A former UCLA physician has been charged with sexual battery, which is the latest incident in a series of sexual related cases where trusted medical professionals have been accused of preying on college students. He surrendered to police and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office requested his bail to be set at $70,000.
James Heaps had been a permanent fixture at the University of California, Los Angeles. He worked in the student health center for decades, then moved to UCLA's medical center. In 2018, he was terminated after being accused of sexual battery of two patients.
California's Sexual Battery Laws
Sexual battery, which is commonly known as sexual assault, is described under California Penal Code 243.4 PC. It's defined as the act of touching an intimate part of another person, without consent, for the purpose of sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse.
The intimate parts include genital area, buttocks, or female breast. Contact can occur either directly on the skin of these parts or through the clothing.
Sexual battery is a wobbler, meaning the case can be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony sex crime. It's should be noted that the crime of sexual battery does NOT require you to complete an act of penetration or sexual intercourse.
In order for the prosecutor to convict you of sexual battery, they must be to prove the elements of the crime, including:
- You acted intentionally
- You touched the intimate parts of someone else
- You did not have consent from the alleged victim
- Your intent was to sexually gratify, arouse, or abuse
Sexual Battery in California Requires Specific Intent
A sexual battery case in California is a specific intent crime. This means that you perform an act and hope that there is a specific outcome. In some cases, this can be difficult for a prosecutor as they must be able to prove you acted with a very specific intent when you engaged in unlawful behavior.
Sexual battery under Penal Code 243.4 occurs when you touch someone in a sexually explicit manner with the specific purpose achieving the following on yourself or the victim:
If the prosecutor can't prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that you acted with these specific intentions, you can't be convicted of sexual battery.
Is Penal Code 243.4 Sexual Battery a Misdemeanor or Felony Crime?
Under PC 243.4, sexual battery can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony case (wobbler). In deciding on how to file the case, the prosecutor will consider several important factors, including:
- Facts and circumstances of the case, including level of harm suffered
- Your prior criminal history, including sex crime convictions
- The age of the victim
- The number of victims
- Abusing a position of power
Legal Penalties for California Penal Code 243.4 Sexual Battery
If you are convicted of PC 243.4 sexual battery, the penalties will depend on the facts of the case and whether it was a misdemeanor or felony offense.
If convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery, the penalties include up to 6 months in county jail, a fine up to $2,000, informal probation, and registration as a sex offender under California Penal Code Section 290.
If convicted of felony sexual battery, the penalties include up to four years in a California state prison, a $10,000 fine, and sex offender registration.
You could receive additional jail time if the victim sustained injuries, fear or threats were used, or whether the victim was conscious at the time of your act.
Additionally, there are aggravating factors where felony penalties would apply. For example, in a case where the victim was disabled or fraudulently convinced the touching was for a professional purpose.
Mandatory Sex Offender Registration under California Penal Code 290
In addition to the penalties described above for a sexual battery conviction, you will be required to register as a sex offender under California Penal Code 290. This is a lifetime registration requirement.
It means you will be legally required to disclose your home address, place of employment, and all other identifying information with a local police station annually.
If you don't have a permanent home address, you will be required to check in with police every 30 to 90 days. If you attend school on a college campus, you have to register as a sex offender with the campus police. Additionally, the information listed above will be made public on California's Megan's Law website.
It should be noted an experienced California criminal defense attorney at our law firm might be able to get your information removed from the Megan's Law website, or stop the legal requirement to register as a sex offender.
If you have been accused of sexual battery in violation of California Penal Code 243.4, you should contact our experienced criminal defense lawyers to review your case and legal options.
We have decades of combined experience and can help you achieve the best possible outcome on your case. We need to first review the specific details of your case. We offer a free case evaluation.