Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm is a reputable criminal defense firm equipped with attorneys who offer indispensable law services, we know the law and fight for our clients with a sincere passion of helping you navigate the criminal justice system successfully. We render our services in and around Vista, CA. In California, some of the notable sex crimes include rape, sexual battery, prostitution and restitution, sexual assault among others. Generally, a sex crime is a wobbler meaning it falls under felony or misdemeanor categories.
California Sex Crime Definition
Sex crimes refer to the criminal acts of any sexual nature. They incorporate illegal sexual conduct against another person forcibly or even non-forcibly. The following are the commonly known sex crimes: rape, child molestation, sexual battery, lewd conduct, prostitution, pandering, pimping, possession and distribution of obscene material, indecent exposure, and possession and distribution of child pornography. The above named can be broadly grouped into two major categories:
- Forcible sex crimes such as rape and sexual battery and
- Non-forcible sex crimes such as obscenity and possession of pornographic materials.
Types of Sex Crimes in California
In accordance with the state’s penal code 261, rape is the use of force or violence during sexual intercourse against the other persons consent or will. Rape can be narrowed down into the following forms;
- Statutory rape: This is an act of having sexual intercourse with a minor and to whom the accused is not married to. Whether there is consent before the act or the minor initiates the act, the adult involved would be violating Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape laws. This offense can be charged as a misdemeanor if the accused is less than 3 years older than the minor, contrary to which the offense can be charged as a felony. However, the penalties become more severe if the minor is under the age of 14 and the accused is 21 years old and above.
- Spouse rape. This happens when a spouse violently engages in sexual intercourse with their marital partner against their will, and could be charged in accordance with Penal Code 262 PC spouse rape.
- Date rape. Though a rare act, this form of rape happens when a male acquaintance forcefully has his way with his partner during a voluntary date and whereby, the victim did not consent. Often, the victim may be unable to resist the offender because of some use of "rape dating drugs” where the victim is drugged without their knowledge. This crime is considered similar to general rape under Penal Code 261, and thus, charged under the same law.
2. Sexual Battery
This offense, as per PC 243.4, involves touching the intimate parts of another person (buttocks, female breasts or genitalia) without their consent for the purpose of sexual satisfaction or abuse. This offense is usually ruled as a misdemeanor but can also be charged as a felony under the circumstances where the victim is maimed or disabled. The penalties for this offense as a misdemeanor are; a maximum fine of 2,000 dollars and county jail imprisonment of up to 12 months, or sometimes one can face both charges. As a felony, one would face state prison term ranging from two to four years and a maximum fine of ten thousand dollars.
3. Prostitution and solicitation
Prostituting is the act of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for favors or money or maybe something of more value other than money. Prostitution can vary from street girls to professional escort services and can be done by both genders. The crime is considered complete when an agreement to commit the crime is already reached. On the other hand, solicitation can closely be related to prostitution but in the case of solicitation, there is the act of encouraging, requesting or demanding someone to engage in the act.
4. Lewd Conduct in Public
It is closely related to indecent exposure. It occurs when someone engages in public touching of intimate parts intentionally and aware that someone else is around who might be offended by the act. This, too, involves having sex in public.
5. Child Porn, Possession, Production and Distribution of Pornography
These offenses are often non-forcible sex crimes yet are considered more severe and are all prosecuted as felony offenses.
Common Ways Sex Crimes Occurs – Degrees of Assault
Generally, most of these sex crimes occurs after sexual assault. There are four degrees of sex assault.
First Degree: Also known by another term, aggravated sexual assault, is the most severely punished form of sexual crime. Though it is the duty of the judge to decide the sentence of the offender, in most cases, it is possible for someone accused of this first-degree form of crime to spend the rest of their life in jail. The requirements for a conviction of this type of degree offense include:
- The offender is armed with a weapon.
- The victim is injured in whatsoever way including physical injury; & If sexual penetration occurs.
- If the victim is a minor.
