Lawmakers in California have given authorities a number of tools to investigate and prosecute crimes against children.
One of these tools is the crime of “Lewd acts with a minor,” which can be found in Penal Code 288 PC. This law makes it illegal to:
- Touch a child for sexual purposes, or
- Cause a child to touch themselves or someone else for sexual purposes.
If you are convicted of lewd acts with a minor, the penalties are always steep. You could face lengthy prison sentences, a “strike” on your record and lifetime registration as a tier three sex offender.
It’s important to speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately if you or someone you love has been accused. It could very well save your freedom.
Definition of ‘Lewd acts with a minor’ in California
As we mentioned above, authorities in California have a number of weapons in their arsenal to prosecute suspected cases of child molestation.
For example, if there is an established pattern of illicit contact between an adult and a child but no hard evidence around specific dates or encounters, the state can charge someone with “Continuous sexual abuse of a child.”
In the case of “lewd acts,” a prosecutor must prove one of two things happened:
- An adult touched a child under 14 on any area of its body for the purposes of sexual gratification. Note that someone can be convicted of ‘Lewd acts’ even if the touching was above the clothes and not on a genital area.
- A child under 16 touched someone else for the purpose of the adult’s sexual gratification, on the adult’s urging. Again, the prosecutor does not need to prove that the adult actually became aroused as a result of this, simply that it happened.
In other words, each of these three situations could be cases of lewd acts with a minor.
Example 1: A daycare worker instructs a child to kiss another child for his own sexual arousal.
Example 2: An adult places a child’s hand on the crotch of his pants.
Example 3: A middle school teacher gropes a student’s buttocks through her pants.
Penalties for ‘Lewd acts with a minor’ in California
Lewd acts with a minor is always treated as a felony in California. If you are convicted, your punishment will depend on the facts of the case. The court will look at these facts:
- The age of the child
- The age of the defendant
- If the touching was accomplished by “force, fraud, threats or duress”
- If there was a pattern of abuse
For abuse of a child with no force used, you could face:
- Three, six or eight years in state prison
- Fines of up to $10,000
When force is used, penalties rise to:
- Five, eight or 10 years in state prison
- Fines of up to $10,000
If the abuse resulted in bodily harm, penalties rise to:
- Life in prison
If the defendant has a record as a habitual sex offender, he or she could face:
- 25 years to life in prison
In addition to this, a conviction for lewd acts with a minor will also add a “strike” to your record under California’s Three Strikes Law. Under this law, a second “strike” on your record will result in an enhanced sentence and a third strike will bring a 25 year-to-life sentence.
As well, a conviction requires the defendant to register for life as a tier three sex offender on California’s Sex Offender Registry. Appearing on the registry can lead to a number of personal and professional repercussions, including loss of your professional licensure, job loss, difficulty finding work and difficulty finding housing.
Defenses against ‘Lewd acts with a minor’ charges
“Robert Helfend is one of the best criminal defense attorneys I’ve ever worked with. He was so knowledgeable, and always made sure I understood everything every step of the way. I would definitely recommend him to anyone who wants an understanding, caring, and truly helpful lawyer.” Pat, CA
If you are facing accusations of child molestation or lewd acts with a minor, you know just how nerve wracking this time can be.
These allegations are serious, and they carry a serious stigma. A normally law abiding person could find themselves being treated like a predator if they have been accused of “lewd acts,” as someone who seeks out children to exploit.
That is where a defense attorney comes in.
False accusations are common in cases involving crimes against children. After all, an easy way to ruin someone’s reputation is to accuse them of illegally touching a child and stigmatize them as a child molester.
Mistakes are even more common. A simple situation could be misunderstood by the people involved, and everyone involved winds up in court.
Find an experienced defense attorney who specializes in sex crimes cases. Your attorney will put their expertise to work for you, combing through the evidence in your case to bring important facts to light. Depending on the facts of your case, a defense attorney can work to have your charges reduced or dismissed outright.
Robert M. Helfend is a SuperLawyers and Lead Counsel rated defense attorney, serving the Ventura area since 1984. Call today for your free case evaluation — 805-273-5611.