If you are charged with a sex crime, it can be challenging to understand the severity of the crime and possible consequences. In California, sexual battery and sexual assault are prosecuted under the laws the define sex crimes. These laws penalize the illegal touching of another person’s intimate parts. The punishment for sexual battery and sexual assault can be imprisonment and fines.
If you are facing sexual battery or sexual assault charges in California, it’s crucial to hire a sex crimes lawyer. Your sex crimes attorney can review your case, advise you on your charges and prepare your defense.
Sexual Battery vs. Sexual Assault: Penal Code 243.4
In California, Penal Code 243.4 provides the laws on sexual assault and battery. One critical thing to note is that sexual battery and sexual assault are the same charges in California. In the PC 243.4 (a), a crime of sexual assault or sexual battery occurs when:
- A person touches the intimate parts of another
- And the person being touched is either unlawfully restrained by the offender or an accomplice
- The touching is against the will of the person being touched
- The touching is for the purposes of sexual gratification, sexual arousal, or sexual abuse.
What is the punishment?
Penal Code 243.4 (a) states that the punishment for a person guilty of sexual assault or sexual battery is:
- Imprisonment in a county jail for no more than one year and a fine not exceeding $2,000 or;
- Imprisonment in state prison for 2-4 years and a fine that does not exceed $10,000.
What Constitutes Sexual Battery vs. Sexual Assault?
For a crime of sexual battery or sexual assault to occur, “touching of intimate parts” should happen. Penal Code 243.4 (2) explains that touch is physical contact with another person, even if the touch occurs with clothes on. In addition, intimate parts refer to sexual organs, anus, groin, buttocks, and breasts.
Sexual assault vs. Sexual Battery Against the Disabled or Medically Incapacitated?
Sexual assault or sexual battery can be committed upon a person that is institutionalized and disabled or medically incapacitated. Penal Code 243.4 (b) holds that a person is guilty of sexual battery if:
- A person touches the intimate parts of a person that is medically incapacitated or disabled;
- The touch happens against the victim’s will, or the victim does not give consent
- If the touching is for sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse.
What is the punishment?
- The defendant may serve imprisonment in a county jail for no more than a year and fine not exceeding $2,000 or;
- The defendant may serve imprisonment in state prison for 2-4 years and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Sexual Assault or Sexual Battery Against an Unconscious Victim
According to Penal Code 243.4(c), a defendant is guilty of sexual assault or sexual battery against a person who happened to be unconscious at the time of the crime. A sex crime is committed when:
- A person touches the intimate parts of an unconscious person unlawfully because the defendant fraudulently misrepresented themselves to be doing so for professional reasons.
What is the punishment?
- The perpetrator may go to county jail for no more than a year and pay a fine not exceeding $2000 or;
- The perpetrator may go to state prison for a 2-4 year sentence and pay a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Is Masturbation Sexual Assault or Sexual Battery?
According to Penal Code 243.4 (d), masturbating in the presence of another person against their will is sexual battery.
- A defendant is guilty of sexual assault if they masturbate, touch an intimate person or a third party in the presence of a victim that is unlawfully restrained, institutionalized, medically incapacitated, or disabled
- The touch is for sexual gratification, sexual abuse, or sexual arousal purposes.
What is the punishment?
- The convicted person may serve a prison sentence not exceeding one year in county jail and pay a fine not exceeding $2,000
- The convicted party may serve a prison sentence of 2-4 years in state prison and pay a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Sexual Battery vs. Sexual Assualt Misdemeanor or Felony?
If you are charged with a sex crime in California, you may wonder if it’s a misdemeanor or a felony. According to Penal Code 234.4(e)(1), if a person touches another person’s intimate parts unlawfully while they have clothes on, commits a misdemeanor.
The misdemeanor is punishable by serving six months of county jail time or paying a fine not exceeding $2,000, or both. However, if the perpetrator is an employer and the victim is their employee, the fine is $3,000 or six months of county jail time or both.
According to PC 243.4 (2)(j), if a person commits sexual battery or sexual assault on a minor (a person under 18 years), they are guilty of a felony sex crime. The crime is punishable by state imprisonment for 2-4 years and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Is Rape Sexual Assault or Sexual Battery?
