategies to fight the charges at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney. We serve clients seeking legal representation in Chula Vista, CA, to ensure the best outcome in your case.
Overview of California Penal Code 288
You commit a crime of lewd conduct with a child when you engage in any form of sexual contact with a child under fourteen years to sexually arouse yourself or the child. Children are vulnerable members of society, and the law seeks to severely punish individuals who commit sex crimes against minors. Lewd conduct with a child under fourteen years is addressed under Penal Code 288(a), and the prosecutor must prove the following elements to establish your guilt under this statute:
- You willfully engaged in a lewd act. You act willfully when you engage in the alleged act intentionally. The prosecutor does not need to establish an intention to break the law or cause harm to the victim. A lewd act is any form of sexual conduct that is offensive to the child. However, it is crucial to understand that accidental touching does not meet the criteria for this crime.
- You committed the lewd act on a child under fourteen years. Prosecution for lewd acts with a child is based on the child's age. You can only be found guilty of violating CPC 288(a) if the alleged victim was under the age of thirteen years.
- You acted with the intent of sexually arousing yourself or the minor. Before you face a conviction for this crime, your intent of sexual arousal must be clear. Any offensive touching of a child intended to arouse yourself sexually or the victim can attract criminal charges under this statute.
Lewd Acts With a Child Through Fear, Force or Violence
Lewd acts accomplished using force, fear, or violence against a child are addressed under CPC 288(b). The elements of the crime for this offense are similar to PC 288(a0 but only apply when the defendant uses force, coercion, or violence to commit the crime. Some of the actions that could attract charges under this statute include:
- Restraining a victim as they struggle to avoid your touch.
- Forcing a child to agree to your actions by threatening to harm them or a member of their family.
- Causing injury on a child to prevent them from resisting or struggling.
Lascivious Acts With a Fourteen or Fifteen-Year-Old Child
California PC 288(c) makes it an offense to intentionally commit a sexual act on a child between fourteen and fifteen years. If you are ten years older than the minor, you could be charged and convicted for lewd acts with a child. If you face charges for crude sexual acts on a teenager, it is vital to seek legal guidance as soon as possible.
Lewd Conduct Upon Dependent Individuals
This statute of California law seeks to protect dependents. The law considers you a caretaker if you are an employee, owner, or administrator in a facility that provides care for dependent individuals, including children. Therefore, you can face an arrest and charges for lewd acts with a child if you commit the crime against a child entrusted to your care.
Statute of Limitations for California Penal Code 288
Under California criminal law, most crimes have a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a time limit within which a person can file criminal charges against another. The statute of limitation prevents people from facing charges for crimes years after they occurred. This is because evidence of the crimes may not be available.
The statute of limitation for PC 288 is complicated. Child molestation charges must be filed within ten years of the victim's eighteenth birthday. The statute of limitation for lewd conduct with a minor expires when the alleged victim turns twenty-eight years.
California law allows one to file charges for this crime within one year since they reported it to the police. However, this exception will only apply under the following circumstances:
- The alleged crime involved significant sexual conduct with a child. Significant sexual conduct is any sexual act that involves vaginal or anal penetration.
- Sufficient and independent evidence to support the claim is available.
Legal Penalties for Lewd Conduct With a Minor
Lewd conduct with a child is a serious felony offense, and a conviction can result in life-changing consequences. The legal penalties you face for this crime vary depending on the circumstances of your case and your criminal history.
- Lewd conduct of a child under fourteen years attracts a prison sentence of up to eight years and fines not exceeding $10,000. However, you may be eligible for felony probation instead of the prison sentence. While on probation for this crime, the court requires that you adhere to some conditions, including a one-year jail sentence.
- If you face a conviction for lewd acts with a child by using force or violence, you risk facing a ten-year prison sentence. If the alleged victim suffers serious injury during the commission of the crime, you could face life imprisonment and fines that do not exceed $10,000.
- When you face a conviction for lewd conduct with a minor above fourteen years, you could be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the age difference between you and the child. When charged as a misdemeanor, PC 288(c) is punishable by a one-year jail sentence and a fine of $1,000. A felony conviction, on the other hand, attracts a three-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine. If the alleged victim were sixteen or seventeen years at the time of the crime, you would only face PC 288 charges if you are a repeat offender.
In addition to the prison sentence and the fines that accompany a conviction under PC 288, the court may require that you compensate the victim of the economic losses they incurred. For example, if the minor suffered physical or psychological trauma due to your actions, you will be responsible for their medical expenses. Also, a conviction for this crime may cause you to lose your professional license.
