Child Molestation Defined by California Law
PC 288(a) or Lewd Acts Upon a Child is perhaps better known simply as “child molestation.” The charge of “Lewd Acts upon a child under 14 years,” can ruin your life, destroy your reputations, and leave your relationship in tatters.
Even if it’s 100% false, this is one of those charges of which the stigma is so bad that, once the allegations are made, others will presume you guilty, and even if you are found not guilty, the stigma still remains. PC 288(a) is also a strike offense because it is considered both a serious and violent felony.
A conviction for PC 288(a) or Child Molestation requires life-time registration and requires you to publicly show your picture and address on the Meagan’s Law website.
When you are charged with a serious crime such as PC 288(a), your liberty, your reputation, and your very existence as a respected citizen is on the line.
You need a top-notch law firm that will defend you from the jeopardy of life and limb that come with a naked charged of PC 288(a). You need a law firm that will zealously represent you. At the Law Offices of Seppi Esfandi, we have earned a reputation for tremendous results and resolution of cases.
If you or a loved one are charged with this very serious offense, do not hesitate for one moment to contact us for a free, no obligation consultation. The right advice can save literally decades of your life.
What is the definition of Child Molestation under PC 288(a)?
Child Molestation under Penal Code Section 288(a) is more technically known as lewd acts upon a child. It requires that the prosecutor prove certain “elements” beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 jurors. “Elements” is a technical legal term that can be likened to the items in a recipe. All such “elements” must be proven by witnesses or other evidence the crime to be proven by a prosecutor.
The elements that must be proven in a child molestation case include the following:
- You inappropriately touched a child somewhere on his or her body; OR
- Because of your actions, the child touched your body; AND
- You actions were done with an intent of arousing your own sexual desire or those of the child; AND
- The child accusing you of such crime was under 14 years of age when the alleged acts were committed.
What if the alleged Touching was over the child’s clothes?
It doesn’t matter if the minor had clothes on and the touching was done over the clothes. You can nevertheless be convicted of PC 288(a) even if the touching was over the clothes. Similarly, to be convicted of PC 288(a), you don’t have to touch a child on the genital areas or any “erogenous zones.” Even a touching on the face or any part of the body can be the subject of a 288(a) charge if it was done with a sexual intent. Of course, it would be harder for the government to make the case if the touching was in a non-sexual part of the body.
Can I cut a deal so I don’t have the register for life?
A conviction of 288(a) requires life-time sexual registration and there’s no way around that. However, there are lesser charges that can be negotiated that do not carry the life-time sexual registration requirement or any sexual registration requirement at all. For instance, PC 647(a), lewd conduct in public, does not require sexual registration nor does PC 261.5, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, commonly known as “statutory rape.”
What if I thought the minor was older than she was?
Mistake of age is not a defense to a charge of PC 288. Even if you think the 13 years old looked and acted as an 18 years old, it doesn’t matter for this charge. It could make a difference in a charge of 261.5, where the minor is 16 or 17 years of age, but it is not a defense for PC 288. It doesn’t matter if you thought she was older than she appeared.
What if the minor consented to the act or was the initiator?
It doesn’t matter if the minor was the initiator of the sexual act, consented to the act, or was the aggressive pursuer of the act- these are not defenses to the charge of PC 288. The defendant is legally 100% responsible and criminally liable for the sex act.
What are the Actual Defenses to a Charge of PC 288(a)?
Some of the defenses for this charge include the following:
The charges are untrue. False charges are brought all the time in the arena, because often times family members will use the kids for their own purposes, let’s say in a divorce or child custody proceeding. Sometimes the minor will make up something because they are mad at an adult for disciplining them or for some other reason, or simply because they know it will bring them the attention they are desperate for.
Lack of Intent to Sexually Gratify. If you touched a minor for some other purposes- for instance, bathing, spanking, or containing, then you did not possess the requisite intent to arouse, appeal to, or gratify the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the minor.
Unintentional Touching. If you unintentionally or accidentally touch a minor, then you have a legitimate defense to this charge.
What Kind of Proof Does the Prosecutor Need to Convict Me?
The prosecutor must provide proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt- this is the highest standard recognized by law. The level of proof must be high, and must leave someone with an abiding conviction, i.e. a very sure feeling, that you are guilty of this crime.
Many 288(a) cases are brought years after the alleged abuse occurred and there is no evidence other than the statements of the accuser of events that happened years or even decades ago. The police and detectives know this, and that’s why they try extra hard to get a statement from the accused.
The police want to trap the defendant into making a confession or a misstep to seal their case.
For this reason, it is imperative that you do not contact the police, and you hire an attorney right away. Many cases would be he-said she-said factual scenarios but for the self-defeating statements of the defendant.
Although the standard of proof is high, the allegation of child molestation is so strong, that you will need an experienced and able criminal defense law firm, such as the Law Offices of Seppi Esfandi, to defend you immediately.
