Sexual Battery Laws in California - Penal Code 243.4 PC
One of the most significant issues with a sexual battery case in LA County is whether you will have to register as a sex offender. As I write this post, a legislature will likely be passed that will divide sex crimes into a tiered system depending on the crime a person is convicted of.
This will dictate what, if any, registration requirements they will have. Other charges besides a sexual battery that a person accused of a sex crime can lead to do not require registration. This is where the best, most savvy sex crime defense attorneys must do everything possible to avoid or limit sex registration.
Another significant issue I have noticed regarding sexual battery cases is that people charged with them do not want to go to jail for several important reasons.
First, being in Los Angeles County jail with any sex-related offense attached to your name is dangerous. And, of course, no one wants their freedom taken away from them for any period. The biggest thing we zero in on in these sexual battery cases is keeping you out of jail and doing everything possible to avoid or minimize registration requirements.
Over the past twenty-five years, I have noticed how politically charged even sexual battery cases can be. I encourage my clients to do everything they can to minimize damage to their records, reputation, and freedom.
This includes obtaining character letters from those who know the type of person you are and can vouch for you as a solid citizen and an upstanding societal individual.
Please make no mistake; when the prosecutors and judges decide what to do with someone who has inappropriately touched another person, they want to know exactly who they are dealing with and what will be necessary to stop that person from re-offending.
What is the Definition of PC 243.4?
The sex crime of sexual battery is defined under California Penal Code 243.4 as:
- “Any person who touches an intimate part of somebody while they are unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, and if the touching is against their will for sexual arousal, gratification, or sexual abuse, they are guilty of sexual battery.”
As you can see from the definition above, PC 243.4 sexual battery charges do not require an act of penetration or sexual intercourse. Also worth noting, you could still be arrested, charged, and convicted under this statute if you are involved in a relationship with the accuser.
The related California crimes for sexual battery include Penal Code 261 PC rape and Penal Code 242 battery. Based on the definition above, you could face misdemeanor sexual battery charges under Penal Code 243.4 if you:
- touch an intimate part of a person's body without their consent; and
- the intent of the touching was for sexual gratification, sexual arousal, or sexual abuse.
In the context of this law, “touching” means contacting an intimate part of another person on their bare skin or even through their clothing. The intimate details of someone's body include the female breast, groin area, anus, or buttocks.
The Law on Sexual Battery in California
Sexual battery is defined by California Penal Code Section 243.4 as the touching of one's genital area, buttocks, or female breasts, better known as a person's intimate parts, without consent.
Sometimes people accidentally touch other people inappropriately and do not mean anything sexual. Other times it is clear from the surrounding circumstances that the person charged is guilty, and the only question is, what should their punishment be and what should the damage be to their reputation. The key is that if the defense can prove the touching was an accident, this is the makings of a reason for the crime of sexual battery.
See related: When is Sexual Assault a Criminal or Civil Case?
The crime of sexual battery is considered a wobbler meaning that it may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances. Still, in either case, PC 290 mandatory sex offender registration would be imposed if convicted.
Some examples where the crime would be charged as a felony are: the victim was unaware of the inappropriate touching because they were fraudulently convinced that it was for medical or other professional purposes.
The victim was unlawfully restrained; the victim was forced to touch the suspect's intimate parts or was forced to masturbate. Some examples where the crime would be charged as a misdemeanor are the suspect intentionally fondling a female's breasts without her consent and putting their hands on another person's buttocks without permission.
Accident or Intentional?
This is one of the big things I see having defended people for California sexual battery cases under penal Code 243.4 PC over almost the last 30 years, and that is, a lot of times, the client is saying that the sexual battery allegation was an accident.
They may have touched the individual, but they didn't do it intentionally. That's where the rubber meets the road if you try to defend these sexual battery cases, whether or not the circumstances are such that you can mount the argument that it was accidental. You have to have some intent in any sexual battery case.
So, if you can prove that you accidentally touched the alleged victim somehow, you possibly can get a not-guilty verdict or even a dismissal on behalf of the prosecutors. But usually, if you've been arrested and charged with a crime, they've got some evidence that convinces the prosecutors or police that the act was intentional.
For example, you have prior sexual activity-type cases, and you are again involved in another sexual battery. That would be one indicator to the prosecutors that it was no accident.
There are other facts and circumstances obviously that they can argue to mount the argument that you intentionally touched the victim somehow. So, the first thing you have to figure out when dealing with these types of cases is whether or not you can win the case.
Ultimately, I go about it because I put my almost 30 years of experience to work for you. I've worked for the District Attorney's office, worked for a Superior Court Judge, and been the guiding force behind The Hedding Law Firm since 1994.
So, I've got the experience, having handled many sexual battery cases, to give you a pretty good feel of what evidence supports your argument that you're innocent if that's what you're claiming and what evidence might go against that argument.
Then you've got to weigh the evidence in your favor and the evidence against you, and obviously, you're going to make an informed decision on whether you want to take the case to trial.
