What to Do If You’re Charged with Child Molestation in California
Getting charged with child molestation in California can be scary and intimidating. While child molestation may refer to a number of different crimes in California, the consequences of getting charged with any one of them can be devastating. You may not only have to serve time behind bars, but these charges could follow you for the rest of your life.
Here’s some more information on child molestation laws in California, along with what you should do if you are charged with a related crime.
The Definition of Child Molestation
In California, you cannot annoy or molest a child, which is anyone under 18 years of age, or someone who you think is under 18 years of age. Annoying or molesting means that your conduct was likely to irritate, disturb, or be seen by a child. The reason for your behavior was that you had sexual interest in that child. Essentially, the law says that you cannot engage in or attempt to engage in any sexual acts with children under 18 years of age.
The laws of child molestation fall under different California Penal Code sections, and each statute will define the term “minor” differently. However, unless the statute says otherwise, the definition of “minor” is someone under 18 years of age.
The Basics of Child Molestation Laws in California
A child molestation crime could fall under various penal codes in California and may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony and have various penalties.
For example, Penal Code 647.6 PC makes it a criminal act to annoy a child, who is someone under 18 years of age. This is a misdemeanor, and you could go to county jail for up to a year maximum.
Penal Code 288 PC dictates that it’s a criminal act to commit a lewd or lascivious act on a child who is under 16 years of age. This could including touching a child either on their clothing or bare skin for sexual purposes, or making a child touch themselves or another person for sexual purposes. This could be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. If it’s the former, you could go to county jail for up to one year, but if it’s the latter, you could be sentenced to life in state prison.
Under Penal Code 288.3 PC, you cannot contact a minor and have the intention to commit a felony, like a sex crime. You will be charged according to the consequences for the felony that you want to commit.
With Penal Code 287 PC, it is illegal to perform oral copulation on a minor who is under 18 years of age. This could be a misdemeanor or a felony. If it’s the former, you could go to county jail for up to one year, and if it’s a felony, you could go to state prison for up to eight years.
Under Penal Code 288.5 PC, it’s a crime for someone to engage in the ongoing sexual abuse of a child who is under 14 years of age. “Ongoing” means there are three or more instances of abuse that happen over three months or longer. This is a felony, and you could spend up to 16 years in state prison.
Penal Code 288.2 PC stipulates that you cannot send obscene or explicit matter to a minor who is under 18 if your intention is to seduce them or sexually arouse them and/or yourself. This can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If you get charged with a misdemeanor, you could spend up to six months in county jail. If you get charged with a felony, then you could spend up to three years in a state prison.
Under Penal Code 288.4 PC, it is illegal for someone to arrange to meet a minor if they have the intention to engage in sexual conduct with them. This is a misdemeanor, and you could have to go to county jail for up to one year.
Penal Code 288.7 PC dictates that an adult cannot engage in sexual act with a child under 10 years of age. If you’re charged with this, you could spend the rest of your life in prison.
And under Penal Code 261.5 PC, it is a crime to have unlawful sex with a minor. This applies when someone engages in sexual intercourse with a minor, who is under 18 years of age. This could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, and you could spend up to four years in state prison.
Registering as a Sex Offender in California
With any of these child molestation-related crimes, you’re going to have to register as a sex offender. You’ll have to register within five days of leaving jail, prison, or a mental hospital, or when you’re going off probation.
You must update your information every year, within five working days prior to or after your birthday. Sexually violent predators need to update their information every 90 days, while transients have to update it every 30 days. Sometimes, exclusions from registering may be granted based on the circumstances of the crime. Other times, sex offenders will have to register for life.
The sex offender registry can be found on the California Megan’s Law website. Anyone can go on there and search for sex offenders by their first name and last name. They can also look in their area to see where different sex offenders are living.
Other Consequences of Being a Sex Offender
Along with facing the child molestation charges and likely having to register as a sex offender, you will probably not be able to expunge your charges. Felony charges can never be expunged, and there is little chance that you could expunge your misdemeanor charges.