What are the Penalties for a Conviction Under PC 288(a)?
Here are the most likely outcomes for a conviction under PC 288(a) for child molestation:
Life-time sexual registration: You will be required to register on a database open to the public your name, address, and date of birth. You will be required to register ever year on your birthday and every time you move or take a vacation. Failing to register subject you to strict punishment, including years in prison, even if it’s not intentional and due to forgetfulness.
Strike Offense- Conviction under PC 288(a) is a strike offense. A strike offense requires you to do your prison term at 80% of the time (instead of 50% in other cases), and also subjects you to very harsh punishment and penalties for future charges.
Prison Term- The prison term for a conviction of one count of PC 288(a) is 3, 6 or 8 years in prison depending on the Judge, your background, and the facts of the case. Most judges presume that the mid-term or 6 years is the correct sentence. Of course if there is more than one count alleged, you could face many, many more years in prison.
Life in Prison- Convictions for multiple counts of 288(a) can subject you to a maximum of life in prison. Sexual offenses are sentenced especially harshly and prison terms are usually served “full-boat consecutive” meaning you do not get discounts for multiple count convictions.
Probation- At the Law Offices of Seppi Esfandi, we have been successful in PC 288(a) cases in getting probation for our clients. It usually involves getting what’s called a 288.1 report from a licensed psychologist who does an assessment and reports their findings. A grant of probation is a much more lenient sentence than prison because it could mean limited jail time, or even none at all.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me?
As mentioned above, many times there is no other evidence in a PC 288(a) case other than the accusations of the accuser. In other words, many times there are no other witnesses, no DNA evidence, no videos, no correspondence, no email or texts. The detectives who investigate these types of cases know that and have various schemes for overcoming such uncorroborated evidence. They employ tricks, deceits, and deceptions to tempt you into making incriminating statements against yourself.
Getting your side of the story- Many times the police claim that they want to hear your side of the story, but what they really want is for you to make statements that do not add up. For instance, they can exaggerate the conduct you are being accused of, just so you will say “no, no, I only did X.” Even though you think you’re defending yourself, you’ve just made a confession to a crime and made the case against you easier (for the police).
Pretext Phone Calls- Sometimes the police will have the accuser call the person being accused while the police are secretly recording the phone call. This is called a “pretext phone call” because the phone call is just a pretext to record the accused and try to get him or her to make damaging statements. For instance, the accused might call and say, “Why did you do such and such to me?” with the idea that the accused will say, “I’m so sorry,” which is essentially a confession. This is very damaging to the accused and can make a very thin case into an uphill battle for the defendant.
Questioning you without a Lawyer Present- A detective may call you, show up to your house, or ask you to come into the station to answer questions. You should NEVER do so. You can simply say: “I’m sorry, but my attorney has instructed me not to talk to you. Here’s his phone number if you’d like to talk.” Answering questions by a detective can only hurt you. Detectives are experts and experienced in getting you to talk, and making what you say sound deceptive, false, or fabricated. You have an absolute right not to talk to the police or any detective. Hire an experienced law firm NOW to avoid any potential pitfalls!
A much better practice is to hire an attorney, and have the attorney do the talking for you. Unlike your statements, the attorney’s statements CANNOT be used against you because they are hearsay. So the attorney can tell the detective your side of the story without it hurting you, and potentially helping you.
When Should I Hire a Lawyer?
Hiring an attorney early is the best insurance policy you can have. A conviction for child molestation can wreck your life, ruin your reputation, and destroy your family. Your instinct might be to avoid dealing with it, to deny the seriousness of the accusations, or to try to preserve your financial resources. However, as the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure.” Let us help you come out of this quicksand that can suck you under. Do not wait until the police call you or charges are filed against you.
Your sex crimes lawyer can go over the entire scenario with you and help you come up with a game plan for action, including speaking to the police on your behalf. DON’T EVER SPEAK TO ANYONE IN LAW ENFORCEMENT. Your lawyer can evaluate the allegations and speak to the prosecutor in an attempt to file less serious offenses or settle for a lesser charge, or even dismiss the case completely. If you are required to go to court, the attorney will be at your side the whole time.
At the Law Offices of Seppi Esfandi, we have decades of experience successfully resolving child molestation cases. We’ve done it thousands of times, and can you do it for you as well. Our lawyers have the experience and ability necessary to help you obtain the optimal outcome in your case.
We Want to Help
If you or a loved one is being wrongfully charged with Child Molestation in violation of PC 288(a) in California, we invite you to contact us immediately for a free case review. Schedule an appointment to meet with us in person, or feel free to submit an evaluation online and we will get in contact with you ASAP. We can provide a free consultation in our office located in Century City, or by phone.
Our experienced and assiduous attorneys will be sure to fight until the end to reduce or drop your charges completely.
Call Us for a FREE Case Review: 310-274-6529