Sex Offender Registration for Violation of CPC 288
One of the most severe penalties you face after a conviction for California Penal Code 288 is sex offender registration. The law provides that all defendants convicted for lewd acts with a minor must register as sex offenders for a lifetime. You fulfill your duty to register as a sex offender by registering your primary address with local law enforcement within five days of release from custody or discharged from a mental hospital.
Any time you move to a new location, you must report your new address to law enforcement. In addition, the sex offender registry is accessible to the public and may be visible in the background checks carried out by potential employers and landlords. This can make it difficult for you to secure a decent job or a place to live.
Failure to register as a sex offender after a conviction for lewd acts with a child is a criminal offense. A conviction for this offense is punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years for a felony and a one-year jail sentence for a misdemeanor sex offense.
When you face a conviction for lewd acts with a child, the judge cannot alleviate your sex offender registration requirement. However, a competent criminal defense attorney can help you secure a plea deal for a lesser offense that does not require sex offender registration.
Legal Defenses to Lewd Conduct with a Minor in California
Violation of PC 288 is a serious offense that accompanies serious consequences. Therefore, it is crucial to start building a defense as soon as you face the arrest or learn of the charges. With guidance from your attorney, you can explore the following defenses to fight the charges and secure your freedom:
Mostly, the prosecutor’s cases against you may be solely based on the child’s testimony. This may be the case, especially when there are no witnesses or physical evidence to corroborate the accusations. Due to the heinous nature of lewd conduct with a child. When a child makes an allegation against an adult, police, and prosecution tend to believe the child’s account of events. Therefore, the prosecution’s goal is to prosecute and punish the defendant without proper investigation.
One of the circumstances that could cause a child to lie is manipulation from a parent to gain the upper hand in custody battles. For example, if you are battling charges for lewd acts with a minor, you can raise the defense of false accusations. To determine whether a child is telling the truth or not, your attorney could conduct a background check on the accuser and interview other family members.
Sometimes a child may fail to recall the exact identity of the person that touched them inappropriately, especially when:
- The defendant is unknown to them.
- The touching occurred in a dark place.
- The victim was very young.
With the help of your attorney, you can uncover the circumstances of the case to clear your name.
Lack of Intent to Arouse
An intent to sexually arouse the child or defendant is a critical element in a PC 288 case. If you can prove that you did not act to arouse the victim or yourself sexually, you will not face a conviction for lewd conduct with a child.
The Alleged Victim Does Not Fit the Criteria for the Crime
Lewd acts with a child involve sexual conduct with a child under fourteen years. Also, you can face charges for this crime if the alleged victim is fourteen or fifteen years and you are ten years their senior. Therefore, if the minor is over fifteen, the court cannot find you guilty under this statute. However, you may still face criminal charges for sexual battery or statuary rape.
The Touching Was Accidental
The prosecutor must prove that you acted willfully and intentionally when you touched the minor. If you can prove that the touching was accidental, you cannot be found guilty of lewd acts with a child.
You Are a Victim of Police Misconduct
California law seeks to prosecute sex offenses against children severely. Sometimes, these crimes are exaggerated and slight suspicion could result in an illegal search or seizure. Sometimes, the police may coerce you into making untruthful confessions so that they can secure a conviction. If you are a victim of an illegal search, seizure, or police misconduct, you can file a petition to exclude the evidence gathered illegally.
Frequently Asked Questions on Lewd Acts with a Minor
Lewd acts with a minor is a serious offense that attracts severe consequences if you are convicted. When you or a loved one faces these charges, it is crucial to proceed with guidance from a criminal attorney. The following are some frequently asked questions regarding the arrest and prosecution of this crime Under California Law:
Can I Be Found Guilty of Violating PC 288 if the Minor Consented to the Act?
Yes. In California, an individual under the age of eighteen years cannot consent to any sexual act. This is because minors do not have the mental capacity to understand some of these acts. Therefore, even if a minor consented to an act considered criminal under CPC 288, you can still be convicted for the crime. When you build a defense against charges for lewd acts with a minor, claiming that a child consented to the act is not acceptable.
Can a Minor Be Charged With Violating PC 288?
Yes. A minor can face charges and a conviction under PC 288 if the prosecutor proves that the defendant was aware of the wrongful nature of their actions. Also, it must be clear that the minor who committed the crime acted with an intent to arouse themselves or the victim.
