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What are the penalties for violating California Penal Code 288?

On Behalf of | Jun 16, 2022 | Sex Crimes |

Few offenses are considered more heinous than sex crimes victimizing children. California typically prosecutes people accused of violating Penal Code 288 to the fullest extent of the law. Judges usually impose severe sentences on those who plead guilty or are convicted.

Punishment depends upon several factors but can result in significant prison or jail time, expensive fines and registration as a sex offender, possibly for life. Even those found not guilty can experience devastating personal consequences just from charges being filed.

Factors considered in sentencing

Violations of PC 288 involving lewd acts with children are “wobblers,” meaning they can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors by prosecutors. The state looks at several factors when assessing charges and potential penalties. These include:

  • The child’s age
  • Whether force, threats, duress or violence was used
  • Whether the child suffered bodily harm
  • Whether a pattern of behavior by the defendant exists
  • The difference in age between the child and the defendant
  • Whether the defendant has a criminal history

While some PC 288 violations can result in misdemeanor charges, any incident involving a child under 14 is prosecuted as a felony.

Penalties for lewd acts with children

After a conviction or guilty plea and judges consider the factors above, a wide range of penalties can be imposed, including:

Lewd acts with a minor over 14 – Misdemeanor

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Maximum fine of $1,000

Lewd acts with a minor over 14 – Felony

  • Up to three years in prison
  • Maximum fine of $10,000

Lewd acts with a minor under 14 – Felony

  • Three, six or eight years in prison
  • Maximum fine of $10,000

Lewd acts using force with a minor under 14 – Felony

  • Five, eight or 10 years in prison
  • Maximum fine of $10,000

Lewd acts resulting in bodily harm to a minor under 14 – Felony

  • Up to life in prison

Enhanced penalties may also apply If the defendant is a caretaker or someone else the child depends upon for their daily needs.

Sex offender registration

Anyone convicted of violating PC 288 must register as a sex offender with the state of California. Offenders are divided into three tiers. Tier 1 offenders must register for 10 years, Tier 2 for 20 years and Tier 3, considered the most likely to re-offend, for life.

First-time PC 288 violations are considered Tier 2 offenses, requiring the defendant to remain on the registry for two decades. Lifetime registration often occurs for repeat offenders, those using force or causing bodily harm to a child.

Seek experienced criminal defense counsel

Being the target of an investigation involving sexual crimes against children is frightening and overwhelming. In many cases, police may request an interview based on false or misleading information or mistaken identity.

It is vital to your case and future well-being to contact a lawyer before talking to law enforcement. A lawyer with expertise in this area knows how to uncover weaknesses in an investigation, which many times can result in charges being dismissed or not filed.