In 2014, California became the first state to establish that “yes means yes” in a sexual assault case. This idea differs from the formerly accepted “no means no” in that the parties must “affirmatively consent” to have sex with each other.
If one party does not consent, then the other may be charged with sexual assault, which is typically charged as a sexual battery in the State of California.
The Inability to Give Consent
The “yes means yes” clarification has been established to protect those who are unable to actively say “no.” In other words, a person who is incapable of saying no should not be misinterpreted as voicing their consent simply because they didn’t say no. Those who are unable to actively consent to sexual contact are defined as:
- Mentally defective – Those who are “mentally defective” are either unable to understand that a sexual act is occurring or the consequences they could suffer as the result of such an act.
- Mentally incapacitated – Those who are considered “mentally incapacitated” are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and cannot give consent, or are unaware that a sexual act is being done to them.
- Physically helpless – The “physically helpless” are those who are unconscious or otherwise physically unable to communicate that they do not consent or that a sexual act is taking place.
- Under 18 – Unless a minor is married to the alleged assailant, then they can not legally consent to sex with an adult. Even if the minor says “yes,” the other party can still face charges.
In the state of California, the law says that consent can be revoked at any time. This means that if, for example, a woman agrees to have sex and then changes her mind, her partner must abide by her wishes – even if they are in the middle of the act.
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Legal Definition of Sexual Assault in California
In the state of California, sexual assault is defined as the unwanted touching of another person’s intimate body parts. Intimate body parts are defined by the California Penal Code as a person’s:
- Sexual organs
- Female breast
When sexual assault escalates into unwanted sexual intercourse, this is legally defined as rape. A rape charge carries much higher penalties than sexual assault, with up to 13 years in prison for the rape of a child under the age of 14. If you have been charged with rape, our experienced Los Angeles sex crimes lawyers at the Simmrin Law Group can help.
California Penal Code 261.6
The definition of consent is laid out in California Penal Code 261.6. This penal code states that a person must act freely and voluntarily with knowledge of the nature of the act in order to give consent. It also states that a marital or sexual relationship does not expressly imply consent.
Consent as a Defense
One of the most common defenses used in sexual assault cases is that of consent. Despite several laws that aim to clarify legal consent and its limitations, there remains much confusion over this issue. One of the most difficult things for a jury to give an informed decision about in most sexual assault cases is whether or not consent was given.
Unfortunately, since there are often no witnesses to cases of sexual assault, it simply comes down to the word of the plaintiff versus the defendant. This often gives an advantage to the defense since the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. For the jury to convict, the prosecution must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
California continues to try to reform the laws regarding this issue to protect victims of sexual assault. However, it remains a tricky area to prosecute in many cases. These cases are often fraught with emotion, and jurors struggle to try and determine the correct course of action to take.
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Proving a Sexual Assault Case
Proving a case of sexual assault when no witnesses were present can be difficult. There may be evidence that a sexual act transpired, but it can be a challenge to prove that it occurred without consent. In order for the prosecution to prove a sexual assault case, there are several elements that must be established.
The first is that unwanted sexual contact occurred while the victim was unable to escape. This contact can occur directly (skin to skin) or indirectly (over the clothes). Also, the defendant can be found guilty even if they were not the one to restrain the victim.
The prosecution must then be able to prove that the victim did not consent to the contact. Finally, it must be shown that such contact was made for a sexual purpose, whether it be for sexual gratification, arousal, or to purposefully abuse the victim.
If the victim was touched for a purpose other than a sexual one, then the prosecution may have a tougher time proving sexual assault. An example would be if the touching occurred during a physical examination. At the Simmrin Law Group, we have the experience and legal expertise necessary to fight a case that may otherwise seem like a slam dunk for the prosecution.
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The Penalties for Sexual Assault
In the state of California, sexual assault can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony under the state’s sexual battery laws. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the defendant can receive up to one year imprisonment in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. The fine may be increased by an additional $1,000 if the victim was an employee of the defendant’s.
On the other hand, if sexual assault is charged as a felony in the state of California, both of these punishments can increase exponentially. A felony sexual assault charge can send fines soaring up to $10,000 and carry a prison term of as long as four years.
Don’t face a situation like this on your own. Let the Simmrin Law Group help provide you with the best possible defense so you can fight back against the threats of hefty fines and potential imprisonment.
Fight For Your Freedom
Have you been charged with sexual assault? Even if you are innocent of the crime for which you have been accused, the system may be working against you. Our Los Angeles criminal defense team has decades of experience helping clients just like you fight similar charges.
You can fill out our online contact form or give us a call to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced lawyer at the Simmrin Law Group. Let us help you fight!