About California Sex Crimes

Pride Legal - Attorneys for the LGBT Community

Legal Definitions of Various Sex Crimes in California

Child Molestation

The Department of Justice defines child molestation as “contacts or interactions such as inappropriate physical contact between a child and adult where the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator”. Child molestation is a very serious crime and often comes with a lifetime of stigma and a potential lifetime in prison.

Child Pornography

Child pornography is defined as any depiction of a minor who is engaged in a sexual or sexually related activity. Child pornography is typically found in pictures, videos, or computer-generated content.


California law defines prostitution as the exchange of money or any other form of compensation. Considered to be “the world’s oldest profession”, prostitution is a common but serious crime under California law. Its legality is often a topic of debate and controversy.

Public Indecency

Public indecency refers to acts involving nudity or sexual conduct in public for the purpose of arousal, offend, or shock. One involved in public indecency could be charged with indecent exposure or lewd conduct. An individual convicted of public indecency must register as a sex offender for a minimum of 10 years.


Rape is known as sexual intercourse without the consent of another individual, regardless of his or her gender, and is often achieved through threats, force, or fraud. When people think of rape, the first thing that often comes to mind is utilizing physical force. However, rape can be charged under circumstances that do not involve physical force. The defendant can also be accused of rape under circumstances such as when the victim is overly intoxicated, physical or mental disability of the victim, as well as incapacity on the victim’s part.

The most common types of rape are date rape and marital rape, which fall under forcible rape. Forcible rape involves the victim being forced into sexual intercourse with the perpetrator. Date rape involves sexual intercourse without the consent of another individual in a social setting (i.e. the victim and rapist are on a date), or when the rapist drugs the victim with the intention to engage in unlawful sexual intercourse. Marital rape involves the rape of an individual by his or her marital partner.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is defined as unwanted sexual touching of another’s intimate parts. Areas included in intimate parts are the victim’s “sexual organ, anus, groin, or buttocks of any person, and the breast of a female.”

Statutory Rape

In California, statutory rape involves sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 18. Regardless of consent, sex with a minor is always considered to be statutory rape because minors are statutorily unable to consent to sex.

Elements of Sex Crimes in California

Child Molestation

  1. The defendant engaged in conduct directed at a child
  2. A normal person, without hesitation, would have been disturbed, irritated, offended, or injured by the defendant’s conduct
  3. The defendant’s conduct was motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in the child
  4. AND the child was under the age of 18 when the conduct occurred.

Child Pornography

  1. Send, cause to be sent, or make a sexual image or video recording of a person under eighteen; AND,
  2. Share, exhibit, or exchange the material with, or sell or distribute it to, another person; AND,
  3. Know that the material presents someone under the age of eighteen in a sexual situation.


  1. The prosecutor must show that the defendant had a specific intent to engage in prostitution — specifically, the defendant must have intended to participate in a lewd act in exchange for compensation.
  2. The defendant and the other participant must have formed an agreement to carry out the intent to engage in prostitution.
  3. The prosecutor must also show an act performed by the defendant reflecting the defendant’s agreement to engage in prostitution. For example, the prosecutor might present evidence that the defendant got into the other participant’s car.

Public Indecency

  1. That the defendant intended to direct public attention to the defendant’s genitals; or
  2. That the defendant wanted to achieve sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual affront from his or her public exposure.


  1. The defendant used physical force, intimidation, duress, or threats;
  2. The victim reacted due to fear of immediate bodily injury or injury to another person;
  3. The victim lacked the capacity to consent (developmental delay, physical disability, intoxication)
  4. The victim was unconscious, asleep, or otherwise unaware that sexual intercourse was happening;
  5. The defendant induced sexual intercourse by making a fraudulent representation

Sexual Assault

  1. The defendant touched the victim’s intimate parts while the victim was restrained by the defendant or another person. The touching may occur through direct contact with the victim’s skin or indirect contact through the victim’s clothing.
  2. The touching was against the victim’s will. The prosecutor must establish that the victim did not consent to the contact.
  3. The defendant intended to engage in the unwanted touching for the purpose of sexual gratification, sexual arousal, or sexual abuse.

Statutory Rape

  1. Sexual intercourse with a child under the age of consent.

Potential Penalties of Sex Crimes

Child Molestation

Child molestation penalties vary based on factors such as the age of the child, the use of force or threats, and if the sexual activity was continuous. If

  1. The child was under 14, but no force was used
  • 3, 6, or 8 years in a state prison
  • Maximum fine of $10,000
  1.  The child was under 14 and force was used
  • 5, 8, or 10 years in a state prison
  • Maximum fine of $10,000
  1.  The child was under 14 and bodily harm was inflicted
  • Up to life in prison
  1. The perpetrator was a habitual sex offender
  • 25 years to life in prison

Child Pornography

  1. Possession:
  • Maximum fine of $2,500
  • Up to 1 year in county prison
  • 2, 4, or 6 years in county prison (if a registered sex offender)
  1. Distribution
  • Maximum fine of $2,000
  • Up to 1 year in prison
  • Maximum fine of $50,000 (if the defendant has been convicted on a similar charge)


  • Up to 6 months in county jail
  • Maximum fine of $1,000

Public Indecency

  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • Fine of up to $1,000
  • Minimum 10-year duty to register as a sex offender


  • 3, 6, or 8 years in state prison
  • 9,11, or 13 years in state prison (if the victim is under 14 years of age)
  • 7, 9, or 11 years in state prison (if the victim is a child over 14 years of age)
  • Additional sentencing based on other factors

Sexual Assault


  • Maximum fine of $2,000
  • Up to 6 months in county prison
  • Maximum fine of $3,000 (if the defendant was the victim’s employer)


  • 2, 3, or 4 years in prison
  • Maximum fine of $10,000

Know Your Rights About Sex Crimes

  1. There are statutes of limitations for various sex crimes.
  2. Gather as much evidence as possible. Sex crime cases are often based on “he said she said” evidence. Concrete evidence will greatly help you.
  3.  Invoke your 5th amendment rights (don’t speak to authorities until you have a lawyer present).
  4. Although you have rights and should exercise them, do not obstruct police investigations. This will only harm you.
  5. Most importantly, hire an experienced attorney. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.

Contact a California Gay and Lesbian Rape Defense Attorney through Pride Legal today.














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