California law makes it a very serious offense to have “lewd or lascivious acts” with a minor who is under the age of 14. California Penal Code Section 288(a) holds that anyone who willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act with the body or member of a child with the intent of arousing their sexual desires is guilty of a felony punishable by 3, 6 or 8 years in state prison. To be convicted of this offense, the District Attorney must prove that the defendant willfully and lewdly touched the body of the child, that the child was under 14, and that the defendant committed the act with intent to arouse, appeal or gratify the lust, passions, or sexual desires of either the defendant or the child.
Any touching will suffice even if it was over the clothing. The touching doesn't even have to be of a sexual organ of the victim. If the District Attorney can show that the touching was done with intent to arouse sexual desires of either the victim or the defendant, you can be found guilty of PC 288(a). The fact that you didn't know the victim was under 14, that the victim consented to the touching, or that you were under the age of 18 while committing the act will not be a defense to the charge.
A violation of section 288(a) carries with it a possible max sentence of 6 years in state prison. On top of that, it is a strikeable offense being that it is a serious and violent felony (see previous blog for the consequences of a strike), and will require you to register as a sex offender. Worst yet, if there is evidence that injury occurred to the victim, you could be subjected to 7 years to life in prison.
It may seem hopeless for someone facings allegations of lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14, as these allegations are taken very seriously and prosecuted fairly regularly based only on the story the child tells. However, hiring the right attorney can make a big difference. An experienced attorney dealing with these types of crimes know that many times the child or victim makes false allegations solely to get attention, get the adult in trouble, or get revenge on a parent/step parent. A good defense attorney can point out inconsistencies in the victim's statements which make the victims statements unreliable and subject to impeachment at trial. Further, if the alleged touching occurred on a part other than the sexual organs of the child, there is a greater argument that the touching was not intended to arouse the sexual desires of the defendant but rather was an innocent contact.
Do not be mistaken, Penal code section 288(a) charges are very serious and even allegations against an innocent defendant can be devastating. However, hiring an aggressive, competent and knowledgeable attorney can help restore your innocence and allow you to continue to live a normal and fulfilling life.