Any criminal charge is a potentially life-changing event, but the consequences of a sex crime conviction are, in many respects, more severe than those for most other charges. Not only jail time and heavy fines, but also permanent sex registration and loss of certain civil rights, like the right to own a firearm, are at stake - underscoring the importance of facing sex crimes charges only with the best possible legal representation on your side.
California has a wide variety of sex crimes on the books, and these vary widely in the severity of associated penalties and require specialized defense strategies. At Darwish Law, we have the depth and breadth of experience to build your defense from the ground up to custom-fit the exact details of your case. We have helped numerous others accused of sex crime violations in Santa Ana, California, the whole Los Angeles Area, and beyond - and we stand ready to do the same for you!
Contact Darwish Law anytime 24/7/365 by calling 714-887-4810 for a free legal consultation and immediate attention to your case!
How Are “Sex Crimes” Defined Under California Law?
Sex crimes can be misdemeanors or felonies under the California Penal Code, and some sex crimes can be either (called “wobblers”) with the charge level varying based on the severity of the case. Everything from indecent public exposure to possession of child pornography to sexual abuse and rape falls under the very broad rubric “sex crime.”
Any criminal offense that involves sexual contact or the threat of sexual contact of any kind can be a sex crime. In general, sex acts must be nonconsensual to constitute a crime, but statutory rape is an exception, as are other sex crimes involving a minor since minors are not considered to be capable of legally giving consent. And prostitution, solicitation, indecent exposure, and some other sex crimes are not focused on the matter of consent.
Here are some examples of the most common California sex crimes: child sexual abuse, lewd acts with a child, possession of child pornography, rape, statutory rape, indecent exposure, lewd conduct in public, oral copulation by force, sexual assault and/or battery, prostitution or solicitation to prostitution, and failure to register as a sex offender. See our Web pages on individual sex crimes on this website for more information on each particular sex crime.
The mere accusation of a sex crime can be devastating to one’s reputation, but a conviction can mean years in state prison, thousands of dollars in fines, mandatory sex registration with the state for life, and more. A felony sex crime conviction may cancel your firearm rights, eliminate the possibility of expungement, and force you to reveal your record when applying for a job - making it difficult to live a “normal life” in the years ahead.
Minimum Sentencing For Sex Crimes In California
While many sex crimes can get you multiple years in state prison - even life in prison for extreme violations, California now has set mandatory minimums for many classes of sex crimes as well. Almost always, serious sex crimes require prison time or jail time - a felony sex crime automatically gets at least a year of time in the state prison system, and usually more. For rape, the minimum is 3 years in state prison.
Unlike in the past, the judge cannot give out shorter, more lenient sentences for sex crimes, like sometimes happened in the past. The judges’ hands are also ties as to suspended sentences and probation when it comes to certain sex crimes like rape, forced oral copulation, or penetration by a foreign object. The overall result of these recent changes in the California Penal Code is that many sentences will be longer and more severe for sex offenses, and the more heinous crimes will tend to be punished more now too since there has to be a proportion between the minimums and the maximums.
Sex crimes committed against those under 18 years old but at least 14 now receive a minimum sentence of 7 years and up to 11 years. For crimes against those under 14, the prison term range is 9 to 13 years. Obviously, you need top-tier criminal defense against sex crimes charges in California now more than ever - Darwish law has to expertise to maximize your chances of winning a dismissal, acquittal, or a reduced charge and/or sentence via a favorable plea deal.
Other Consequences Of A Sex Crime Conviction
Aside from prison time, there are many other sentencing elements that may apply to a sex crime conviction in California. There is a minimum fine of $2,000 for many sex offenses, and fines can rise as high as $25,000. Fines are used in part to give compensation to the victims but also are meant to be punitive. Full restitution must also be made to the victim, on top of any fine.
For felony sex crimes, you have to reveal the conviction to any and all potential employers as well. This is a huge setback to one’s career since it will be difficult to find gainful employment. And you won’t be eligible for expungement to “clean up” your record. Felony sex crime convicts also lose the right to bear arms and the right to vote while still incarcerated or out on parole. You can still vote while on probation, however, and voting rights return following successful completion of parole.
Depending on the severity of the crime, those convicted must complete parole (most serious) or probation. During parole, most rights are gone or severely limited - it is just like being in jail out of jail. You have to report to your parole officer regularly, avoid all other criminal charges, stay within a designated geographical area, and avoid all violations of parole terms or face immediate return to jail or prison.
Probation can be assigned, with or without supervision, for sex crimes not severe enough to merit parole. (The most serious crimes, of course, require state prison without the possibility of parole.) Probation is similar to parole in most ways, but it just isn’t quite as stringent and limiting.
