Criminal charges of child molestation or sexual abuse of a minor require immediate intervention by a knowledgeable child molestation attorney, so your legal rights can be aggressively defended from the very beginning.
The crime of child molestation or sexual abuse of a minor is taken extremely seriously in Orange County and a conviction for this sex crime can result in devastating penalties, possibly including life in prison, significant fines, lifetime sex offender registration, and other devastating penalties, many of which depend on the specifics of the case, including whether the abuse was accomplished using force or violence and whether the minor suffered bodily harm as a result of the abuse.
If you or a loved one is facing child molestation charges in Orange County, consult our skilled criminal defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group today to discuss your legal rights.
ORANGE COUNTY CHILD MOLESTATION ATTORNEY
At Seyb Law Group, we recognize the fact that there are many different components that go into crafting a successful criminal defense, especially in cases that involve crimes against children.
Our attorneys have a clear understanding of Orange County sex crime laws and how they apply to your case, and we may be able to get your child molestation charges dismissed altogether or reduced to a lesser offense with fewer penalties as part of a more favorable plea bargain, depending on the details of your case.
In addition to a significant jail or prison sentence and mandatory sex offender registration, a child molestation conviction in Orange County could also have an adverse effect on your future employment prospects, civil rights, professional licensing, and immigration status.
When it comes to fighting child molestation charges in Orange County, there is no substitute for skill and years of criminal defense experience, and that is what we offer at Seyb Law Group. Don’t leave your future and your freedom to chance. Consult our lawyers today for a free evaluation of your child molestation case.
CHILD MOLESTATION/SEXUAL ABUSE OF A MINOR
Child molestation, also known as sexual abuse of a minor, or lewd or lascivious acts upon a child, is a crime that occurs when any lewd or lascivious act is committed on a minor with the “intent of arousing, appealing to or gratifying the lust, passions or sexual desires” of that person, the minor child, or another person.
Under this law, the crime of “lewd or lascivious” conduct involving a minor can be charged when there is any improper touching of the child’s body, either on the bare skin or through the clothing, or alternately, if the other person asks the child to touch him or her, someone else, or the minor’s own body for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.
Furthermore, because minors are not legally capable of consenting to a sexual act, you could find yourself facing charges of child molestation in Orange County even if the minor consented to the act you are accused of committing.
California Child Molestation Penal Code § 288 PC
California Penal Code § 288 PC is a crime that prohibits lewd and lascivious acts against minors.
Technically, PC § 288 applies to victims under the age of 16, but because most criminal prosecutions under this law involve children under 14, the crime is often referred to as “lewd acts with a minor under 14.” PC § 288 has three different sections, which make it a crime to commit a lewd act upon:
- A minor under the age of 14 (PC 288(a)),
- A minor 14 or 15 years old (PC 288(c)(1)), or
- A dependent person for whom you are the caretaker (including dependent elders and individuals with disabilities).
Under PC § 288, each unique act of child molestation can be charged as a separate criminal offense, possibly resulting in increased penalties.
In cases where the number of child molestation incidents and the timeline in which they occurred are vague, charges can be brought under PC § 288.5, which punishes “continuous sexual abuse” of a child over a period of three months or more, involving three or more separate incidents. Furthermore, if the defendant used violence, force, menace, duress, or fear of bodily injury to molest a child under the age of 14, he or she could face charges of lewd or lascivious acts on a child using force or violence (PC § 288(b)(1)).
There are other crimes related to, but separate from, child molestation or lewd or lascivious acts upon a child, including annoying or molesting a minor (PC § 647.6), physical abuse of a child (PC § 273d), statutory rape (PC § 261.5) and child pornography (PC § 311).
ORANGE COUNTY CHILD MOLESTATION PENALTIES
The penalties associated with a violation of PC § 288 can vary a great deal, depending on the circumstances of the case, including the age of the minor, whether the lewd act was accomplished by force, threats, violence or duress, whether a pattern of molestation existed, and – in cases where the minor is 14 or 15 years old – the age of the defendant.
For example, for an Orange County child molestation crime involving a minor under 14 in which no force was used (PC § 288(a)), the penalty may include three, six, or eight years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
For a crime involving a minor under 14 in which force was used (PC § 288(b)(1)), the penalty may include five, eight, or 10 years in state prison, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
If the defendant is convicted of child molestation on a minor under 14 and bodily harm was inflicted on the minor (PC § 288(i)), he or she could face up to life in prison for the crime. If the lewd or lascivious act involved a 16- or 17-year-old child, the crime would instead be prosecuted as statutory rape (PC § 261.5(a)) or sexual battery (PC § 243.4).
