In California, various crimes can be considered misdemeanor child molestation. In short, you may face misdemeanor charges for doing anything to a child that has sexual intent. However, California penal codes outline more specific answers to what is considered a child molestation misdemeanor.
Child molestation charges, however, are considered wobblers—they can either be misdemeanors or felonies. If you face criminal charges for child molestation, your case may incur penalties for one or the other depending on your prior criminal record and circumstances surrounding your case.
What Qualifies As Child Molestation in California?
California penal codes make it a crime to engage in sexual acts with anyone under the age of 18. Various penal codes outline the different types of crimes that constitute child molestation, and you do not have to engage in sexual intercourse to be charged with child molestation.
The different crimes that classify as child molestation include:
- Lewd or lascivious acts: Touching for sexual purposes or making the child touch themselves for your sexual gratification.
- Oral copulation: Performing any type of oral sex on a child.
- Sending explicit matter: Sending obscene media to a minor with the intent of sexual arousal or seduction.
- Annoying a minor: Harassment motivated by sexual interest in the child.
- Unlawful sex: Engaging in sexual intercourse with a child.
In addition to these acts, a person may face child molestation misdemeanor charges for exhibiting sexual language, behaviors, and interest in anyone under the age of 18 (which is California’s legal age of consent).
Sexual Language or Behavior
In Los Angeles, annoying or molesting a child refers to directing sexual behavior or language towards a minor. It does not matter if the adult’s speech or behavior is done with or without the child’s permission.
California Penal Code Section 647.6 offers protection to anyone under 18 and outlines various child molestation charges. PC 647.6 (a)(1) requires the child to be under 18 for the sexual language or behavior to constitute a crime.
PC 647.6 (a)(2) also outlines molestation crimes. The difference is the latter allows you to be charged if a police officer poses as a minor and you are found guilty of annoying or molesting them.
Abnormal Sexual Interest in Children
It is illegal to engage in sexual conduct with a child under 18 years old. It is also illegal to have an abnormal or unnatural sexual interest in any child. You can be charged with misdemeanor child molestation if you enter a house without consent to annoy or have sexual contact with a child. The definition of a “house” includes:
- An apartment
- A trailer
- Any inhabited area of a building
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Examples of Child Molestation
Misdemeanor child molestation is a “catch-all” molestation crime. That means you can be accused of touching a child but not in a way that violates other child molestation charges. Examples of conduct under child molestation laws include:
- Secretly videotaping a minor in the bathroom
- Sending sexual messages via texts or social media to a minor
- Fondling a teenager in an apartment with their consent
- Using sexual language in an abnormal manner to a child or teenager
- Kissing a child with or without their consent
- Touching a child for sexual gratification
Since sexual acts with a minor are illegal in California, consent makes no difference in a child molestation misdemeanor charge. You will face punishments regardless if the child agreed or initiated the contact.
Four Ways to Convict a Child Molestation Misdemeanor in California
If you are accused of annoying or molesting a child, a prosecutor must prove four elements. They are:
- You engaged in conduct directed towards a minor
- A normal individual would be irritated, disturbed, offended, or injured by your sexual behavior
- Your conduct toward the minor was motivated by an abnormal or unnatural sexual interest in the child
- At the time of the act, the minor was under the age of 18
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Punishment for Misdemeanor Child Molestation in California
A first-time misdemeanor for molesting a child is time in county jail, and you may receive a sentence of up to one year and misdemeanor probation. In addition, you may also have to pay up to $5,00 in fines and additional compensation in restitution charges.
If you have a prior sex offense conviction, your misdemeanor may increase to a felony. The felony is punishable by two to six years in state prison, $5,000 in fines, restitution charges, community service, and formal probation.
Registering as a California Sex Offender
In addition, the court may require you to register as a sex offender for the state of California. You must update your registration with your local law enforcement each year you live, go to school in, or work in the state. If you fail to register or update your registration, you face additional criminal punishment.
Misdemeanor Probation for Child Molestation
If you receive formal probation for molesting a child, you must follow certain conditions. These conditions include:
- Visiting your probation officer as indicated
- Staying out of criminal trouble
- Attending rehabilitation or sexual addiction therapy
- Completing random drug testing
- Allowing random searches of your home
- Performing community service
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Can You Fight Child Molestation Misdemeanor Charges?
Yes, you can fight child molestation accusations, but it can be an uphill battle. The most effective way to defend yourself is by partnering with a qualified child molestation lawyer. These types of criminal defenders can use your personal history and the details surrounding your case to prove your innocence and reduce your misdemeanor charges.
The most effective defense in a child molestation case is proving the defendant exhibited a lack of intent. While you may have committed the crime, you cannot be convicted if you did not intend to pleasure or arouse the child or yourself sexually. If you have never been convicted of a sex crime, your attorney can use that to prove that you do not have a sexual interest in children.
The prosecutor must convince a judge or jury that you committed the crime beyond reasonable doubt to receive a conviction. But if your lawyer raises enough doubt of your intent, the court will have no choice but to dismiss your charges.
Sex Crime Defense Attorneys Can Fight for Your Case
In cases as sensitive as child molestation, you want to get ahead of the prosecution as soon as possible. Therefore, if you are facing a misdemeanor for child molestation in California, an experienced sex crimes lawyer can help you protect your rights.
Lawyers from a criminal defense law firm create strong defenses to reduce or dismiss any molestation charges you might be facing. They stand with you, help you understand your legal options, and fight to protect your reputation.