- If the offender was assisted by someone else to commit the crime; & If the assault occurs while the offender is committing another crime.
Second Degree: Mostly, in this degree, the imprisonment is not a life sentence; often, it involves a conviction of up to 15 years behind bars. Although in second-degree sexual assault penetration is not involved, it’s considered as aggressive as the first-degree sexual assault as it involves violence and also happens without the victims' consent. For a second-degree sexual assault conviction, the prosecution must prove the existence of sexual conduct (including touching of private parts) and any other situations named above in the first-degree sex assault.
Third Degree: This form of sexual assault can often be considered and treated as the second degree since the jail term of 15 years or less is integral in both convictions. Its requirements are the use of force or violence, the victim is maimed or disabled in any way, and the victim is a minor.
Fourth Degree: Some charges in this degree are considered as sexual battery rather than the other degrees where charges of sexual assault can occur. The charge for this degree requires the offender being in a position of authority over the alleged victim, the offender used his/her power to disable the victim, there was force, and sexual contact occurred.
Legal Defenses to Sex Crimes
When charged with any sex crime, it is possible to fight the charges by arguing that the accused is innocent. Often, some false accusations can be made for various reasons including jealousy and spite. Others can be as a result of shame whereby the accusers find it quicker and easier to claim rape other than to own up cheating on their spouses or loved ones. Thus, a major key to winning a sex offense trial is identifying the motive behind a false accusation.
It is also legal to plea for dismissals or bargains. If a sex offense case has been filed, the defense attorneys can plead a bargain, which, when granted by the jury, the case can be dismissed or sent back to the trial for further proof.
In the case of a bargain, both parties are involved. The defendant and the prosecutor settle the case amicably and as soon as possible. The prosecution is now able to punish the defendant as they please, but the punishment would not be as severe as it could have been if the defendant appeared in court. The judge then approves the bargains reached by both parties. A dismissal happens when there is no concrete or strong evidence against the defendant. It can also happen in a situation where the real sex offender is found (an evidence of false identity or wrong accusations).
If the case is not dismissed or a bargain agreed upon, the case automatically goes to trial. In this case, the prosecutor has to prove beyond doubts that the defendant is guilty of the crime, that means the evidence should be strong to convict the defendant. In the process of court trial, a case dismissal can happen depending on the circumstances surrounding the case even though a dismissal is rare occurrence. There is also a possibility that a bargain can be filed on the trial day; this is usually ineffective as it can result to serious consequences if the prosecutor rejects the bargaining proposal.
Entrapment is also another form of defense and it varies depending on the offense committed. If one is illegally forced into committing a crime by a law officer (entrapped), then such a person can use the illegal act by law enforcers to fight the charges. In sex crimes, entrapment rarely happens; thus, it is in the conscience of the jury to decide whether entrapment happened. After a defense attorney raises an issue of entrapment, the prosecution has to prove beyond doubts that no entrapment occurred. Threats, harassment, pressure, and fraud are elements of entrapment that the defendant can raise for defense.
Consequences of a Sex Crime Conviction
As sex crimes are considered serious offenses, their outcomes can be devastating to the accused if found guilty. Some outcomes are so severe such that they can result in a lifetime effect, especially if convicted as a felony. Furthermore, if one has to register as a sex offender, their families’ and community reputation would be at stake. Most often, the offender is normally excluded from the society, no one wants to be associated with them, resulting into pressure and loneliness. Some sentences go up to life sentences depending on crime’s severity; and even if you are eventually released from jail, you will still live with the social stigma of being a sex offender – a frustrating encounter.
Difference between a Sex offender and Pedophile
These two terms are often confused and used to give almost similar meaning but have a vastly different meaning. A sex offender is someone who has been convicted of any sex-related crime which may or may not involve a minor, and whose legal provisions require that the said perpetrator registers as a sex offender. On the contrary, a pedophile is a clinical term used to describe someone with a psychological disorder known as pedophilic disorder or pedophilia that causes them to have an exclusive sexual attraction to both girls and boys. This applies whether the person has committed the crime or not and whether or not they acted upon their attraction to those victims.
