Sexual crimes against children are among California’s most fiercely prosecuted offenses. Prosecutors typically seek maximum punishments, and judges are less likely to order lenient sentences when someone is convicted or pleads guilty.
California Penal Code 288 pertains to lewd acts with children when an adult willfully touches a child with the “intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions or sexual desires” of the adult, the child or another person.
Charges can also be filed against an adult who forces a minor to touch themselves, the adult or another person for a sexual purpose. Most cases involve children under 14, but PC 288 applies to any alleged victim 15 or younger. Charges can result from contact over the clothing as well as skin-to-skin and include any part of the body.
What must prosecutors prove?
To be convicted, prosecutors must prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the defendant willfully committed a lewd act with a minor. Some of the crucial facts considered by juries and judges include the nature of the contact, the relationship between the defendant and alleged victim, the circumstances surrounding the incident and whether a reasonable explanation exists.
What defenses are available?
Experienced defense attorneys know how to spot weaknesses in a prosecutor’s case. While each situation is unique, several defenses can apply, including:
- False accusations
- Mistaken identity
- Accidental touching
- No intent for sexual gratification
- No physical or corroborating evidence exists
Any of these reasons can contribute to a not guilty verdict if the case goes to trial, dismissals or charges not being filed. However, it is critical to note that consent is not a valid defense as minors cannot give permission under California law.
Take immediate action if charges are pending
Sexual offenses against children are horrendous crimes. But charges due to false accusations or mistaken identity can ruin your reputation and career. It is essential to contact an attorney as soon as possible if you are under investigation or questioned by police. Do not answer their questions before talking to a lawyer. You need a fierce advocate in your corner to help avoid the devastating consequences that can result.