Review of How to Defend Charges of PC 243.4 Sexual Battery
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 basically 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.
A misdemeanor sexual battery charge is the shot across the figurative bow, the flashing warning light that complaining witnesses have reported suspicious sexual conduct.
A misdemeanor PC 243.4 sexual battery conviction is punishable by up to one year in county jail and fine up to $3,000. A felony carries up to four years in a California state prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a detailed review below for California's sexual assault laws.
What is the Definition of Sexual Battery?
Sexual battery is defined under California Penal Code 243.4 PC as:
- “Anyone who touches an intimate part of another person while they are unlawfully restrained by accused or an accomplice, and if the touching is against their will and is for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery.”
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 clothing.
The term “unlawful restraint” means you restrained someone by controlling their freedom of movement with your actions or words.
Elements of the crime
In order to obtain a conviction for PC 243.4 sexual battery, a prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime:
- defendant unlawfully restrained another person, and
- touched an intimate part of victim's body,
- the touching was against the victim's will, and
- the touching was for the purpose of sexual gratification, sexual abuse, or sexual arousal.
The sexual battery crime defines objectionable sexual misconduct, but given that the misconduct and its harm are at the lower end of the full spectrum of sex crimes, judges and jurors may be more willing to acknowledge when reasonable doubt arises in the evidence that the defendant committed the crime.
Evidence lacking on any of these elements above defeats the charge.
Wobbler Forms of PC 243.4 Sexual Battery
California's sexual battery statute Penal Code 243.4 PC adds several other more serious 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 in jail, or a felony punishable by up to four years imprisonment in a state prison.
These misdemeanor or felony crimes “wobblers” given the unpredictability of charge and result.
The fines for these more serious forms of sexual battery also increase to a $10,000 maximum.
California's PC 243.4 sexual battery statute, defines these four more serious wobbler versions of sexual battery:
- the touching occurs while the victim is unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, Penal Code Section 243.4(a);
- the victim is institutionalized for medical treatment and seriously disabled or medically incapacitated, Penal Code Section 243.4(b);
- the victim is unconscious of the nature of the act because the perpetrator fraudulently represented that the touching served a professional purpose, Penal Code Section 243.4(c);
- the perpetrator causes an institutionalized or unlawfully restrained person to masturbate or touch an intimate part of the victim, perpetrator, or third person, Penal Code Section 243.4(d).
Felony PC 243.4 sexual battery
Penal Code 243.4(j) increases the sexual battery crime from either a misdemeanor or wobbler misdemeanor/felony to a pure felony if the defendant had already suffered a conviction for one of the above four wobbler forms of sexual battery, and the pending charge is for sexual battery of a minor.
A related felony crime includes rape charges under California Penal Code 261 PC.
Defending Sexual Battery Charges
If you are accused of violating California Penal Code 243.4 sexual battery laws, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will closely review the details to plan the best strategy.
Aggressive representation can successfully defend against sexual battery charges when the evidence leaves room for reasonable doubt, or the police have violated rights to obtain that evidence.
Sex crime charges are often 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 own testimony may contradict.
Consent may also be a strong defense. The touching may not have been to an intimate part or may have been therapeutic or cordial rather than sexual.
Sexual battery charges frequently raise all of these fact issues, reasonable doubt on any one of which defeats the charges.
Police also sometimes violate constitutional rights when searching for sexual battery evidence or interrogating the defendant so as to require suppression of evidence.
Best Criminal Defense for California Sex Crime Charges
Our Los Angeles criminal lawyers know these and other defenses to the charged crime.
We have premier investigation and trial skills to undermine testimony that lacks credibility and the knowledge of constitutional law and criminal procedures to suppress illegally gained evidence.
Prosecutors may also be more willing to accept the charge's diversion, accept 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.
Penal Code 243.4 sexual battery is unquestionably a defendable charge for which the defendant needs to retain an expert defense lawyer. We may be able to negotiate wit the prosecutor to avoid filing charges through prefiling intervention.
Retaining the best to defend a first, lowest level sexual misconduct charge is especially wise because a defendant loses any such benefit of the doubt about subsequent charges once convicted of sexual misconduct, even in its lowest form.
A defendant charged with a first sexual battery has their entire future on the line. Our top-rated lawyers help clients defend charges of criminal sexual misconduct.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a nationally recognized criminal defense law firm serving people in Southern California, including Los Angeles County, Torrance, Orange County, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
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