Facing a heinous offense such as California’s sexual battery law is not something that should be taken lightly. Attempting to defend oneself against such allegations can be problematic without the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
This offense is a “wobbler,” which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Additional consequences may include taking classes, paying fines, and/or registering as a sex offender. Such punishments will have a lasting effect on the rest of your life.
Sexual battery laws includeseveral sections that address certain details of the offense. To further understand what this statute entails, we must first look at how California defines it.
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How does California define sexual battery?
California defines sexual battery, also known as sexual assault, under Penal Code section 243.4 (PC 243.4), which states it is unlawful to touch another individual’s private/intimate parts for the purposes of sexual gratification/satisfaction, arousal, and/or abuse, and touching that individual against his/her will.
- Touchingmeans physical contact with the alleged victim’s intimate parts directly, through clothing, or skin to skin (bare) contact.
- A private/intimate part of the body means groin, buttocks, anus, or another sexual organ.
- Touching the individual against his/her will means the alleged victim did not give his/her explicit consent to be touched in any sexual manner.
This law also covers accomplices or anyone that attempts to aid or abet another individual for the act of sexual battery/assault. An accomplice is someone who:
- Knew the defendant was committing a criminal act, and
- Intended to help the defendant by:
- Aiding, abetting, encouraging, instigating, or promoting the act of sexual battery/assault; and
- Participated in a conspiratorial partnership otherwise known as a joint criminal conspiracy to commit any act(s) of sexual abuse, assault, or battery.
Sexual Battery Penal Code Subsections
There are several subsections covered under PC 243.4 including:
PC 243.4(a) Sexual Battery and Restraints
Unlawfully restraining another person against his/her will/consent to commit a sexual battery, assault, or abuse.
- Unlawful restraint means controlling/restricting another individual’s physical freedom of movement means using either words, actions, and/or authority.
PC 243.4(b) Sexual Battery on Someone Who is Institutionalized or Medically Disabled
Committing sexual battery on a victim who is:
- Mentally disabled;
- Physically disabled;
- Seriously disabled;
- Is institutionalized; and/or
- Medically incapacitated.
PC 243.4(c) Sexual Battery Under False Pretenses
Fraudulently representing the act of sexual battery as something else, such as misleading the victim into believing the touching was for professional or medical purposes only.
PC 243.4(d)Sexual Battery and Forcing Others
It is unlawful to force another individual into touching your private/intimate part or a third party’s private/intimate part for the purposes of sexual gratification, abuse, or assault; and the alleged victim was unlawfully restrained, and/orinstitutionalized or seriously disabled.
PC 243.4(e)(1)Sexual Battery
This subsection is a catch-all and covers any sexual battery that took place that doesn’t fall under above-mentioned subsections. In general, you can be charged with this crime if you illegally:
- Touched an intimate/private part of another person;
- It was against their will; and
- It was for the purposes of sexual gratification, abuse, or assault.
The statutes below are similar offenses that are closely related, however, they focus on general assault and domestic violence.
PC 242 – Battery
Any harmful or offensive touching, whether it is sexual in nature or not, is unlawful.
PC 243(e)(1) – Domestic Battery;
It is unlawful to batter or assaulta domestic partner, such as a spouse, fiancée, girlfriend, or co-parent.
PC 273.5 – Corporal Injury on a Spouse or Cohabitant
This is like domestic battery; however, it specifically involves the alleged victim suffering any corporal/severe injury.
PC 261 – Rape Law;
It is unlawful to have non-consensual intercourse with another person by use of threats, false pretenses, or force.
These crimes carry heavy felony consequences including potential prison time and/or steep fines. Retain strong legal representation to help you fight your case and maintain control of your future.
What must the Prosecution do?
For the prosecution to find you guilty of sexual battery, they must first prove the facts of the case took place. The facts, otherwise known as elements of the crime are:
- The defendant intentionally touched another person in a private/intimate part of the body;
- The touching was against this person’s will/consent; and
- The defendant did so for the purposes of sexual arousal, abuse, or gratification.
The following scenarios illustrate who can be charged with violating PC 243.4:
Sally was playing soccer on the field and hurt her knee. The referee claimed he had medical training and brought her into the locker room. While there, he began to touch her beneath her soccer shorts and undergarments. He told her that massaging her bare hips and buttocks was related to medical treatment for the knee injury. As the referee massaged Sally, he had a creepy and lustful look on his face. She put a stop to it when she noticed the sexual gratification he got from touching her.
The referee could be charged with PC 243.4(c), sexual battery under false pretenses. Touching Sally’s bare skin around her pelvis/buttocks region was inappropriate and he lied about his medical training/actual intentions behind his actions.
Francis works at a mental institution and used his power of authority to intimidate some of the patients. The women reported to their doctors how Francis would grab their breasts, buttocks, and private area or run his hands everywhere else.
Francis can be charged with multiple counts of PC 243.4(b), sexual battery on someone who is institutionalized or severely disabled. Additionally, if he used any methods of restraint against these women, he could face charges of PC 243.4(a), sexual battery and restraints.
Hal and Vince invited their neighbors, Molly and Jess, over for drinks. Once the women had a few drinks, Hal turned up the music. He then grabbed and hugged Molly close and began dancing with her. The music drowned out her objections and obvious discomfort. Vince followed suit, grabbed and hugged Jess close, and began to dance with her. Both men held on tightly to the women, preventing them from pulling away. Hal ran his hands all over Molly’s body while Vince did the same to Jess.
The men ignored the ladies’ pleas to release them. Hal and Vince began to attempt to kiss their unwilling dance partners. The women struggled against the intimate dancing and sexual touching until they were able to break free and get away.
