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Sexual Battery

Penal Code 243.4 PC  Sexual Battery Laws in California

California Penal Code 243.4 PC describes the crime “sexual battery” as the touching of someone's intimate parts against their will for the purpose of sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse. This sex crime is often called sexual assault, and it's a “wobbler” offense, meaning the prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony.

PC 243.4 misdemeanor sexual battery is an unwanted sexual touching of another, and the lowest level sex crime California law defines, and the crime prosecutors charge for the least sexual misconduct. 

Penal Code 243.4 PC  Sexual Battery Laws in California
Penal Code 243.4 PC sexual battery is touching someone against their will for sexual gratification.

PC 243.4 says, "(a) Any person who touches an intimate part of another person while that person is unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, and if the touching is against the will of the person touched and is for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery. A violation of this subdivision is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year and by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000) or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years and by a fine not exceeding $10,000."

Thus, a misdemeanor PC 243.4 sexual battery conviction is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $3,000. If it is charged as a felony, you face two, three, or four years in state prison. 

An “intimate part” is defined as a female breast or anyone's groin, anus, buttocks, or sexual organs. The “touching” in the context of sexual battery means making contact with the victim's bare skin or through your clothing. “Unlawful restraint” means restraining someone by controlling their freedom of movement with your actions or words.

To be convicted of this offense, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) you touched an intimate part of someone else, (2) you did so against the will of the other person, and (3) you did so with the specific intent of sexual arousal, gratification or abuse.

What Must Be Proven for a Conviction?

To obtain a conviction for PC 243.4 sexual battery, a prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt

  • The defendant unlawfully restrained another person and
  • Touched an intimate part of the victim's body,
  • The touching was against the victim's will and
  • The touching was for sexual gratification, sexual abuse, or sexual arousal.

The sexual battery crime defines objectionable sexual misconduct. Still, given the misconduct and its harm, judges and jurors may be more willing to acknowledge when reasonable doubt arises in the evidence that the defendant committed the crime. Any evidence lacking on any of these elements above could defeat the charge.

Criminal Lawyers for Sexual-Related Crimes

Most people are familiar with the definition of California Penal Code 261 PC rape, which is physically forced non-consensual sexual intercourse. It includes forced non-consensual sexual penetration based on threats of harm, fraud, or incapacitation that would make the victim unable to resist, such as with intoxication or use of a controlled substance.

The defining point on whether or not an act is rape or sexual battery is the aspect of sexual penetration. Rape also has other classifications in the State of California:

  • Spousal Rape – When one spouse forces sexual penetration on the other spouse.
  • Date Rape – Forced non-consensual sex upon someone who the victim knows via a social engagement.
  • Statutory Rape – Sex with a minor below the age of 18 but above the age of 14.

What are the Possible Legal Penalties?

California's sexual battery statute Penal Code 243.4 PC adds several forms of sexual battery that increase the potential penalties either to a misdemeanor punished by up to one year in jail instead of six months or a felony punishable by up to four years imprisonment in state prison.

These misdemeanor or felony crimes are “wobblers,” depending on the case details. The fines for more severe forms of sexual battery increase to a $10,000 maximum. California's PC 243.4 sexual battery statute defines these serious wobbler versions of sexual battery:

  • Touching occurs while the victim is unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, Penal Code 243.4(a) PC.
  • Victim is institutionalized for medical treatment and seriously disabled or medically incapacitated, Penal Code 243.4(b) PC.
  • The victim is unaware of the nature of the act because the perpetrator fraudulently represented the touching served a professional purpose, Penal Code 243.4(c) PC.
  • Perpetrator causes an institutionalized or unlawfully restrained person to masturbate or touch an intimate part of the victim, perpetrator, or another person, Penal Code 243.4(d) PC.

What are the Defenses? 

If you are accused of violating California Penal Code 243.4 sexual battery laws, our California criminal defense lawyers can plan the best strategy based on the case details. Often, sex charges are difficult to prove, given directly opposing testimony as to what happened. 

The crimes are also specific intent crimes, meaning the prosecution must show the defendant's criminal intent or guilty mind. That proof depends on circumstantial evidence that other circumstances or the defendant's testimony may contradict. 

Consent may also be a strong defense. Sexual battery charges frequently raise all of these fact issues, with reasonable doubt on any one of which defeats the charges. 
Police also sometimes violate constitutional rights when searching for evidence or interrogating the defendant to require suppression of evidence.

Prosecutors might be willing to accept the charge's diversion, take a reduced plea, or dismiss a sexual battery charge that appears too difficult to prove, letting the charge itself be sufficient warning to the defendant and anyone else considering committing sexual battery. Cron, Israels & Stark is based in Los Angeles, CA.

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