Blog

What’s the maximum sentence for child molestation in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jun 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

man placing hands on child's shoulders
The maximum sentence for child molestation in California ranges from probation to life in prison

The maximum sentence for child molestation in California ranges from probation to life in prison, depending on a number of factors:

  • The age of the child,
    • if under 14 years of age,
    • if 14 or 15 years old.
  • Whether there is an accusation that force, violence, duress, or threats were used,
  • The number or pattern of lewd acts committed.

California Penal Code section 288 states that:

A person is guilty of this felony when they willfully and lewdly commit any lewd or lascivious act upon the body of a child under the age of 14 years, with the intent of arousing or appealing to the sexual desires of that person and shall be imprisoned in state prison.

The lewd or lascivious act referred to in PC288 is the touching of a child for a sexual purpose or gratification. The touching may be done by the accused, the child, or another person.

Please note that:

  • The touching is not required to be on bare skin,
  • The touching can be anywhere on the child's body,
  • The intent of the accused is critical.

Further, each lewd or lascivious act allegedly committed can be filed as a separate charge.

The following DEFENSES to child molestation will be considered by an experienced sex crimes lawyer:

  • Any touching was accidental,
  • There was no intent to sexually gratify or arouse either the accused, or the child,
  • The accusations are false and not believable,
  • There was no force, fear, violence or duress if charged with Penal Code 288(b).

What Are the Maximum Penalties for Child Molestation Charges in California?

There are multiple criminal charges referred to as child molestation in California. The most common are: (for a complete list see https://www.shouselaw.com/lewd-conduct-minor.html):

Penal Code section 288(a), where a person:

  • willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act upon the body of a child under the age of 14 years, with the intent of arousing or appealing to the sexual desires of that person or child, and is punishable by:
    • three, six, or eight years state prison.

A lewd or lascivious act is one done with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child

Penal Code section 288(b)(1), where a person:

  • Willfully and lewdly commits lewd acts using force, fear, violence, or duress upon a child under the age of 14, with the intent of arousing or appealing to the sexual desires of that person, and is punishable by:
    • Five, eight, or ten years state prison.

Penal Code section 288(c)(1), where a person:

  • Willfully and lewdly commits any lewd act upon a child 14 or 15 years old, the accused is at least 10 years older, and is punishable by:
    • One, two, or three years prison.

Please note that this charge may also be a misdemeanor and is then punishable by:

  • Up to one year in the county jail.

Penal Code section 288(i) is where a person:

  • willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act upon a child under the age of 14, and personally inflicts bodily harm upon the victim, punishable by:
    • up to life in prison.

Please note that bodily harm here means any substantial physical injury resulting from the use of force in committing the crime.

A conviction under PC288 is also a strike under California's 3 strikes law.

Please note that a conviction for any of these charges requires lifetime registration as a sex offender under Penal Code section 290. (Certain changes occur to this law January 1, 2021).

Are there Legal Defenses to Child Molestation Charges?

Yes. Here are some of the defenses an experienced sex crimes attorney will consider:

  • the touching was accidental,
  • if touching occurred, there was no intent to sexually gratify or arouse either the accused, or the child,
  • the accusations are false and not believable,
  • if charged under Penal Code 288(b) there was no force, fear, violence or duress,
  • the accused's rights were violated, and charges should be dismissed.

What Are Some Examples of Conduct That Could Lead to Child Molestation Charges?

Examples of lewd acts under PC288 could be:

  • Jesse places the hand of his 8-year-old step-daughter on the crotch of his pants,
  • Sam is an 8th-grade teacher and gropes a student's breasts through her clothes,
  • Linda kisses the inner thighs of a child she is babysitting for the purposes of causing herself sexual arousal.

What Is Annoying and Molesting A Child Under the Age Of 18?

Under California Penal Code section 647.6,

Every person who annoys or molests any child under 18 years of age shall be punished by a fine, by imprisonment in county jail for up to one year, or by both.

This charge differs from child molestation under PC288 in that it normally

  • does not involve physical contact with a child.

Please note that this charge, while usually filed as a misdemeanor, can be charged as a felony if certain factors or prior criminal convictions have occurred.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

Comments

There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Comments have been disabled.

Free attorney consultations...

The attorneys at Shouse Law Group bring more than 100 years collective experience fighting for individuals. We're ready to fight for you. Call us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 855-LAW-FIRM for a free case evaluation.

Regain peace of mind...

Shouse Law Defense Group has multiple locations throughout California. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370