Sex Crimes

An accusation of a sex crime can be damaging to your reputation and career and can affect your daily life and that of your friends and relatives. You may need the help of a criminal defense attorney to collect evidence and prepare a solid defense for your case. LA Criminal Defense Attorney has attorneys who are experienced in handling sex crimes in Los Angeles and can help you to navigate the situation and increase your chances of winning the case.

Important Definitions

The following terms are common in sex crime cases:

Duress: duress is a direct or implied threat of force or violence which is sufficient to coerce the victim into performing acts they would not have performed under normal circumstances. In proving duress, prosecutors may take into account the age of the victim and the relationship with the defendant.

Menace: a menace is a threat, declaration, or an act that implies the defendant will inflict harm on the victim.

Minor: a person below the age of 18.

Consent: positive cooperation in act or attitude in the exercise of free will.

What Is a Sex Crime?

A sex crime is any sexual act against another person committed without the consent of the person (the victim). Sexual crimes can also fall under sexual acts that are considered morally wrong by society. A sex crime can be committed against any person regardless of their age, gender, status, or origin.

Various sex crimes differ depending on their specific elements of crimes as discussed below.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault includes all sexual acts committed without the explicit consent of the victim. It involves actions such as attempted rape, fondling, forcing the victim to perform sexual acts, and rape. Often, sexual assault offenders take advantage of a vulnerability in the victim. They may sometimes use force, coercion, and bribery to assault the victim. The most common victims of sexual assault are children and elderly persons. Sexual assault on a child is called child sexual abuse. On the other hand, elderly sexual abuse occurs when the perpetrator takes advantage of the elder’s frailty, reduced functionality, and weakness to assault them sexually.

Under PC 243.4, sexual assault attracts the following fines and imprisonment terms depending on the circumstances of the crime:

  • Touching the intimate parts of a person who is institutionalized for treatment or due to any disability or is unconscious of the act due to fraudulent representation by the offender, without their will, for sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse is punishable by a county jail term not exceeding one year with a fine of not more than $2,000. As a felony, this crime could attract two, three, or four years in state prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000

  • When a person touches the intimate person of another, without the victim’s consent, for the specific purpose of sexual arousal or gratification, is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be jailed for not more than six months or charged a fine of not more than $2,000 or both. Where the victim is an employee of the offender, the fine is $3,000

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Rape is a form of sexual assault that involves forceful penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth with any body part or object without the explicit consent of the victim. Rape covers forced sexual acts with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator. Rape in California law is covered in PC 261. It involves any sexual act accomplished under the following circumstances:

  • Where the victim is not in a position to give explicit consent to the sexual act due to any form of physical, mental, or developmental disability;

  • Where the perpetrator uses duress, force, menace, violence or any threat of inflicting harm to the victim or another person, immediately or in future;

  • Where the victim is under the influence of drugs or any intoxicating substances that compromise the person’s ability to resist any sexual activity, and the perpetrator is reasonably aware of the condition;

  • Where the victim is unconscious due to sleep, unconsciousness, and the perpetrator uses fraudulent means to misrepresent the intent of the act while the victim is not aware of that fact during the crime;

  • Where the perpetrator induces the belief that they are known to the victim, leading the victim to submit to the perpetrator;

  • Where the perpetrator commits the acts against the victim’s will by threatening to retaliate against the victim in the future through extreme bodily harm, imprisonment, abduction, or death;

  • Where the perpetrator threatens to use the authority of a public official to incarcerate, arrest, or deport the victim. Whether or not the perpetrator is a public official, the victim submits in the belief that he/ she is.

To prove a rape case, there needs to be forceful penetration; however slight it is (PC 263). Rape under PC 261 and 262 is punishable by a three, six, or eight-year imprisonment in state prison. If the rape victim is under 14 years, the perpetrator is imprisoned for 9, 11, or 13 years in state prison.

Under PC 266a, any person who takes a person without their consent through fraudulent misrepresentation is punishable by imprisonment in state prison with a fine of not more than $10,000.

Where a person unlawful engages in sexual acts against the victim’s will through the use of duress, force or menace, or facilitates the offender's act, such a person is punishable by imprisonment as defined under section 266b and section 1170(h).

Where one entices the victim to engage in sexual acts by inflicting fear, which acts contrary to their free will, they are punishable by not more than one year in county jail or state prison for two to four years.

Child Sexual Abuse

Under the law, a child cannot consent to any sexual activity. Therefore, engaging in sexual activities with a child is a serious offense. Child sexual abuse leaves a lasting effect on the child psychologically, emotionally, and physically.

Child sexual abuse covers various activities such as fondling, intercourse, exhibitionism, masturbation in the presence of a minor, obscene phone calls, any form of sex with a minor, and sex trafficking.

