Sex crimes are some of the most severely punished offenses in California. They carry severe penalties, including a long time behind bars, payment of hefty fines, and registration as a sex offender. You could receive a misdemeanor or felony charge if suspected of committing a sex crime, depending on the circumstances of your case and your criminal history. Sex crimes are penalized differently in California. The penalties you receive will depend on the charges you face. It helps to understand the sentencing guidelines for various sex crimes if you face sex crime charges in Los Angeles. A competent criminal lawyer can guide you through the legal process and plan a solid defense against your charges for a fair outcome for your situation.
Sex Crimes in California
California laws have a long list of sex crimes like rape, sexual battery, sexual assault, and indecent exposure. It is a serious matter if you face charges for a serious crime. You must be familiar with the sentencing guidelines and possible penalties to be prepared for what is to come. Fortunately, you do not need to worry much if you have a legal representative helping you through the process. A skilled criminal attorney will smoothen the legal process and advise and guide you until the end of your case. Your attorney will also prepare a solid defense against your charges to change the outcome of your situation.
Different sex crimes are committed differently. They also attract varying penalties, depending on the crime's details, the victim's age, and the offender's criminal history. The most common sex crimes in California are:
Provided under Penal Code 314, indecent exposure occurs when you willfully expose your nakedness or bare genitals in public or to people that could be annoyed or offended by your actions. It is generally a misdemeanor offense.
Provided under Penal Code 647(a), lewd conduct occurs when you touch your own or another person's buttocks, genitals, or female breasts in public for sexual gratification, knowing that the people present will be annoyed or offended by it. The offense is a misdemeanor.
The crime of rape is under Penal Code 261. It occurs when you use threats, force, or fraud to have non-consensual sexual intercourse with another person. The offense is a felony.
As provided under Penal Code 243.4, sexual battery occurs when you touch another person's intimate parts against their will for sexual arousal, abuse, or gratification. The offense is a wobbler, which can be prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor.
Child pornography laws in California are under Penal Code 311. You could face charges under this law if you possess, send, print, duplicate, transport, or advertise child pornography or persuade or hire minors to participate in the production of pornographic images or content. The offense is a wobbler, which can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.
Child molestation laws cover all sexual acts committed with children below the legal age of 18. Offenses here are punished according to the offense's nature and the victim's age. You could face misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the details of your crime. Examples of violations considered child molestation include:
- Lascivious or lewd acts with minors.
- Oral copulation with a child.
- Sending obscene content to a minor.
How Sex Crimes are Penalized in California
Different sex crimes are committed differently, and they bear different consequences. Thus, offenders will likely receive penalties that resonate with the nature and severity of the crime committed. Some of the factors the judge considers before giving a sentence for a particular sex crime include:
The Severity of the Sex Offense
How serious a particular sex crime depends on how the defendant committed it and how it affected the victim. For instance, rape is a severe offense involving using force, threats, or fraud to commit sexual intercourse against the victim's consent. Thus, it is prosecuted as a felony, attracting a prison sentence of up to eight years. Sexual assault is not as severe as rape. Therefore, it could be charged as a misdemeanor, attracting a maximum of one year in jail. As a felony, sexual assault attracts a prison sentence of four years, less than the eight years given to rape offenders.
The judge also considers the damage the crime has caused to the victim. Sex crimes are highly punished and likely to result in more severe consequences for the victim. For instance, victims of rape are likely to live with the trauma for the rest of their lives.
The Age and Mental/Physical Condition of the Victim
Age is an essential factor in determining the consequences of a sex crime. Children are the most affected when it comes to sex crimes. It is because they are vulnerable, helpless, and incapable of denying consent. Some adults take advantage of the vulnerability of minors to commit sex crimes like statutory rape, child pornography, and child molestation.
Other common victims of sex crimes in California are people with mental or physical disabilities. They are also vulnerable and incapable of denying consent. Sex offenders always look for vulnerability and weakness when picking their victims.
The judge will harshly punish anyone who sexually abuses a minor or a mentally/physically disabled person. For instance, raping an average adult is likely to attract a prison sentence of up to eight years. The prison term could go up to thirteen years if the alleged victim is a minor of below thirteen years.
The Defendant's Criminal History
The judge will also consider your criminal history when deciding your sentence after a conviction for a sex crime. First offenders are likely to receive a more lenient punishment than subsequent offenders for a specific offense. The habitual sexual offender law under Penal Code 667.71 imposes a prison sentence of 25 years to life on a repeat sexual offender. Under this law, a habitual offender is a defendant that receives a second or subsequent conviction of the same or similar sex offense.