Orange County Sex Offender Registration Requirements
A conviction for Orange County child molestation or sexual abuse of a minor comes with a sex offender registration requirement, the duration of which depends on the circumstances of the case.
For example, a first-time offender convicted under PC § 288 will be required to register as a sex offender for at least 20 years.
However, a second or subsequent conviction under PC § 288(a) and any conviction under PC § 288(b)(1) is punishable by lifetime sex offender registration.
That means if you are convicted of this sex crime, you will be required to report your location and other information to local law enforcement for the rest of your life, in addition to serving the sentencing requirements imposed by the court.
California’s “Three Strikes” Sentencing Law
The state of California has a “Three Strikes” sentencing law in effect that imposes harsher prison sentences on individuals convicted of a serious or violent felony who have one or more prior serious or violent felony convictions on their record. Under this law, a lewd act committed by force or threat against a minor under the age of 14 is considered a “strike” offense and a “serious felony.”
What that means is this: if you are convicted of child molestation by force or violence (PC § 288(b)(1)), and you have a prior conviction for a serious or violent felony, known as a “strike” prior, you could face double the prison sentence otherwise required by law.
If you are convicted of this crime and you have two or more “strike” priors on your record, you could automatically be sentenced to 25 years to life. Furthermore, with a “serious felony” PC § 288(b)(1) conviction on your record, if you are convicted of any subsequent crime in violation of PC § 288, you will also face sentencing enhancements.
ORANGE COUNTY CHILD MOLESTATION DEFENSE
Law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges take a tough stance on child molestation and other sex crimes involving children, and for this reason, it may seem like the odds are stacked against you in your criminal case.
However, as with any case alleging a criminal act, the burden of proof in an Orange County child molestation case lies with the prosecution.
That means, in order to get a conviction for the crime of committing lewd and lascivious acts upon a child (PC § 288(a)), the prosecutor will have to prove the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You willfully touched any part of the minor’s body, either on the bare skin or through the clothing, or you willfully caused a minor to touch your body, his or her own body, or someone else’s body, on the bare skin or through the clothing;
- You committed the act with the intent to arouse, appeal to, or gratify the lust, passions, or sexual desires of yourself, the minor, or someone else; and
- The minor was under the age of 14.
Best Defense Strategies in Orange County Child Molestation Cases
A child molestation conviction can adversely affect the rest of your life, but even an arrest for or rumor of lewd acts involving a minor under the age of 14 can have serious personal and professional ramifications.
That is why it is imperative that you take advantage of your right to legal counsel and hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you fight the charges against you.
A skilled sex crimes defense lawyer can use his or her knowledge of the Orange County criminal justice system to build a solid defense that disputes the prosecution’s version of events to the extent that the jury cannot find you guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Some common defense strategies used in Orange County child molestation cases include the following:
- Lack of intent – The crime of child molestation requires the element of specific intent on the part of the defendant to arouse, appeal to, or gratify his or her lust, passions, or sexual desire. If the act was committed by mistake or for some reason other than for sexual arousal or gratification, you cannot lawfully be found guilty of child molestation.
- False accusation – If your attorney can establish that the minor in question falsely accused you of sexual abuse, you cannot lawfully be convicted of the crime of child molestation.
- False memory – If the alleged child molestation occurred months or even years before it was reported to law enforcement, your attorney could argue that the minor’s memory of the sexual event in question was affected by the passage of time and you could avoid a child molestation conviction.
- Alibi – If you can establish an alibi for the time the alleged child molestation occurred, you may be able to avoid a conviction.
HOW HIRING A CHILD MOLESTATION DEFENSE ATTORNEY CAN HELP
The Orange County court system looks down on crimes involving children and child molestation, in particular, is punished harshly. In fact, depending on the circumstances of your case, if you are convicted of committing lewd acts on a minor under 14, you could even end up facing penalties more severe than those imposed on defendants convicted of murder.
The “presumption of innocence” is an important legal principle that applies to all criminal cases, and the basis of this principle is that you are innocent of any criminal offense until proven guilty.
However, there is often an automatic presumption of guilt associated with child molestation and other crimes involving children.
After all, who is going to believe you over a child who is accusing you of sexual abuse? For this reason, you should avoid talking to the police or anyone else about the allegations against you until you hire an experienced attorney to represent your defense.
CONTACT OUR SKILLED CHILD MOLESTATION DEFENSE ATTORNEYS
If you have been arrested on charges of Orange County child molestation, your first course of action should be to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent your case.
We understand that every child molestation case is different and that, regardless of what specific charges you are facing, a conviction would be devastating for you and your family.
For more information about Orange County child molestation laws, or to find out how best to defend yourself against charges involving sexual abuse of a minor, consult our Orange County child molestation defense attorneys as soon as possible.