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Lewdness with a Minor: Warning Signs, Legal Protections & Resources

“Lewdness with a minor” refers to a criminal act involving inappropriate sexual behavior with a child under a specific age, which varies by jurisdiction. This term typically encompasses actions that are meant to sexually arouse either the perpetrator or the minor, or behaviors that are of a clearly sexual nature and deemed morally and legally inappropriate.
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What is “Lewd Acts With a Minor?”

In California, lewd acts with a minor is defined under Penal Code 288 PC as:

  • Touching a child under 14 on any area of their body for sexual pleasure. This means that an offender can be convicted of “Lewd acts” even if said touching was over the clothing or not around the genitals.
  • A child under 16 touching someone else for the purpose of the adult’s sexual pleasure, per the adult’s insistence.

According to Helfend Law Group, it’s important to emphasize that, in order to qualify as lewd acts with a minor, the incident must be done for the adult’s sexual gratification. In other words, if an adult inadvertently touches a minor on a sensitive area, then it is not lewd acts with a minor [1.].

Penalties for Lewd Acts With a Minor

Lewd Acts on a Child Under California Penal Code 288(a)

Under California Penal Code 288(a), committing lewd acts on a child is a felony offense. Those found guilty can face up to eight years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Moreover, the court may impose an additional fine up to $10,000, with proceeds supporting the Victim-Witness Assistance Fund to aid child sexual exploitation and abuse victim counseling centers and prevention programs.

Sex Offender Registration Requirements Under CPC §290(c)

Conviction under CPC §288(a) requires Sex Offender registration. Current law dictates that those convicted of Lewd Acts under Section (a) must register with the state for the duration of their lives. However, in 2021 this will change; those convicted once of Lewd Acts On A Child will be “Tier 2” offenders required to register for at least twenty years. Subsequent convictions will yield a “Tier 3” designation, requiring lifetime Sex Offender registration.

Possibility of Sentence Suspension

Sentences under Section 288(a) may be suspended pending a psychological evaluation. If the evaluation indicates the individual is unlikely to re-offend, the court may opt for probation, allowing the sentence to be served outside of incarceration.

Other Related Offenses and Penalties

  • Lewd Acts With Force or Fear and as a Caretaker (CPC §288(b)(1) and §288(b)(2)): Committing lewd acts on a child using force or fear, or as a caretaker of a dependent person, could result in up to ten years in state prison, alongside potential fines.
  • Lewd Acts Resulting in Injury (CPC §667.61(d)(7)): If a child under fourteen is injured during the act, the penalty can escalate to a life sentence and a fine up to $10,000.
  • Inflicting Harm While Committing Lewd Acts (CPC §288(i)(1) and §12022.8): Causing harm or great bodily injury to a child under fourteen during such acts can lead to a life sentence or additional years per count, respectively, plus a fine up to $10,000.
  • Lewd Acts on a Child Aged Fourteen or Fifteen (CPC §288(c)(1)): If there is a ten-year age difference between the offender and a victim aged fourteen or fifteen, the offense can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. A felony may result in up to three years in state prison and a $10,000 fine, while a misdemeanor could lead to one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine.

Registration as a Sex Offender for Convictions Under §288(c)(1)

Conviction under §288(c)(1) mandates sex offender registration, regardless of whether the charge was a misdemeanor or felony.

Special Considerations for Minor Victims Aged Sixteen or Seventeen

Lewd or lascivious acts involving minors aged sixteen or seventeen are not prosecuted under CPC §288. However, individuals with prior sex offense convictions facing new charges under this section could also face prosecution under California’s Habitual Sex Offender Law (CPC §667.71(b)), potentially resulting in a life sentence.

Being accused of lewd acts with a minor, as defined under California Penal Code 288, can severely impact your reputation and career. Such allegations are serious, with prosecutors often pursuing these cases vigorously. A competent criminal defense attorney can meticulously examine the details of your case to craft an effective defense strategy. Here are several defense approaches that might be used:

Accidental Touching
For a conviction of lewd acts with a minor, it must be proven that there was willful touching of the minor or that the minor was coerced into touching themselves or someone else. A viable defense could be that any contact was purely accidental, not intentional, thus negating the willful element required for a conviction.

Lack of Sexual Intent
The nature of the touch plays a critical role in these cases. To be classified as lewd, the touch must have been intended to sexually arouse or gratify either party involved. If it can be demonstrated that there was no intent to derive sexual gratification from the touch, and it was non-sexual in nature, this could effectively counter the allegations of lewd conduct.

Questioning the Accuser’s Credibility
The prosecutors mostly depend on the word of the accuser especially when there is no physical evidence. Your attorney will, therefore, have to collect evidence from different sources including subpoena school records, social networking accounts and emails. This will be used to prove whether the accuser had any hatred for you. Interviews can also be conducted with teachers, schoolmates, and friends in order to find out if might have a history of false allegations.

Each of these defense strategies requires a thorough investigation and a nuanced understanding of the law, emphasizing the importance of having a skilled defense attorney who can navigate the complexities of such sensitive cases.

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