The Penal Code 234.4 (2)(g)(2) explicitly states that sexual assault or sexual battery does not include sex crimes mentioned in sections 261 and 289.
- Section 261 defines the laws on rape. It defines rape as the act of sexual intercourse with the victim without their legal consent. Rape is always charged as a felony, while sexual battery or sexual assault can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
- Section 289 prohibits bigamy, incest, and crimes against nature. Bigamy is the act of entering a marriage into another person while still legally married to another.
What Does the Prosecutor Have To Prove in a Sexual Battery or Sexual Assault Case?
When the prosecutor brings a sexual battery charge against you, they have to prove their case. The prosecutor must prove that:
- The defendant touched the victim’s intimate parts.
- The victim was held against their will or
- The victim was restained by the defendant or an accomplice
- The victim was incapacitated and could therefore not move or give consent
- Physical contact happened between the defendant and the victim.
Sexual Battery vs. Sexual Assault Defenses
Your sex crime lawyer applies various defenses against your charges. First, your attorney can dismiss the charge based on the lack of evidence. For example, if there is no DNA evidence, physical marks, the prosecutor may drop the charges.
Another common defense is a false accusation. Your attorney has to prove that the victim is making false allegations against you for revenge, malicious intent, gain attention, or extort funds. Sometimes, the alleged victim may also make false accusations because of a mental illness.
Your attorney may also try to prove that you had a reasonable belief that the person gave consent. For example, the alleged victim’s demeanor, comments, and failure to resist may have implied the consent.
However, consent is withdrawn if the victim gave consent because of intimidation, coercion, or misrepresentation. Also, a person that is unconscious due to intoxication by drugs or alcohol, cannot give consent.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When is sexual battery a misdemeanor vs. a felony?
Usually, the crime is a misdemeanor if the physical contact between the defendant and the victim is on clothing. However, if skin-to-skin contact occurs between the defendant and the victim, the crime is a felony.
What if the touching is an accident?
Sexual assault and battery happens when the touch was for the purposes of:
- Sexual gratification
- Sexual arousal
- Sexual abuse
For sexual gratification and arousal, the touch is meant to induce pleasure in the defendant, while for sexual abuse, the defendant wishes to inflict pain and discomfort. If the touching is accidental, there is no intention and no sexual battery or sexual assault.
In addition, sexual arousal and gratification can be implied by the defendant’s demeanor or words. Therefore, the defendant is guilty even if they do not achieve their desires arousal and gratification.
When is a sexual act against a victim’s will?
Sexual assault occurs when the touch of another person’s intimate parts occurs against their will. The person being touched should give consent unless they are a minor. Consent refers to the other person’s willingness to be touched with full knowledge of the nature of the defendant and the act.
This means that physical touch is unlawful if consent is not given, whether or not you have an intimate relationship with a person. Also, if the touch occurs because of the defendant’s fraudulent misrepresentation, the consent is negated.
As such, sex crime occurs when the victims are unconscious, incapacitated, severely disabled, institutionalized because they cannot give consent, be aware of the defendant or the nature of the act.
What is unlawful restraint?
The defendant may restrain the victim to commit sexual battery. The restraining does not have to be with ropes, handcuffs, or other forms of physical restraint with objects. It could also be a person blocking the victim’s path or intimidating them so that the victim is afraid to escape.
Unlawful restraint also occurs when you (the defendant) have the authority to prevent someone from leaving. For example, an employer threatens to fire the victim unless they submit to sexual assault.
Do I have to register as a sex offender?
If you are convicted of a sex crime in California, you must register as a sex offender with the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and update your information annually. Once you’ve served your prison sentence, you have to register with the chief of police in your city. Failure to register is illegal under the Sex Offender Registration Act (Penal Code 290).
Get Professional Help With Your Sexual Battery Case
If you have been accused of sexual battery or sexual assault in California, it can be challenging to defend yourself. Fortunately, the sex crime lawyers at the SEYB Law Group can help you face a sexual assault charge, advise you on legal options and defenses. Reach out today at (714) 577-2915 or fill out the contact form for a free case evaluation.