Child sexual assault charges always elicit compassion for the victim, especially if the abuse is said to have occurred over a long period. The accused is left thinking the law's protections do not apply to them. If you face prosecution for a crime like that today, you can be confused and terrified of the outcome. But a professional, experienced criminal defense attorney can guide you through the legal process, represent you in court, and fight alongside you for a favorable resolution in your case. They will also assist you in understanding the legal explanation of your charges and the potential punishments if the judge finds you guilty. Retaining an attorney as soon as possible following your arrest is beneficial to expedite the legal process and protect your rights.
The Legal Meaning of Continous Sexual Abuse of a Child
Children require protection and care because they are incapable of caring for themselves. Unfortunately, some individuals use their constant access to a child to commit horrific acts against children. However, various statutes, including PC 288.5, protect children from sexual abuse. It is against the law to sexually assault a child continuously. You commit this offense if you sexually assault a child younger than 14 for an extended time. People who have sexually molested a child three times or more face charges under this law. They must also have resided under the same roof as the youngster or had regular access to the minor for at least three months.
Continuous sexual abuse of a child is a felony charge punishable by a maximum of sixteen years in prison. You will also be required to pay a substantial fine to the court and restitution to the victim. A conviction for a sexual offense against a minor can potentially change your life. It could impact many elements of your life, including your profession and social interests. That is why you should be prepared to fight your charges in court to escape the severe penalties of a conviction. An experienced criminal lawyer can assist you in convincing the judge to dismiss or reduce your charges.
Here are some instances or incidents that could fit the description of this offense:
- Stepfathers who sexually abuse their stepdaughters for an extended period
- Teachers who sexually abuse children in their charge, whether in childcare facilities or kindergarten.
- Neighbors who continuously lure small children into their houses and engage in sexual acts with them for more than three months
The legal meaning of this offense specifies four aspects of the crime that the prosecutor must demonstrate in court for the jury to convict you of the ongoing sexual abuse of a minor. These are the elements:
- That you are an adult who lives under the same roof as or has regular access to a child.
- You have had three or more sexual encounters with the minor or have established a lascivious or lewd contact with the minor.
- The abuse occurred within three months or so.
- When the offense happened, the youngster was at or younger than 14 years.
Analyzing these factors in further depth is beneficial to comprehend their meaning and legal implications.
Living or Having Continous Access to a Minor
This law applies to everyone who has direct contact with children. It is possible that you reside in one house with the child or have constant access to the victim. Minors' parents, siblings, or other relatives are the people who live under the same roof as them. Unfortunately, some of these folks routinely abuse helpless children in their care.
Having constant access to a minor implies maintaining a relationship with them. Teachers, carers, coaches, and clergy can fall under this category. It can also apply to others who have a long-term relationship with the people who live with the minor, like a lover to a parent or sibling. The prosecutor must show that you spent significant time with the child during the abuse.
Substantial Acts of Sexual Contact
To face charges under this legislation, the prosecution must additionally show that you engaged in at least three sexual or lewd acts with the minor, generally known as sexual touching, for three months or longer.
Masturbation, oral copulation, or penetration of the child's vagina or rectum are all examples of substantial sexual contact with a minor.
Masturbation occurs when you stimulate your own or someone else’s genital organs by physical touch. Sexual intercourse is not included.
Oral copulation occurs when you or the victim use your or their mouth to contact sexual organs or anus. Oral copulation against a minor is most commonly performed through fear, force, coercion, assault, deception, or threats of bodily harm.
Any purposeful touch on a child for sexual enjoyment or arousal, even if the contact is not indecent, is considered lewd conduct on a minor. You could have made the first contact or caused the youngster to touch you. The touch could be on your or the child's skin directly or through clothing. It is not required that it be on the private parts.
A penis or foreign item could potentially be used for sexual penetration.
This legislation only applies to you if evidence reveals you conducted a sexual assault on the same victim for three months or more. The sexual actions could vary, but there must be a three-month gap between the first and last incidents of abuse. It makes no difference how many cases of abuse occurred over that period.
Victim and Perpetrator’s Age
Adults who continually abuse youngsters aged 14 and under are charged with continous sexual abuse of a child. Keep in mind that existing laws protect children from sexual abuse by adults. You will face criminal penalties under different legislation if the child is over 14 when you commited the offense.
It should be noted that the age requirement only applies during the commission of the violation. If you are arrested a few years later, and the victim is already an adult, the prosecution will consider how old the minor was when the offense occured.