Hal and Vince could be charged with PC 243.4(a) and/or (e) because they forced the women to dance against their will while unlawfully grabbing, touching, and kissing them for the purposes of their own sexual gratification. Moreover, Hal and Vince restrained the women by holding them tightly and restricting their freedom to move.
PC 243.4, sexual battery, is a wobbler which means you could face either misdemeanor or felony charges. The penalties depend upon the severity of the offenseand any prior criminal history.However, do note that if any prior felony convictions of this nature existsor if the act was committed against a minor, PC 243.4 is automatically a felony.
Regardless of which penalties you face, it will be on your record. This could have a major effect on future employment, college or university admissions, and potentially impact your ability to live where you want. Attempting to face this offense alone can be overwhelming and retaining a strong legal defense will help alleviate that.
An effective criminal defense lawyer is familiar with the legal defenses that have commonly been used to fight this offense. The following illustrates only a few such instances:
Was the touching actually sexual in nature?
If the defendant touched another person’s private/intimate parts butnot for sexual gratification, abuse, or arousal, they are not guilty of the crime.
John and Gerry get into a bar fight and begin wrestling on the ground. John punches Gerry in the face and elbows him in the groin. Gerry head butts John and knees him in the anus.
Both men may have touched the other’s private areas, but the intent and purposes do not fall under the parameters for PC 243.4, sexual battery or assault.
Was there consent?
There are instances where a consensual encounter with another adult can turn sour and regrets were not voiced until after the fact. If the defendant reasonably believed the physical actions took place between two consenting adults, they are not guilty of sexual battery. However, the defendant must provide sufficient proof to present this defense.
Stacey and Vic went on a date and got comfortable in his car later that night. He began to touch her body intimately. She did not want to take the night that far, however, during the act, she did not object or say anything to his touching her. Vic reasonably believed that the touching was consensual, especially in such a case where Stacey did not communicate her dislike of such physical attentions.
Is this a false accusation? Is there insufficient evidence?
Sexual battery and assault cases can be difficult to prove, especially considering there does not need to be any physical evidence for the crime to have taken place. With that in mind, there are unfortunate cases where the charges can be filed even though there is a lack of evidence. This is often related to false accusations.
A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can question the validity of anything presented as evidence in such cases.
In a “he said, she said” case, there is no physical evidence required to accuse or charge someone with the behavior of sexual battery. Alleged victims can make false accusations out of personal vendettas, anger, jealousy, or revenge.
Could this be a case of mistaken identity and/or a wrongful arrest?
There are situations where law enforcement can act with a heavy hand without fully investigating the whole case. This is especially evident in situations where the women cannot confirm the identities of the accused. Either instance can lead to a case of mistaken identity and a wrongful arrest.
Nancy took the trolley home. While preoccupied with her iPad, another passenger took advantage of the upcoming stop and fell against her in order to grab her breasts. They quickly got up as the trolley stopped and jumped off. Unfortunately, although a crime did take place, it would be difficult to find and arrest the right person who committed this perverted act.
Several of the subsections of PC 243.4, sexual battery, have similar punishments under the law. If convicted of any of the offenses between PC 243.4(a)-(d) you face the following penalties:
- Summary (informal) probation, which includes:
- Up to five years of probation;
- Community service;
- Completing a batterer’s education program;
- Completing a help program for those with sexual misconduct/compulsion problems; and/or
- Ten-year registration as a tier one sex offender under PC 290.
- As much as two thousand dollars in fines; and/or
- Up to one year in the county jail.
- Formal (felony) probation;
- Possible lifelong registration as a tier one sex offender;
- Up to ten thousand dollars in fines; and/or
- 2, 3, or 4 years in a state prison.
If you are convicted of PC 243.4(e)(1) you face:
- Summary probation;
- As much as two thousand dollars in fines;
- Fines may increase to over three thousand dollars if the defendant was the boss/employer and the alleged victim was an employee; and/or
- Up to six months in the county jail.
- Registration as a tier one sex offender under PC 290;
- With prior convictions, a ten-year minimum registration requirement can increase to a lifetime requirement.
- This law applies regardless of the state the crime was committed in.
- If the alleged victim(s) suffered any great, severe, or significant bodily/physical injury, additional penalties may apply such as:
- 3 to 5 consecutive years in state prison;
- Additional financial penalties may apply, including, but not limited to being liable for financial restitution by the alleged victim(s), especially inregard to any bills associated (ex. Hospital bills, lost wages, therapy bills, and etc.) with the actions you committed.
Penalties for Similar/Associated Crimes
- Fines of up to two thousand dollars; and/or
- Up to six months in county jail.
PC 243(e)(1) – Domestic Battery
- Up to two thousand dollars in fines;
- Up to one year in the county jail; and/or
- A one-year batterer’s treatment program.
PC 273.5 – Corporal Injury on a Spouse or Cohabitant
- Fines of up to six thousand dollars; and/or
- Up to a one-year county jail.
- Up to six thousand dollars in fines; and/or
- 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison.
PC 261 – Rape
- Up to eight years in state prison;
- Sentencing enhancements apply depending on the aggravating factors of the case.
- A strike under California’s Three Strikes Law
- This law means that any additional felony conviction you may receive could count as a strike on your criminal record.
- Regardless of whether the felony conviction is for a non-violent crime, three strikes could result in 25 years to life in prison.
- The maximum sentencing applies in cases where the felonious act was considered severe, serious, and/or violent.
Hiring an Attorney
If you are not sure who can help with your case, contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum. Attorney Yum has a record of providing effective legal counsel for cases ranging from violent felonious crimes to misdemeanor and minor infractions.
Hire a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible, whether it is you or someone you know who faces charges for violating California’s sexual battery laws or any similar or related offense.