Most perpetrators of child sexual abuse are close relatives or people who are entrusted to care for the minors. These perpetrators take advantage of the child’s vulnerability and use their position of authority to coerce the child into engaging in sexual acts.

Where a person commits rape (264.1, 266a), sodomy (286c, d), or oral copulation (287) against a person who is 14 years or below, or is seven years younger than the offender; the offender is guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child. This is a felony, punishable by imprisonment in state prison for 15 years or life.

Incest; PC 285

Incest is any sexual act between people who are closely related by blood. The laws of California prohibit sexual acts and marriage with people related by blood. Such relations include direct family members, aunties, uncles, half-siblings, nieces, and nephews.

Incest laws also cover same-sex sexual relations between related people.

California laws prohibit incest for the sake of minimizing cases of children who are born with defects arising from such close relationships and to encourage the development of healthy family structures. Family code 2200 provides definitions of blood relations who are too closely related to engage in sexual relations.

Under California law, anyone aged 14 and above is responsible for the crime of incest. However, where an adult commits incest with a minor, the adult is found accountable for both unlawful intercourse with a minor and incest.

You can be convicted of incest if you had sex with a blood relative, knew of the blood relation at that time, and the sex was consensual. Incest is punished as a felony with up to three years in prison.

The penalties you receive for committing incest depend on whether the sex was between two consenting adults, your previous criminal record, and the degree of blood relationship.

Statutory Rape; PC 261.5

Statutory rape involves sex with a person who has not attained the age of consent. A statutory rape accusation could be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Statutory rape cases attract either a jail term or fine and sometimes both. Statutory rape can be charged as:

  • Unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is either three years younger or older than the perpetrator. This crime is charged as a misdemeanor;

  • Unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is more than three years younger than the perpetrator is either a misdemeanor or a felony;

  • Unlawful sexual activity with a minor who is below 16 years can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony where the perpetrator is 21 years or older. The offense attracts a jail term of not more than one year.

An adult who engages in unlawful sex with a minor may be liable to several civil penalties including a penalty not exceeding:

  1. $2000 for an adult who has unlawful sex with a minor who is less than two years younger than the perpetrator;

  2. $5000 for an adult who engages in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is at least two years younger than the perpetrator;

  3. $10000 where the minor is at least three years younger than the perpetrator;

  4. $25000 where the perpetrator is 21 years or older and the minor is under 16 years.

Sodomy; PC 269, 286, 288.7, 1170

Sodomy is the sexual act involving contact between the penis of one person and the anus of another person. Sodomy can occur where:

  • the victim is below 18 years

  • the act is against the will of the victim through force, coercion, violence or duress, threat to retaliate in the future, or where the perpetrator threatens to use the threat on a public official

  • the victim was unconscious of the crime

  • the victim was not in a position to give consent to the act due to physical, mental or developmental disability which the perpetrator was aware of during the time of committing the offense

  • the offender uses false pretense, concealment or artifice to lead the victim into believing that they are known to them

  • the act is committed when the victim is under confinement in state prison

  • the victim is under intoxication or influence of a substance that makes it impossible for them to resist

The crime of sodomy attracts various punishments and penalties depending on the circumstances:

  • Up to one-year in jail where the victim is a minor

  • Where the offender is 21 years or above and the victim is below 16 years, the felony is punishable by a prison term of 16 months, 2 or 3 years

  • Where the victim is between 10 and 14 years, the prison term is either 3, 6 or 8 years

  • Where the offender uses force, duress or violence, the offense attracts imprisonment for 3, 6 or 8 years for adult victims, 9, 11 or 13 years for a victim below 14 years, and 7, 9 or 11 years where the victim is a minor above 14 years of age

  • Where the victim is unable to resist due to a physical, mental or developmental disability, but both the defendant and the victim are institutionalized, the crime attracts a jail term of not more than one year

Spousal Rape; PC 262

Spousal rape involves all sexual acts by a spouse without the consent of the partner. Spousal rape is a serious felony under California law. Spousal rape can happen where:

  • a husband uses physical force to coerce his wife into having sex

  • a wife threatens to divorce or withdraw favor from the spouse if they do not have sex

  • a husband has sex with his wife while she’s unconscious

  • the act is committed under the threat that the perpetrator will use the authority of a public official

Spousal rape is prosecuted in the same way as rape. The perpetrator can use physical force, violence, duress, and threats. Sometimes, the victim may be under the influence of drugs or emotionally coerced into having sex.

Laws against spousal rape protect married couples from forced sexual activities or exploitation.

Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking is one of the human rights abuse issues affecting our world today. It involves the recruitment, transportation or soliciting of a person for commercial sex. Sex traffickers often use force, fraud, and coercion to entice persons below 18 to engage in these sexual activities. In California, sex trafficking contributes to more than 40% of the total human trafficking cases. Sex traffickers take advantage of legal businesses such as massage parlors to prey on their victims.

Under section 266j, giving, transporting or making available a child below the age of 16 for sexual acts is a felony crime and is punishable by imprisonment in state prison for three, six or eight years and a fine of not more than $15,000. In addition to the punishments, a violation for the terms of conviction under section 266j may attract an additional fine not exceeding $25,000.

Under PC236.1c, a person who causes, induces, or persuades a minor to engage in commercial acts of sex is punishable by:

  • Imprisonment in state prison for 5, 8 or 12 years and a fine of not more than $500,000

  • 15 years to life imprisonment in state prison where coercion, deceit, duress, force, menace, the threat of injury to the victim or another person, and violence.

Indecent Exposure; PC314

Indecent exposure is the intentional exposure of one’s genitals or private parts with disregard to the offensive, insulting, and frightening effect it has on others. Indecent exposure becomes a crime when done with the intent of achieving sexual gratification. Indecent exposure can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense. Under California law, indecent exposure covers some of these behaviors:

  • A female exposing their breasts in a public place to sexually gratify their boyfriend

  • An adult male flashing his genitals to females passing along a street

  • A teenager exposing his genitals to offend elderly women

Most misdemeanor charges for indecent exposure involve first-time offenses. Repeat offenses are often charged as felonies. A misdemeanor attracts penalties of up to six months in county jail and may include a fine of up to $1000. Felony sex offenders are required to register as tier one California sex offenders for a minimum of 10 years.

Sexual Harassment; FEHA 12940

Sexual harassment involves any unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances, bullying, intimidation, requests for sexual favors, verbally or physically in the workplace or learning environment. Sexual harassment also involves subjecting a person to a harsh working environment based on sex. Some of the activities that fall under sexual harassment include:

  • Unwelcome touching of a sexual nature

  • Proposing employment benefits for sexual acts

  • Visual harassment which includes the display of sexually explicit objects or images

  • Verbal abuse using sexually offensive or degrading words

  • Physical or verbal sexual advances

  • Gender-related comments regarding one’s appearance and behavior

  • Poor treatment to someone who does not conform to gender roles

  • Bullying through the use of gender-related comments and behavior

To determine whether any of these action qualifies as harassment, courts use the following criteria

  • Severity: how bad a contact happens regardless of frequency can be termed as unlawful, for instance, non-consensual physical touching

  • Frequency: when acts of sexual harassment become a regular practice, they become unlawful

  • Context: what are the circumstances surrounding the actions?


Prostitution is the exchange of money or other valuables for sexual favors as described under PC 647 b. The solicitor of the crime and the giver are both engaging in criminal activity by giving sexual favors or receiving money or valuables. Where a middleman is present, the person is punished for pandering or pimping.

Under section 266e and 266f, any person who gives or receives money or other valuables to purchase another person for prostitution or other immoral practices, against the will of the person, is punished by imprisonment for 16 months, 2 or 3 years.

Under 266g, anyone who uses force, intimidation, persuasion, or threats to procure another for prostitution or other immoral sexual acts, against the victims will, commits a felony and is punishable by imprisonment as defined under 1170h for two to four years. This includes any man who leaves his wife in any house of prostitution. The wife, in this case, can legally witness against the husband.

Any person who derives their earnings through prostitution, by another’s prostitution, by soliciting or helping in the soliciting of persons for prostitution, or runs a house where prostitution is practiced, is punishable for pimping. Pimping is a felony that carries three, four, or six years of imprisonment. A person who derives support or maintenance from the prostitution of a minor is guilty of pimping a minor, which is also a felony. This is punished as follows:

  • Where the minor engaged in prostitution is 16 years or older, the punishment includes imprisonment in state prison for 3, 4, or 6 years

  • Where the minor is below 16 years of age, the punishment is by a 3, 6, or 8-year imprisonment in state prison.

Under section 267, anyone who takes a person below 18 years from their parents, guardian, or caregiver for prostitution against their will is punishable by imprisonment and could incur fines not exceeding $2,000.

Preparing a Defense for A Sex Crime

When it comes to sex crimes, it is essential to prepare effectively for the defense. While it could be an overwhelming and stressful experience, the defendant should know that they are innocent until proven guilty and they have various options they can explore. In addition, getting help from a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer contributes to the preparation of a strong defense.

Since sex crimes can be hard to prove for the prosecutor and can result in a “he said” “she said” situation, it is important to gather adequate evidence to support your case and minimize the penalties or even prove your innocence.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer knows what kind of loopholes exist in sex crime proceedings and will take the necessary steps to help with your defense.