Likely Penalties After a Conviction for Continous Sexual Abuse on a Child
Penal Code 288.5 is a straight felony, attracting the following penalties upon conviction:
- Six, twelve, or sixteen years in prison.
- A maximum of $10,000 in court fines.
- The requirement to compensate the victim by paying restitution.
The judge can also impose a protective order barring you from contacting the alleged victim. Child Protective Services can remove the abused child from their home and place them in a safer environment if you live under the same roof as them.
The crime is also a strike under California's Three Strikes Law. It is because it is one among many serious felonies under the law. It is also a heinous crime committed against a juvenile. If you have another strike on your criminal record, you will face double the consequences for the offense as provided under the law. If this is your third strike, you could receive 25 years to life upon conviction. Furthermore, you will likely receive 25 years or life in prison if you are a habitual sex offender or a defendant with at least two prior sex offense convictions.
A conviction under this legislation also necessitates lifetime registration in the sex offender registry. The judge will require you to register your full name, address, and other identifying details in the registry five days before or after your birthday every year. You must also update your information whenever you change addresses. The judge can also order that you not live near a school or a park.
Continuous abuse of a child is a moral turpitude offense. Aconviction will severely impact your immigration status if you are an immigrant. The immigration department can deport you once you have served your time in prison. You could also be barred from entering the United States.
Furthermore, because the violation is a felony, a conviction will impact your gun rights. Adults can buy and use weapons in California unless under specific conditions, like after a felony conviction. It implies you will be prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm, temporarily or permanently. You will also be forced to relinquish any firearms following your conviction.
What To Do If You Face Charges Under PC 288.5?
After you comprehend the legal definition and repercussions of continuous sexual abuse on a child, you must determine what to do if you are arrested. Keep in mind that the legal system is generally complicated. It can be tough to navigate without legal knowledge or support. You should consult with an expert criminal attorney when you are arrested. Your attorney will aid you in various ways, including easing the legal process and advising you on your options.
Your lawyer will also help you with your defense. Even if the prosecution team has overwhelming evidence against you, the law permits you to defend yourself. Your lawyer will gather facts and develop arguments to rebut the prosecutor's case. Your lawyer can also employ one or more of the legal defense techniques permitted by law for this offense. Among these strategies are:
The Alleged Victim Was Not a Child
Your counsel could raise this argument if the claimed victim were an adult or over 14 during the offense. Remember that PC 288.5 applies when the juvenile is under 14 when the crime is committed. You could face criminal charges under a different statute depending on the facts of your case if they were juveniles over 14. Your lawyer will present evidence to show the victim's age when the offense happened. In such circumstances, typical proof includes the victim's birth certificate, driver's license, or other legal documents.
You Did Not Commit a Sexual Act Against The Victim
PC 288.5 is a sex offense. In that situation, the evidence must show that you performed a sex act on the accused victim. Any sexual conduct with a juvenile is prohibited under the law, including touching, masturbation, or sexual penetration. Innocent physical contact with a minor does not constitute sexual contact and so is not prohibited by law. Your attorney can show in your defense that even though you made physical contact with the alleged victim, it was not sexual.
You Face False Accusations
If you suspect someone or the claimed victim is bringing false claims against you, your attorney can employ this argument. A child can falsely accuse you of sexual abuse for the following reasons:
- They are confused by a particular physical contact or your affection for them.
- An adult instructed them to make a false accusation against you to gain an edge over you, like in a divorce or child custody dispute.
- They lied to have you removed from their family.
- The youngster was jealous or angry at you.
- They made up exaggerated stories to gain attention.
Your defense is valid if you show that you were wrongfully blamed for an offense you did not commit, regardless of your accuser’s motive.
You Did Not Have Recurring Access to the Minor
Remember that the prosecution must prove all components of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt for the court to declare you guilty. The law only applies to individuals who reside with the alleged victim or have frequent contact with the kid. You can face prosecution under a different statute rather than this one if those standards do not apply in your circumstances.
Find a Competent Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Hiring a professional defense attorney is the first step if you or someone you know is fcing carges for ongoing sexual abuse of a child in Los Angeles. You must first comprehend what your charges legally mean, what they entail, and the potential punishments if found guilty by the court. You will also require assistance in gathering evidence and preparing for your defense. Our skilled criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Sara L. Caplan are eager to accompany you on this challenging journey. Our previous expertise with comparable situations can help us compel the judge to dismiss or decrease your charges. Contact us at 310-550-5877 for additional information regarding the law and our services.