California’s Child Molestation Laws
Child molestation is the illegal act of engaging in or attempting to engage in sexual acts with a minor under 18 years old. California categorizes child molestation acts into several different crimes, depending on the age of the child and the nature of the act:
- Penal Code 288 PC – committing a lewd or lascivious act on a child under the age of 16, where such an act could be touching the child directly or indirectly for sexual purposes or causing a child to touch themselves or someone else for a sexual purpose
- Penal Code 287 PC – performing oral copulation (contact between the mouth of one person and the sexual organ or anus of another) on a minor under the age of 18
- Penal Code 288.2 PC – sending explicit or obscene matter to a minor under 18 with the intent of sexually arousing either party and seducing the recipient
- Penal Code 288.4 PC – arranging a meeting with a minor with the intent to engage in certain sexual conduct
- Penal Code 288.5 PC – engaging in the continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14 years of age (3 or more instances of abuse occurring over a duration of 3 months or longer)
- Penal Code 288.7 PC – engaging in sexual acts with a child under 10 years of age
- Penal Code 647.6 PC – annoying a minor under the age of 18 while motivated by a sexual interest in the child that is likely to disturb, irritate, or be observed by the child
- Penal Code 261.5 PC – having unlawful sex with a minor (an adult engages in sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 18)
Penalties Upon Conviction
Child molestation offenses range from misdemeanor charges to felony charges, though all convictions will require sex offender registration. The specific sentence for each crime is:
- Penal Code 288 PC – a wobbler offense (charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony), where a misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and a felony could lead to a life sentence in state prison
- Penal Code 287 PC – a wobbler offense, where a misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and a felony is punishable by up to 8 years in state prison
- Penal Code 288.2 PC – a wobbler offense, where a misdemeanor is punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and a felony is punishable by up to 3 years in state prison
- Penal Code 288.4 PC – a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and Tier One sex offender registration (below)
- Penal Code 288.5 PC – a felony punishable by up to 16 years in state prison
- Penal Code 288.7 PC – up to life in prison (even for first offenses)
- Penal Code 647.6 PC – a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in county jail
- Penal Code 261.5 PC – a wobbler offense punishable by up to 4 years in state prison
Note that certain misdemeanor sex crimes can be expunged, but felony convictions leading to prison cannot be expunged. Convicted felons may also potentially lose their gun rights.
Sex Offender Registration – California’s 3-Tier System
Keep in mind that California implements a 3-tier system for how long a convicted individual will be required to register as a sex offender. Penal Code 290 initially imposed lifetime registration, but Senate Bill 384 introduced the following 3 tiers of registration to replace Penal Code 290, with a few exceptions:
- Tier One – registration for at least 10 years; for those convicted of low-level sex offenses, such as indecent exposure
- Tier Two – registration for at least 20 years; for those convicted of mid-level sex offenses, such as lewdness with a minor under 14 years old
- Tier Three – lifetime registration; for those convicted of the most serious sex offenses, such as rape, sex trafficking of children, and repeated sex crimes
If you have been charged with a child molestation offense in Sacramento, CA, contact Steve Whitworth Attorney At Law for legal help immediately. We can take a look at the facts of your situation to determine your best defense strategy and how to build a case for mitigated or dismissed charges.
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