Mandatory Sex Offender Registration
The worst aspect of sex crime sentencing, in the opinion of most, is the requirement for all convicted to register as a sex offender Under PC 290. Being in the state sex offender registry can make it difficult to get a good job, lease an apartment, be accepted for college or grad school enrollment, and otherwise lead a normal life.
In recent years, a three-tier system has been set up in regard to sex offender registration. The lowest tier is for the least severe class of sex crimes and only requires sex registration for a 10-year period. The middle tier requires registration for 20 years. And the top tier, reserved for violent sexual crimes, requires mandatory registration for life.
The California Sex & Arson Registry (CSAR) must be registered with and then re-registered with whenever there is a change of address or contact information. Also, the registration must be redone every year regardless. Any failure to register will be a crime in itself under PC 290 and can carry severe penalties.
Most people listed on CSAR will also be listed on Meghan’s List online. This allows employers, those living nearby, and others to easily access information on the identity of those with sex offense convictions living in their area or applying for employment.
Legal Strategies To Fight Sex Crime Charges
We will look at actual defenses used against sex crime charges in the next section just below, but here, we will first look at some broader strategies. By engaging in all possible positive legal strategies early on, a good lawyer can often avert the need for an extended trial or any trial by winning a dismissal or gathering enough evidence to make the case unwinnable for the prosecution.
- Negotiation with law enforcement. All too often, police arrest someone for a sex crime without knowing the facts of the case. They are interested in quelling an explosive situation and showing responsiveness to a complaint, but the guilty party (if any) may not have been arrested at all. A simple presentation of your side of the story to police can often induce them to drop the case immediately.
- Private eyes. Many times, by timely and smart use of private investigators, we can clear up issues of mistaken identity or uncover false accusations for what they really are. Combing over the alleged crime scene, cross-examining witnesses, obtaining our own witnesses and evidence in your favor, or showing biases or a history of false accusations in a key witness or the arresting officer can all help.
- Private polygraphs. Although lie detector tests are typically not allowed in court as evidence in California, we at Darwish Law know that a private polygraph test showing a good result for our client can still be useful. Revealing this kind of information to prosecutors in a timely and convincing way often convinces them to drop the charges against a client.
- Pre-trial phase. The majority of sex crime allegations in California courts never even make it to trial. And the biggest reason is what happens in the pre-trial phase. Advocating for our clients pre-trial may result in a more lenient sentence, a dismissal, or the prosecution just backing out. A pre-trial motion can also help to win the case before any trial takes place by having evidence collected illegally declared inadmissible in court.
- Plea bargain agreement. When a case can’t realistically be won outright, then the negotiation skills of the defense attorney come into play. A favorable plea deal can be worked out at various stages in the process - pretrial or post-trial. This kind of agreement may lead to a charge reduction and a lesser sentence.
- Sentencing mitigation process. This is the time when your attorney will have the opportunity to present any mitigating factors in your favor that might induce the judge to impose a less severe sentence. If you were not aware you were committing a crime, do not possess a significant (or any) prior police record, have already made victim restitution, admitted your violation early in the process, or have already completed parole/probation, then the judge may be inclined to give you a sentence closer to the minimum than to the maximum.
Common Defenses Against Sex Crime Charges
When it comes to winning the trial itself, if your case even goes to trial, there are a number of common defense strategies we often use with great success. Here are our top 5 defenses against various sex crimes allegations:
- No sexual contact. It may be the whole alleged incident did not unfold as the accuser claims. Maybe there was a fight or disagreement or you were present at the scene - but nothing occurred of the sort being alleged.
- Consensual sex. It is not uncommon for those who engaged in fully consensual sex to later, out of revenge perhaps, claim it was rape. But merely saying it was nonconsensual doesn’t make it so. And even if you at least had a reasonable belief that the sex was consensual, you may still be found innocent.
- Lack of Evidence. You are innocent until proved guilty, even for sex crimes. If the prosecution’s case is weak, we will expose that fact and show that the evidence against you is inconclusive at best.
- False Accusation. Sex crimes are among the most-lied-about crimes in the state. A completely fabricated story is not as uncommon as you might think, but it can normally be exposed decisively in the pre-trial stage.
- Mistaken identity. An eyewitness may have wrongly identified you as the perpetrator. We can bring forward evidence to question his/her testimony.
Find A Solid Sex Crimes Defense Attorney Near Me!
At Darwish Law, we are well-seasoned sex crimes defense attorneys. We know the law and the courts and how to win. Our reputation in Santa Ana, and Orange County area speaks for itself.