If you don't take the case to trial and you're not going to be able to win the case, then we're in a position where we're going to need to negotiate. Sometimes we're trying to get a non-registerable offense because if you plead guilty or are convicted of sexual battery, you will have to register as a sex offender for ten years now under the new three-tier system.
We can sometimes negotiate a lesser charge, depending on the circumstances, your criminal record, who the victim is, how vulnerable they are, and precisely what happened. For example, it would be a charge that does not involve a plea to a sexual battery -- maybe just a simple battery. Then you would not have to register as a sex offender. Other things can be done, but obviously, we will look at the facts and circumstances surrounding your case -- see what makes sense for you and then put our plan together.
Many people claim that they accidentally touched the alleged victim in a sex crime case. And actually, sometimes this is possible, again, depending on the circumstances of the touching and the extent of the emotion. A lot of this stuff is common sense.
Suppose it makes common sense that you might have accidentally touched somebody related to a charge of sexual contact. In that case, if you have no prior criminal record and what happened is out of the ordinary – it doesn't make sense that you would do something like that – then you certainly could use accidental touching as a defense.
What it would do is negate the element of intent. In other words, when you touch somebody, you have to have some purpose – a sexual dream – or anger at being charged with a crime.
But, regarding sex crimes in California and touching, you need to have the intent by what you say and what you do. If they can't prove that, they will not be able to demonstrate the case without the intent element.
Now, a lot of times, what I see them doing when they have a questionable case is they're going to try to get witnesses who corroborate the alleged victim's side of things, they're going to try to take a statement from you, the police, and depending on what you said to the police, they're going to try to use that statement against you, and say that whatever it is you said is incriminating.
One of the biggest thing I see them do when people are claiming it's an accident is, they're going to bring in if they can – sometimes they can't do it – but if they can, they're going to bring in other individuals who you've dealt with in the past who say, this person inappropriately touched me. They claimed that it was an accident. I'm here to tell you it wasn't an accident.
If they can bring in enough of those people and show that it's very similar to the pending case, they might be able to get that evidence in, and obviously, that could tip the scales for the prosecutors in the prosecution of one of them these cases.
We're seeing that in the news right now, where many of these actors, celebrities, and athletes are being charged with sex crimes, and the way they get them is they have several alleged victims.
They might not be able to file every case. Still, when somebody claims they accidentally touched somebody, and it has happened many times, that's when obviously police, prosecutors, and judges start to figure out that this person is not accidentally touching people and is, in reality, intentionally touching them.
That's what they try to argue to juries by bringing in this evidence of other occasions when they've touched people supposedly in an accidental manner when it wasn't in an unintentional way.
Penalties for PC 243.4 Sexual Battery
Penalties differ between a misdemeanor and a felony. If convicted of a misdemeanor sexual battery, one may face county jail for up to a year and fines amounting to $2000.
A felony conviction can result in up to 4 years in state prison and fines amounting to $10,000; in determining what penalty to impose, factors such as whether violence, fear, or threat was used; whether the victim was conscious at the time of the act; and whether the victim was a minor. As your sexual battery defense lawyer, we consider all these factors in building a solid defense on your behalf. You might be able to avoid the sex registry.
What Does the Prosecutor Have to Prove?
To convict a suspect of sexual battery, the government must prove the following elements…
- The suspect unlawfully restrained another;
- While restrained, the suspect touched an intimate part of the person's body or caused them to feel an inseparable part of their own or the suspect's body;
- The touching was done against the others will AND
- The touching was done for the specific purpose of sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse.
The government defines an intimate part of their body as the breast, anus, groin, sexual organ, or buttocks. Additionally, contact must have been made with the other person's bare skin.
Additionally, restraint can either be by force or by the threat of force; what matters to the government is that the touching or bond was against the party's will and occurred for any duration. Showing consent is one way to defend yourself from a charge of Sexual Battery.
We understand that a conviction of sexual battery or any other sex crime significantly affects your life, and we want to offer legal assistance and our support. We have defended many in similar situations, and we know that there are many ways to fight these charges.
The first thing you likely want to do is achieve peace of mind and figure out precisely your exposure and what you are up against. This is why it is essential to hire an attorney who has appeared in the court where your case will be pending and dealt with the judge and prosecuting attorney dealing with your fate. In other words, your attorney must have traveled the path you are about to take and had success.
Initial Defense Strategy Meeting
So, if you or a loved one is charged with sexual battery, the first thing you want to do is set up a meeting with me, Ron Hedding. Call the firm. Ask to meet with me. We'll sit down and go over everything, and we'll start to design the plan for you and your particular circumstances that make sense.
We'll either start investigating to fight the case and take it to a jury trial or take other maneuvers to negotiate it. For example, we'll begin to build up what I characterize as a mitigation package that we can show the prosecutors to try to avoid some of the bad things that come with a sexual battery in Los Angeles county.
So, if you're looking for an attorney who has a lot of experience, who knows how to help you make the right decision and who knows how to execute a plan that's going to help you to fight your sexual battery case, whether that fight is a jury trial or try to negotiate something reasonable under the circumstances you find yourself in, pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.