In most cases, repeat offenders receive felony charges, even for crimes that can be charged as misdemeanors.
The Kinds of Penalties You Receive For a Sex Crime in California
The law does not have standard penalties for sex offenders. Individual defendants are sentenced to fines that fit the crime committed and their criminal history. Here are some of the penalties you could receive after a sex crime conviction in Los Angeles:
Not all sex crimes are felonies. Some are charged as misdemeanors, and others as infractions. Misdemeanor sex offenses are penalized with time in jail instead of prison time. You could receive as little as 365 days of jail time for a less severe sex crime like lewd acts in public, sexual battery and solicitation, and prostitution.
Some sex crimes are wobblers also, which means that the prosecutor can charge them as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the defendant's criminal history and the details of the crime. For instance, a first-time offender facing sexual battery charges will likely receive a misdemeanor charge, which is punishable by one year in jail.
When you receive time in jail after a conviction, the judge can send you to misdemeanor probation. It means that you will spend your entire jail time out of incarceration. But, you will receive a list of probation conditions to abide by throughout the probation period, which could go up to three years. Some of these conditions are:
- You can not live near specific areas like a school, park, or anywhere else where children are likely to gather.
- No internet if the underlying offense involved the use of a computer and internet
- You will not live with people that are registered sex offenders.
- You could be required to disclose the person you are dating.
- It would be best if you stayed away from minors.
- It would be best if you found a job.
Prison time is available for defendants guilty of more severe sex crimes like statutory rape, rape, aggravated sexual battery, and child molestation. If you face a felony charge for a particular sex crime, you will likely receive a prison sentence if the judge declares you guilty. In that case, you will spend more time behind bars, ranging from three years to life in prison. How severe your prison sentence is will depend on the details of your case and your criminal history.
For instance, rape is among California's most severe sex crimes, attracting a maximum prison time of eight years for defendants found guilty of the same. But your prison time could increase under specific circumstances, including if the alleged victim is a minor. Repeat offenders are also likely to receive a lengthier prison time than first offenders for the same crime.
Life in prison is considered the most appropriate sentence for some sex crimes. Sex crimes against children below 14, forcible rape, and violence-related sex crimes are punishable by longer prison time.
If you are lucky, the judge could place you on felony probation to serve part of your sentence, but with strict probation conditions like:
- Restrictions on where you will like and visit
- Restrictions on the kind of people you must not interact with, including minors
- You will be required to find a job
- It would be best if you remained within the court's jurisdiction
- It would be safer if you did not commit a crime while on probation
Misdemeanor and felony convictions for sex crimes will require you to pay a specific amount of money as a fine to the court. The exact amount depends on your charges, whether misdemeanor or felony. For instance, a misdemeanor conviction attracts a maximum penalty of $1,000, while a felony conviction is punishable by court fines of up to $10,000.
Registration as a Sex Offender
Some sex crimes in California require offenders to register as sex offenders for a few years or life, depending on the severity of the offense. This law is provided under Penal Code 290. The offender must register their details with the local police every year within five days of their birthday and within five days of changing their residence. The registration occurs in three tiers as below:
Tier one registry
It requires offenders to register for at least ten years. It is for low-level sex offenders, especially those found guilty of misdemeanor sex offenses like indecent exposure and sexual battery.
Tier Two Registry
It requires sex offenders to register for at least twenty years. It is for offenders convicted of mid-level sex crimes like lascivious acts with minors under 14.
Tier Three Registry
This requires sex offenders to register for life. It is for offenders convicted of more serious sex crimes like rape, sex crimes against minors below 10, and repeat sex offenders.
Designation as a Habitual Sex Offender
California Penal Code 667.71 is the law that imposes a high prison sentence of 25 years to life on habitual sex offenders. A habitual sex offender has been convicted of a particular sex crime or its equivalent twice or more. The law applies to serious sex crimes like sodomy, rape, and lewd acts with a child. Probation is generally not available for habitual sex offenders. Thus, you will likely serve your complete prison sentence behind bars. Additionally, you will be required to register for life as a sex offender if designated as a habitual sex offender in California.
Find a Competent Criminal Attorney Near Me
Are you facing sex crime charges in Los Angeles and are worried about the penalties you will likely receive after conviction?
A competent criminal attorney can help you understand your charges' nature and legal implications. They could also smoothen the legal process and develop a solid defense against your charges. You have better chances of obtaining a fair outcome for your case if you engage the legal help of a skilled criminal attorney. We offer that and more at the Law Office of Sara L. Caplan. We could compel the court to reduce or dismiss your charges. Call us at 310-550-5877 and let us study the details of your case.