Can a Child Lie About Molestation?
Often, charges for lewd conduct or other sex-related offenses come down to the victim’s credibility against that of the accused. This is because most sex crimes take place in secluded arrears, and there are rarely any witnesses. Thus, in most cases, prosecution and police are inclined to believe the child’s account of events about the misconduct. However, fabrication of lewd conduct accounts is common.
For example, a child could lie about molestation as a revenge strategy towards a parent or a teacher. Also, a child may be coerced by one parent to falsely accuse the other parent of this crime during divorce and custody battles.
Can I Use the Mistake of Age as a Defense to Lewd Acts With a Minor?
Even if you did not know the child’s age when you committed a lewd act, you could not use the lack of knowledge to defend the PC 288 charges. The alleged victim’s age is one of the most vital elements required to convict you for lewd conduct with a child. Therefore, if the child was under fourteen years, you will be convicted for the crime.
Offenses Related to Penal Code 288
A variety of sex offenses against children are frequently charged alongside or instead of CPC 288, and they include:
Oral Copulation With a Minor
Oral copulation contact between the mouth of one person and genitals and anus of another. Oral copulation involving a minor is a serious offense addressed under California Penal Code 287. Before you face a conviction for this crime, the prosecution must prove that:
- You participated in the act of oral sex with another person.
- The individual was under the age of eighteen years.
Individuals under the age of eighteen can face charges for violating PC 287 if the prosecutor can prove the defendant’s knowledge of the criminal nature of their actions. However, minors facing charges for this crime are tried in juvenile court.
The penalties accompanying a conviction for oral copulation with a child vary depending on the defendant’s age and the alleged victim. If the crime is charged as a felony, a conviction for PC 287 is punishable by misdemeanor probation, a one-year jail sentence, and a $1,000 fine. As a felony, oral copulation with a child attracts a prison sentence of up to three years. In addition, if the alleged victim was below fourteen years when the crime occurred, a conviction for this crime might be subject to sex offender registration.
Sex With a Child Under Ten Years
Under CPC, it is a crime to engage in sexual acts like intercourse, oral copulation, or sodomy with a child under ten years. To secure a conviction for this crime, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You engaged in oral copulation, sodomy, or sexual intercourse with a minor.
- You engaged in the act with a child under ten years.
- At the time of the crime, you were above eighteen years.
The crime of sex with a child under ten years is based on strict liability. Therefore, the prosecution does not need to prove that you acted with criminal intent. Violation of CPC 288.7 is a felony. If you engaged in sexual intercourse or sodomy with the child, a conviction would result in a prison sentence of twenty-five years to life. On the other hand, oral copulation or any other sexual conduct with the child will attract a prison sentence of fifteen years to life.
Sending Harmful Content to Seduce a Minor
In California, you can face an arrest and charges under PC 288.2 if you exhibit or send obscene material to a child under eighteen years with an intent to arouse them sexually. The prosecution must establish the following factors to prove your guilt under this statute:
- You sent, exhibited, or distributed harmful material to a minor. Under California law, the material is considered harmful if it offensively depicts sexual conduct.
- When you acted, you knew that the recipient of the content was a child.
- You acted with an intent .to arouse the minor sexually.
- When you sent the material, you intended to engage in sexual activity with the recipient.
Sending harmful content to a minor is a wobbler. When charged as a misdemeanor, the crime attracts a one-year jail sentence and a $1000 fine. As a felony, violation of CPC 288.2 is punishable by a prison sentence not exceeding three years and a fine of up to $10,000. Additionally, the court may require that you register as a sex offender.
Find a Chula Vista Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Criminal charges for lewd acts with a child arise when you engage in any acts of a sexual nature to arouse the child, yourself, or another person. Children are a vulnerable group of individuals. Their trusting and naïve nature makes them an easy target for manipulation from sexual predators. Due to these factors, many adults consistently look for anyone exhibiting signs of sexual misconduct towards a child. When you rub someone the wrong way concerning your actions towards a minor, you could face criminal charges for lewd acts with a child.
Lewd acts with a minor is an extremely serious offense in California but is defendable when handled by an experienced defense lawyer. Therefore, seeking competent legal guidance should be one of the first steps after learning of these charges. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we will help you investigate the case to build a strong defense against the charges. We offer legal guidance and representation for all our clients facing criminal charges in Chula Vista, CA. Contact us today at 619-877-6894.