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What is Sexual Battery?

Posted by Sam Israels | Nov 13, 2021

Review of California Sexual Battery Laws - Penal Code 243.4 PC

Sexual battery is described as touching someone's intimate parts without consent for the purpose of sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse.

This sex crime in California is covered under Penal Code 243.4 and is commonly known as “sexual assault.”

Sexual Battery Laws in California - Penal Code 243.4 PC
PC 243.4 sexual battery is touching somebody's intimate parts for sexual gratification.

The “intimate parts” under this statute include the genital area, buttocks, or female breast.

Sexual battery in California is a “wobbler” crime, which means the prosecutor has the discretion to file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony offense.

If you are convicted on a felony-level sexual battery, the judge will normally order you to register as a sex offender defined under California Penal Code 290 PC.

A common example of misdemeanor PC 243.4 sexual battery includes a situation where a man deliberately makes contact with a woman's breast over her clothing without consent.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing more detailed information below.

How Is PC 243.4 Sexual Battery Defined?

California Penal Code 243.4 is the statute that defines sexual battery which states:

  • “Any person who touches an intimate part of another person, against their will, while unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, if the touching is for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery.”

In order to be arrested and charged with sexual battery, there is no requirement that an act of penetration or sexual intercourse occurred.

Further, even though you may be in a relationship with the alleged victim, you could still be charged with PC 243.4 sexual battery.

A closely related crime to Penal Code 243.4 sexual battery is Penal Code 261 rape.

Misdemeanor sexual battery charges are common as the language in the statute is broad. For example, you could be accused of violating PC 243.4 if you:

  • touch someone's intimate parts without consent, and
  • the purpose of the touching was for sexual gratification or arousal.

Under the context of this statute, “touching” means contacting an intimate part of a victim directly on bare skin or through their clothing.

As noted, the “intimate parts” of someone's body includes female breast, groin area, anus, or buttocks.

What Has to Be Proven for Felony PC 243.4 Sexual Battery Case?

If you are accused of a felony-level sexual battery case in California, the prosecutor will need to prove several important factors in order to secure a conviction.

These elements of the crime and listed within CALCRIM 935 California Criminal Jury Instructions:

  • you unlawfully restrained someone;
  • while victim was restrained, you touched an intimate part of their body, or you caused them to touch an intimate part of your body;
  • you touched the victim against their will;
  • you touched the victim for purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or sexual abuse.

Again, “intimate parts” include the victim's anus, groin, sexual organ, buttocks, or female breast.

For a felony conviction, the touching must have been on the victim's bare skin, or the victim's bare skin must have touched you directly or through clothing.

What are the Punishments for a Conviction?

The penalties for violating Penal Code 243.4 sexual battery law will vary depending on the circumstances of the case.

Sexual battery charges can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony crime known as a “wobbler.”

Punishment for a Sexual Battery Conviction
A felony sexual battery conviction carries a sentence of up to four years in a state prison.

Misdemeanor vs. felony charges 

A prosecutor's decision on how to file the case depends on the details of the case, defendant's criminal record, and whether any aggravating factors exist, such as any of the following:

  • whether victim was disabled, mentally ill, or incapacitated,
  • whether defendant used force to touch intimate parts of victim,
  • whether defendant falsely convinced the victim the unlawful touching was for a professional reason.

A misdemeanor conviction for sexual battery is punishable by:

  • a maximum of six months in a county jail,
  • a maximum fine of $2,000,
  • summary probation, and
  • sex offender registration under PC 290.

A felony conviction for sexual battery is punishable by:

  • a maximum of four years in a California State prison,
  • a fine up to $10,000,
  • formal probation,
  • lifetime sex offender registration.

Further, a defendant could receive an additional 3 to 5 years if the victim suffered a great bodily injury (GBI) during the commission of the sexual battery offense.

How Can I Fight Sexual Battery Charges?

If you are under investigation, or already arrested and charged with Penal Code 243.4 sexual battery, our criminal defense attorneys need to closely examine the details to determine an appropriate strategy for best possible outcome on the case. 

Some of the most common ways to challenge sexual battery charges include:

  • reasonable belief of consent,
  • insufficient evidence,
  • false allegation.

The crucial elements of the crime for sexual battery state the prosecutor has the burden to prove the touching was against the victim's will.  

We might be able to make an argument that you had a reasonable belief the victim gave contest to the touching.

How Can I Fight Sexual Battery Charges?
If charged with sexual battery, our defense lawyers can use different strategies to fight the case.

Lack of sufficient evidence 

Since the vast majority of sexual battery cases do not have physical evidence or victim injuries, we might be able to argue there is insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.

Perhaps we could use this lack of evidence argument as a bargaining tool for reduced charges.

False allegation 

In some sexual battery cases, a defendant can be simply falsely accused by an alleged victim who was motivated by anger or jealously after a relationship ended badly.

Further, it might be possible to persuade the prosecutor not to file formal criminal charges by a process known as prefiling intervention.

Cron, Israels & Stark is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm that represents people charged with misdemeanor or felony crimes throughout Southern California.

We have two office locations in Los Angeles County. We offer a free case evaluation by calling (424) 372-3112, or contact us online.

About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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