Under Penal Code § 269 PC, aggravated sexual assault of a child is defined as committing a sexual act upon a child under 14 years of age, when the child is at least 7 years younger than the perpetrator.
A conviction is a felony with a sentence of 15 years to life in state prison.
The language of the code section reads as follows:
269. (a) Any person who commits any of the following acts upon a child who is under 14 years of age and seven or more years younger than the person is guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child:
(1) Rape, in violation of paragraph (2) or (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 261.
(2) Rape or sexual penetration, in concert, in violation of Section 264.1.
(3) Sodomy, in violation of paragraph (2) or (3) of subdivision (c), or subdivision (d), of Section 286.
(4) Oral copulation, in violation of paragraph (2) or (3) of subdivision (c), or subdivision (d), of Section 287 or former Section 288a.
(5) Sexual penetration, in violation of subdivision (a) of Section 289.
(b) Any person who violates this section is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 15 years to life.
(c) The court shall impose a consecutive sentence for each offense that results in a conviction under this section if the crimes involve separate victims or involve the same victim on separate occasions as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 667.6.
Sexual acts under this section include offenses such as:
- A 47-year-old raping a 12-year-old girl
- A 35-year-old mom sexually penetrating her 13-year-old babysitter
- A 25-year-old sodomizing his 12-year-old neighbor
Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise in child sexual assault cases. These include showing that:
- the age of the victim of the offense is too old,
- the defendant is being falsely accused of the commission of the offense, and
- the defendant was arrested after a coerced confession.
Aggravated child sexual assault charges are felonies under California law (as opposed to a misdemeanor or an infraction). The crime is punishable by imprisonment in the California state prison for a minimum term of 15 years to life.
In addition, a person guilty of this crime must register as a California sex offender for the rest of his life.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. What is the definition of aggravated sexual assault of a child?
- 2. Are there legal defenses to PC 269 violations?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there related offenses?
1. What is the definition of aggravated sexual assault of a child?
Penal Code 269 PC is the California statute that says a person is guilty of aggravated sexual assault with a child if he:
- commits a certain crime with a minor (as listed within the code section),
- the minor is under the age of 14, and
- the minor is 7 or more years younger than the defendant.1
“Certain crimes” under PC 269 include the offenses of:
- rape, in violation of Penal Code 261,
- rape or sexual penetration, in violation of Penal Code 264.1 PC,
- sodomy, in violation of Penal Code 286,
- oral copulation, in violation of Penal Code 287 (or former PC 288a), and
- sexual penetration, in violation of Penal Code 289.2
2. Are there legal defenses to PC 269 allegations?
A person can try to challenge a PC 269 accusation by raising a legal defense. A legal defense may work to reduce or dismiss a charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child.
Three common defenses to Penal Code 269 charges include:
- there was no child victim;
- the defendant is not guilty of a Penal Code 269 offense; and/or,
- there was a coerced confession.
Getting the person’s consent at the time of the offense is not a defense to child sex charges.
2.1 No child victim
A defendant is only guilty under PC 269 if he performs a certain offense with a “child.” The code section defines this term as a person under the age of 14. This means that if an alleged victim is 14 years of age or older, an accused cannot be guilty of this crime.
Further, PC 269 says that an alleged victim has to be seven or more years younger than the defendant. It is a defense, therefore, for an accused to say that he was only younger than a victim by one to six years.
2.2 False accusation
Aggravated sexual assault of a child can only be charged if a defendant committed one of the offenses listed within the statute (e.g., rape, sodomy, or sexual penetration). It is always a legal defense then for an accused to say that he is falsely accused because he did not commit one of these listed crimes. Maybe, for example, the accused assaulted a child, in violation of Penal Code 240, but he never raped her.
2.3 Coerced confession
This defense applies to the situation where a defendant was charged under PC 269 following a confession.
California law states that police may not use overbearing measures to coerce a confession.
If a party can show that the police coerced him into a confession, then:
- the judge may exclude the confession from evidence; or,
- the case could get dropped altogether if the party got pressured into confessing to a crime he didn’t commit.
3. What are the penalties?
A defendant guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child will have to face:
- a prison sentence,
- registration as a sex offender, and
- the possibility of consecutive prison terms.
3.1 Prison Sentence
A violation of California Penal Code 269 is charged as a felony under California law. The crime is punishable by imprisonment in the California state prison for a minimum sentence of 15 years to life.3
Note that in lieu of prison time, a judge may order a defendant to felony (or formal) probation.
3.2 Registration as a sex offender
California Penal Code 290 PC (known as the Sex Offender Registration Act) requires certain offenders to register as a sex offender. This offense is listed as a “Tier 3” offense. This means that a person guilty under PC 269 will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.4
3.3 Consecutive prison terms
A party guilty under PC 269 may have to face consecutive prison terms.5 This applies to those persons that are convicted of two (or more) counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and:
- there is more than one victim, or
- there is one victim, but assaults took place on separate occasions.6
If consecutive prison terms are imposed, a convict must serve the prison term for one PC 269 offense immediately after any other PC 269 sentence.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three sexual offenses related to aggravated assault of a minor sexually. These are:
- lewd acts on a minor child – PC 288;
- continuous sexual abuse of a child – PC 288.5; and,
- rape – PC 261.
4.1 Lewd acts on a minor child – PC 288
The section defines a “lewd act” as either:
- touching a child for sexual purposes, or
- causing a child to touch him/herself or someone else for a sexual purpose.7
Technically, this section applies when the victim is anyone under the age of 16.8
The penalties for violating PC 288 will vary depending on such factors as:
- the age of the child,
- whether the lewd act was accomplished by force, violence, duress, or threats, and
- whether there was a pattern of lewd acts.
Please note, though, that penalties may include both:
- imprisonment, and
- substantial fines.9
4.2 Continuous sexual abuse of a child – PC 288.5
Penal Code 288.5 PC defines the crime of continuous sexual abuse of a child. A person commits this crime if he or she
- lives with, or has recurring access to, a child under 14 years old, and
- over the course of 3 months or longer, commits (on the child) three or more acts of either
- substantial sexual contact or
- lewd acts.10
A violation of PC 288.5 is charged as a felony under California law. The crime is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for:
- six years,
- 12 years, or
- 16 years11.
4.3 Rape – PC 261
Rape is a crime under Penal Code 261 PC. PC 261 defines the crime of “rape” as nonconsensual sexual intercourse accomplished by means of either:
- threats, force, or fraud, or
- with a victim who is unconscious or incapable of consenting.12
A violation of PC 261 is charged as a felony under California law. The crime is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for:
- three years,
- six years, or
- eight years.13
- California Penal Code 269(a) PC. See also CALCRIM 1123.
- See same. For example, this can include penetration of a child’s mouth, penetration of another person’s mouth, penetration of the anus, or penetration of the sexual organ of a child or sexual organ of the actor (defendant). It does not matter if it causes no sexual bodily injury, serious bodily injury, or death of the victim. It does not have to involve a disabled individual, or a deadly weapon in the presence of the victim, or date rape drugs such as Rohypnol or ketamine.
- California PC 269(b).
- California PC 290.
- California PC 269(c).
- See same.
- California PC 288(a).
- California PC 288(c)(1).
- California PC 288.
- California PC 288.5.
- See same.
- California PC 261.
- See same.