Lewd act on a minor without force, a violation of California Penal Code Section 288(a), is perhaps the most common sex crime against children that is charged by prosecutors. Why? Because they can charge it without any physical evidence. No direct contact with a minor’s genitals or any direct contact with the minor’s body is necessary to prove the offense. The alleged touching can occur over the clothes. The allegations of an accuser can be enough to charge the offense.
Accusations of Child Molestation
But just because there is an investigation into the allegations or even if a case gets filed, it does not mean that there will be enough evidence for the prosecution to sustain a conviction. Sadly, children are often pressured by other family members into pursuing false accusations of child molestation. Other circumstances in the home or underlying psychological problems can lead children to falsely report molestation. This is why if you are under investigation for molesting a child, you should never speak with the police until you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to defend sex offense allegations.
Lewd act with a child (under 14) is a very serious offense:
- It is a felony
- It is a strike under California’s Three Strikes law
- It carries mandatory lifetime sex offender registration
Let’s talk a look at the language and definition of California Penal Code Section 288(a):
“Any person who willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act, upon or with the body, or any part or member thereof, of a child who is under the age of 14 years, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child, is guilty of a felony.”
“Lewd or lascivious” is defined as “arousing sexual desire.”
A conviction of this offense could be punishable by up to 8 years in state prison. Probation is possible in these cases, but the offense does carry a maximum of 8 years in state prison. If you are accused of committing a lewd act on a minor in California, you are facing very serious consequences, and you should hire an attorney immediately.
In order for the prosecution to prove their case, they must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant willfully touched any part of a child’s body either on the bare skin or through the clothing; OR, the defendant willfully caused a child to touch his or her own body, the defendant’s body, or the body of someone else, either on the bare skin or through the clothing;
- The defendant committed the act with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of him or herself or the child; and
- The child was under the age of 14 years at the time of the act
It is important to note, that the touching does not need to be done in a lewd or sexual manner, despite the title of the California Penal Code section. Furthermore, it is not a defense that the child may have consented to the act.
If you or a loved one is facing charges or has been contacted by law enforcement to discuss accusations of child sexual abuse in LA, Los Angeles County or anywhere in the state of California, call criminal defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg in Los Angeles at (323) 633-3423 for a free and confidential consultation about your case or get in touch via the secure contact form on this page. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.