Sexual misconduct is a term that includes many different sexual behaviors, all of which are illegal in California. These can include rape, quid pro quo harassment, indecent exposure, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual intimidation, among others.
It’s essential to understand what sexual misconduct is so that you can recognize it in your everyday life to prevent yourself from being accused of a sex crime. That’s why our legal experts have explained the different types of California sexual misconduct below.
What Behaviors Qualify as Sexual Misconduct?
In California, sexual misconduct refers to a range of behaviors. It involves any non-consensual behavior of a sexual nature committed through forceful actions or intimidation. Essentially, it is unwelcome sexual contact, advances, or intercourse.
Sexual misconduct crimes vary in severity and can occur whether individuals are fully clothed or not. It can occur between acquaintances, business partners, family members, or strangers.
In addition, sexual misconduct includes sexual acts as well as attempted behavior. For example, a person may attempt to coerce you into sex without succeeding, but you may still bring sexual misconduct charges against them.
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What Are Examples of Sexual Misconduct?
Sexual misconduct includes:
- Sexual harassment: Unwelcome physical, verbal, or written sexual behavior directed at another person. It typically occurs in a professional setting and can include creating a hostile work environment or demanding sex in exchange for new job opportunities.
- Sexual assault: An umbrella term referring to any sexual conduct against another person’s will. Examples of sexual assault include forced sexual intercourse, oral sex, touching, or penetration with a foreign object.
- Sexual exploitation: Taking sexual advantage of another person. Examples of sexual exploitation include distributing another party’s intimate information, profits, or recordings.
- Sexual intimidation: Implied or actual threat to commit a sex act against another person. Examples of sexual intimidation include making lewd gestures, repeatedly asking a person out on dates, or purposely standing near or brushing up against another person.
- Sexual battery: Unwanted sexual touching of intimate body party. Sexual battery includes patting a person’s butt and fondling a woman’s breast.
For example, if someone exposes themself or makes suggestive comments to an uninterested individual, it constitutes sexual misconduct. It is also sexual misconduct if someone hounds an uninterested party for sexual favors while ignoring the other party’s non-verbal cues of disinterest or discomfort.
Understanding Sexual Misconduct Charges
California Penal Code Section 243.4 outlines punishments for sexual assault and misconduct charges. The laws define assault and battery as unwanted physical contact and the touching of intimate body parts. Intimate body parts include the anus, breasts, penis, groin, buttocks, and sexual organs.
A person charged with sexual assault in the state of California can be convicted under California’s sexual battery laws.
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What Is the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Rape?
Rape occurs when a person engages in sexual intercourse with an individual who is unwilling or unable to give consent. Rape is a felony, and it counts as one strike under California’s three-strikes law. Under the three-strikes law, a person convicted of two or more felonies receives increased prison sentences until the only punishment left is a life sentence.
In California, rape is punishable by three, six, or eight years in prison. The sentence depends on the number of prior convictions the defendant received. If the victim is under 18, that sentence can increase to 11 years in prison. If the victim is below 14, the penalty may increase to 13 years in prison.
Those convicted of rape in California must also register as sex offenders, and they may face significant fines or restitution payments in addition to their jail sentences.
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How Is a Defendant Convicted of Sexual Battery?
For a defendant to be convicted of sexual battery in the state of California, the prosecutor must be able to prove:
- The defendant touched the alleged victim’s intimate parts, either directly or indirectly through clothing
- The victim did not consent to this contact
- The defendant intended to touch the alleged victim for arousal, abuse, or achieving sexual gratification
It may be difficult for a prosecutor to prove the necessary elements of a sexual battery case if the defendant allegedly touched the victim during an encounter wherein body parts are typically touched, such as during a physician’s exam.
Can you go to jail for sexually harassing someone?
In the state of California, sexual misconduct can be a misdemeanor or felony. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the defendant can receive up to six months in county jail and a maximum fine of $2,000. This fine may increase to $3,000 if the victim worked for the defendant at the time of the incident.
If the defendant receives a felony conviction, they can receive a range of punishments. The punishments include one year in the county jail and a fine of $2,000. However, California state laws allow felony sexual misconduct convictions to reach up to four years in prison and $10,000 in fines and restitution.
What if the Defendant Argues Consent in a Sexual Misconduct Case?
If a defendant opts to use consent as a defense, then they must prove there was consent. A consent defense is controversial and involves a thorough investigation from the defendant’s legal team. A criminal defense lawyer will need to confirm that the victim agreed to the sexual contact, which is impossible in some cases.
In place of credible evidence, the defense attorney may use the victim’s prior history to establish whether they have a history of unlawfully accusing defendants of sexual misconduct.
In cases where the alleged victim is a child or an individual who lacks the mental capacity to give consent, consent is not an acceptable defense under California sexual assault laws.
Know Your Rights in a Sexual Misconduct Defense Case
Anyone can face sexual misconduct charges, and a conviction can have lifelong impacts on your reputation and career. However, a sex crime lawyer can guide you through the defense process and protect your rights. Legal defenders can build a solid case to dismiss or reduce any sexual misconduct penalties you might be facing.