This means that when a landlord is doing a background check on you, your crime will come up and you could have issues securing housing. If a potential employer also does a background check, then it could be tough to get a job. Additionally, you cannot get federal funding for college if you are an ex-convict. Your entire future could be on the line if you’re charged with a sex crime.
You’re wondering: Is there anything you can do? The answer is yes, there is, but you have to be proactive.
Finding an Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney
As soon as you’re arrested for a child molestation crime, you need to get in touch with an Oakland criminal defense attorney. Don’t tell the police anything because you do have the right to remain silent. Instead, contact an experienced lawyer right away.
They will listen to your side of the story and help you come up with a defense for the crime. There are some common defenses that could apply to your case.
The first is that the accuser made a false accusation. Children may be confused, or they could lie about molestation. A bitter ex or vengeful person may also be lying about their child being molested in order to get back at you. While the cops will take the accusations seriously, these testimonials need to be examined to figure out the truth about what happened. Many people have faced false accusations, so it’s not out of the question.
Another defense is that you were nowhere near the person who accused you of the sex crime at the alleged time that it occurred. Perhaps you have evidence that shows this. You may have pictures of you out with friends or proof that you were working during the alleged encounter.
The alleged victim may not also meet the age criteria for the crime that supposedly happened, or the contact you made with a minor might not have been sexual.
You and your Oakland criminal defense attorney will discuss your case and determine the best way to move forward. An experienced attorney will focus on your case and work hard on your behalf to figure out a good solution for you.
Keep in mind that if you’ve already been charged, you could also reach out to an Oakland criminal defense attorney to see if you are eligible for expungement. A skilled attorney may be able to make it happen.
Plea Bargain vs. Going to Trial
The prosecutor has to use the evidence they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are indeed guilty of child molestation. If they can’t, their case will not hold up and the jury could determine that you are not guilty.
However, a prosecutor may not want to take that chance, and your attorney could advise you not to take that chance either, since the consequences could be much worse. Instead, they might recommend you take a plea deal and will work out one for you.
With a plea deal, you may plead guilty to some of the charges in exchange for an easier sentence. Perhaps you get less jail time, for instance. This could have a positive impact on your life because it means you’re getting back to normal and putting all of this behind you as soon as possible.
Remember: Your Oakland criminal defense attorney will use their expertise to determine when they think is the best solution for your situation. Of course, you still have a say over what you want them to do as well.
Should You Use the Court-Appointed Lawyer?
As a U.S. citizen, you have the right to a free court-appointed lawyer. While this may seem like a great solution, it’s not. These lawyers are competent by all means, but they often are working on many cases at once and won’t have the time or resources to dedicate to your case, like a hired Oakland criminal defense attorney would. You could end up hurting your chances of getting a good plea deal or having the charges thrown out altogether. Even though you’ll have to pay for an attorney, you’re making an important investment in your future.
What Not to Do If You’re Charged with Child Molestation
To ensure your case is going to be as successful as possible, you should never get in touch with the person accusing you of committing the crime or the alleged victim.
Also, never discuss your case with anyone except for your Oakland criminal defense attorney. You should never, ever tell the cops anything because it could end up hurting you. You also shouldn’t talk to your friends or family members about it.
It’s very frustrating to be in this position, and you may want to vent to whomever will listen. Unfortunately, this could come back to bite you, so at this time it’s best to be as discreet as possible and stick to exclusively talking with your attorney about it.
Contacting Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney Elliot Silver
Right now, you are understandably upset about the child molestation charges you are facing. Don’t worry, because Oakland criminal defense attorney Elliot Silver has your back.
Just look at his record. In one case, a man who had recently immigrated to the U.S. on a dependent visa was accused of child molestation. He could have been sent to jail and been required to register as a sex offender. There was also the possibility that he may have been deported. The case ended up going to a jury trial, and the prosecutor was unwilling to let the defendant go without registering as a sex offender, which would have resulted in deportation. When it seemed like all hope was lost, Elliot Silver was able to ensure the client went free, and he was able to resume his life in America.
You can always reach out to Oakland criminal defense attorney Elliot Silver today at (510) 995-0000 or by emailing him at [email protected]. He is standing by and eager to help you with your child molestation case.