California sexual assault laws are some of the most robust in the country. Crimes involving sexual assault are prosecuted aggressively, and the penalties can permanently alter a defendant’s life. If law enforcement has arrested you for sexual assault in Los Angeles County, it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed and intimidated as you face an uncertain future. However, before you imagine the worst-case scenario, reach out to a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss the details of your case. Sometimes, simply knowing that you have someone on your side who is devoted to defending your rights can give you the reassurance you need during this difficult time. This post will provide a brief overview of some of the sexual assault crimes you may face and what steps you can take to exercise your Constitutional rights during your arrest and the subsequent legal process.
Sexual Assault Defined Under California Law
Essentially, sexual assault refers to any type of sexual contact or behavior that transpires without the recipient’s explicit consent. Sexual assault takes many forms, including forced sexual intercourse, molestation of a minor, incest, fondling, attempted rape, and forcible sodomy. Below are some examples of sexual assault crimes as defined by California law.
The criminal offense known as rape carries several legal definitions. Under Chapter 1, section 261 of the California Penal Code, “Rape is an act of sexual intercourse accomplished under any of the following circumstances…” The statute proceeds to list seven definitions constituting the offense, such as engaging in sexual intercourse against someone’s will by “means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the person or another.” A defendant may also face rape charges if they knew the victim was incapable of resisting the act because of an intoxicant or anesthetic substance (or controlled substance). Engaging in sexual intercourse with someone who is incapable of expressing consent, such as someone with a mental or developmental disorder, may also lead to rape charges. All forms of rape require lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Unlawful Sexual Intercourse With a Minor
In the state of California, those under the age of 18 are considered minors. Under Chapter 1, section 261.5 of the California Penal Code, “Unlawful sexual intercourse is an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator, if the person is a minor.” The severity of the criminal charges depends on the age difference between the perpetrator and the victim. A defendant who has sexual intercourse with a minor who is within three years of the age of the perpetrator will face misdemeanor charges, while someone over the age of 21 who engaged in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor faces felony charges. Additionally, those convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor may also be held liable for civil penalties. Notably, a conviction under sec. 261.5 is not a registerable sex offense.
Other Forms of Sexual Assault
Several criminal offenses constitute sexual assault, such as sodomy or oral copulation involving a minor or against someone’s will. The severity of the offenses varies depending on the victim’s age, the age difference between the defendant and the victim, and additional factors. Most of these offenses are state jail or felony crimes, carrying penalties like imprisonment, fines, and registration as a sex offender.
Steps to Take When Facing Sexual Assault Charges
Facing any type of criminal charge is overwhelming and stressful, but offenses that are sexual in nature can be particularly painful to navigate. Even though the criminal justice system believes that defendants must be considered innocent until proven guilty, the court of public opinion often condemns you for a crime long before the trial begins. If you are facing sexual assault charges in Los Angeles County, you must recognize that you have several legal rights and protections. Take the following steps to ensure your future, freedom, and reputation remain as bright as possible.
Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent
Even though you may be tempted to explain yourself to the arresting authorities or plead your case to the law enforcement officer, you should know that they may use your words to further their case against you. Instead of providing them with ammunition, exercise your right to remain silent until you’ve had the chance to discuss your situation with your lawyer. It’s always best to remain silent and refrain from making any statements that could harm your case later on.
Contact a Skilled Los Angeles County Attorney Right Away
The best step you can take in the wake of your arrest is to contact a trusted and aggressive criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney will assess the details of your case and help you identify the most strategic path forward. You can trust that your lawyer will work hard to defend your rights and negotiate the best possible outcome, given the case’s specifics.
Contact Wegman & Levin today at (818) 980-4000 to schedule a free consultation with a skilled and trusted Los Angeles County criminal defense attorney.