Sex Offender Registration Law
The most devastating penalties one can face if convicted of a sex offense is registration as a sex offender. The guidelines and requirements for this registration are catered for in California’s Penal Code 290 PC. California Senate introduced a bill to supplement the penal code – a three-tiered sex registration system that doesn't require a lifetime registration for most offenses, unlike before where any sex offender had to be registered for a lifetime:
- The first tier requires one to register as a sex offender for at least ten (10) years. This is for those convicted of the lowest sex offense crimes like indecent exposure.
- The second tier requires one to register as a sex offender for at least twenty (20) years. This applies to those convicted of the middle-level sex offenses like lewdness with a minor of under 14 years of age and a non-forced sodomy with a minor under the age of 14.
- The third and last tier requires one to register as a sex offender for a lifetime. This is for those convicted of the most serious sex crimes including trafficking of minors for sex services, lewd acts with a minor by use of force or fear, rape, sex crimes of any kind against minors, and repeated records of sex crimes.
However, a judge can order one to register as a sex offender for any offense. This means that the offense doesn't have to be listed in the sex offender registration act. If the judge finds out that one acted for sexual satisfaction or compulsion, then the rule out for registration is made. It should also be noted that removal from the sex registry is not automatic especially in the case of tier one and tier two registrants. Petitions for each of the two tiers must be made at the end of the 10- or 20-year registration period. In the case where the court declines the petition, the defense lawyer can request for a hearing in order to oppose the petition. Generally, sex offender registration requires that offenders should annually update their information within five working days of their birthday. Furthermore, reporting requirements depend on a variety of factors such as if; (a) One moves, (b) One is a transient, (c) The judges declare one to be a sexually violent predator, (d) One is employed or enrolled in a higher institution of learning.
For transients (people without permanent residences), they are required to update the area where they are currently and physically present at least once a month. If one moves to another residence, they have to report before the end of five working days to their local law enforcement urgency. If one moves out of their state, they must inform their enforcement urgency in person, giving their intent of moving and their present location within five working days. When reporting you must tell the urgency if you have any plans of coming back.
Whenever one moves, they are required to inform their local urgency of their new location within five days of the move. If one has different homes located in different cities, they have to report that too to their urgency. Similarly, if one has more than just one place where they reside, they must report all of their addresses. It is significant that if you eventually happen to move out of the state, your new residing state might also require you to register as a sex offender according to the laws of that state.
More than 21 states have set laws restricting where and where not any sex offender can live or even visit. The most common type of restriction is where they are prohibited from residing within a specified place where children assemble or meet. Distance markers have given out a range from 1000 to 2000 feet from the designated location. In terms of family, the law doesn't prohibit a sex offender to sire children; However, if the sex offender had children previously, they offenders are under strict restrictions of staying away from those children. Sex offenders are kept under track all the time in terms of movements and locations. California State was the first to implement the first sex offender registration law. Other states followed suit to enable law enforcers to monitor offenders’ movements.
Additionally, there are several conditions governing sex offense registration:
- In the case of employment, the offender's employment must be approved by a community officer.
- No offender should marry or date anyone who has minors or children under the age of 18 unless an approval is given by the community officer after consulting with the court. Otherwise, the offender is required to state to the other person of their criminal history for better understanding.
- The offender must not reside with a minor including their children unless approved otherwise
- The offender should have no contact directly or indirectly with a minor including their children.
How Can I Get Help from a Vista Sex Crime Attorney Near Me?
All sex crimes are serious offenses which can result in lifetime jail terms or lifelong restrictions if required to register as a sex offender. However, our Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm has you covered. Our attorneys are expert criminal defense practitioners who will represent you in all court proceedings and help you possibly avoid harsh convictions. Call 888-888-8888 and get in touch with our attorneys in Vista, CA. Don’t let a false accusation or inability to challenge the prosecutor’s claims damage your reputation.