High-profile sexual assault allegations have derailed the careers of many well-known celebrities and politicians, so if you stand accused of sexual assault, you should already know the consequences can severely impact your reputation and livelihood. What is the legal definition of this crime, and what are your options for putting together a successful defense?
What Constitutes Sexual Assault?
California penal codes define several different kinds of sex crimes, all hinging upon the victim’s willingness and ability to consent. If you touched someone’s intimate areas for the specific purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or abuse using force or intimidation and the actions were nonconsensual, an assault occurred.
It’s crucial to note that the force involved does not have to be physical – it can also be when one person threatens another emotionally or psychologically. For instance, if an assaulter threatens to hurt their victim or the victim’s family, this constitutes an act of force.
What Are the Penalties for Sexual Assault in California?
In California, sexual assault is a “wobbler,” which means it can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the crime’s specifics and variables such as whether a weapon was involved. As a misdemeanor, the consequences include up to six months in county jail and a maximum fine of $2,000. However, if the defendant employed the victim at the time of the assault, the fine may increase to $3,000.
If a judge rules a sexual assault charge as a felony, punishments include a minimum of one year in county jail and a fine of $2,000. California state laws allow felony sexual misconduct convictions to reach up to four years in prison and $10,000 in fines and restitution. The law also requires people convicted of felony sexual assault charges to register as violent sex offenders.
Sexual Assault vs. Rape
Rape occurs when someone engages in penetrative sexual intercourse with a person who is unwilling or unable to give consent – for instance, if they are asleep, intoxicated or mentally incapacitated.
Rape is a felony, and it counts as one strike under California’s three-strikes law. According to this law, a person convicted of two or more felonies receives increasingly severe prison sentences until the only penalty left is a life sentence.
Your Legal Defenses Against Sexual Assault Charges
Because sexual assault victims are often afraid to come forward, California amended the statute of limitations to file a claim in 2020. People who experienced inappropriate, unwarranted sexual advances or activities now have a full decade to report what happened to them and pursue legal action. Due to this extension, some legal analysts have predicted a surge of new lawsuits brought by previously ineligible assault victims.
If you stand accused of sexual assault in Orange County, you should know that the police may begin an investigation based solely on an allegation, even without evidence or witnesses. Lacking proof, law enforcement officials might try to extract a confession from you under the guise of a simple interview.
Before talking to any police officers, your first step should be to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to represent you in court. While sexual assault cases can be complicated, an experienced lawyer can successfully preserve your good name in the community. To schedule your complimentary consultation with an award-winning Southern California lawyer, reach out to us at the Law Office of Salvatore P. Ciulla.