Sexual Battery

Sexual Battery 2017-12-10T11:33:27+00:00

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Sexual Battery—PC 243.4

Sexual battery in California is found under Penal Code Section 243.4. It refers to the unwanted and non-consensual touching of another person’s intimate body parts for the purpose of arousal, sexual gratification or abuse. Unlike rape, no penetration is required and the victim may be fully clothed at the time of the illegal act.

It also makes no difference if the victim is someone you are currently dating. It is also a “wobbler offense,” meaning you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony, usually depending on whether there was abuse, the unlawful touching was on the bare skin, the victim was restrained or the victim was forced to submit.

California Penal Code Section 243.4 defines the crime of sexual battery:

(a) Any person who touches an intimate part of another person while that person is unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, and if the touching is against the will of the person touched and is for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery. A violation of this subdivision is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, and by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000); or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, and by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

(b) Any person who touches an intimate part of another person who is institutionalized for medical treatment and who is seriously disabled or medically incapacitated, if the touching is against the will of the person touched, and if the touching is for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery. A violation of this subdivision is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, and by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000); or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, and by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

(c) Any person who touches an intimate part of another person for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, and the victim is at the time unconscious of the nature of the act because the perpetrator fraudulently represented that the touching served a professional purpose, is guilty of sexual battery. A violation of this subdivision is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, and by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000); or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, and by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

(d) Any person who, for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, causes another, against that person’s will while that person is unlawfully restrained either by the accused or an accomplice, or is institutionalized for medical treatment and is seriously disabled or medically incapacitated, to masturbate or touch an intimate part of either of those persons or a third person, is guilty of sexual battery. A violation of this subdivision is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, and by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000); or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, and by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

(e) (1) Any person who touches an intimate part of another person, if the touching is against the will of the person touched, and is for the specific purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of misdemeanor sexual battery, punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment. However, if the defendant was an employer and the victim was an employee of the defendant, the misdemeanor sexual battery shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding three thousand dollars ($3,000), by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any amount of a fine above two thousand dollars ($2,000) which is collected from a defendant for a violation of this subdivision shall be transmitted to the State Treasury and, upon appropriation by the Legislature, distributed to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing for the purpose of enforcement of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (Part 2.8 (commencing with Section 12900) of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code), including, but not limited to, laws that proscribe sexual harassment in places of employment. However, in no event shall an amount over two thousand dollars ($2,000) be transmitted to the State Treasury until all fines, including any restitution fines that may have been imposed upon the defendant, have been paid in full.

(2) As used in this subdivision, “touches” means physical contact with another person, whether accomplished directly, through the clothing of the person committing the offense, or through the clothing of the victim.

(f) As used in subdivisions (a), (b), (c), and (d), “touches” means physical contact with the skin of another person whether accomplished directly or through the clothing of the person committing the offense.

(g) As used in this section, the following terms have the following meanings:
(1) “Intimate part” means the sexual organ, anus, groin, or buttocks of any person, and the breast of a female.
(2) “Sexual battery” does not include the crimes defined in Section 261 or 289.
(3) “Seriously disabled” means a person with severe physical or sensory disabilities.
(4) “Medically incapacitated” means a person who is incapacitated as a result of prescribed sedatives, anesthesia, or other medication.
(5) “Institutionalized” means a person who is located voluntarily or involuntarily in a hospital, medical treatment facility, nursing home, acute care facility, or mental hospital.
(6) “Minor” means a person under 18 years of age.

(h) This section shall not be construed to limit or prevent prosecution under any other law which also proscribes a course of conduct that also is proscribed by this section.

(i) In the case of a felony conviction for a violation of this section, the fact that the defendant was an employer and the victim was an employee of the defendant shall be a factor in aggravation in sentencing.

(j) A person who commits a violation of subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d) against a minor when the person has a prior felony conviction for a violation of this section shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years and a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Defining the Elements of Sexual Battery

  • Touching

This means making physical contact with usually the other person’s intimate area either directly or through the person’s clothing.

  • Intimate body part

An intimate body part is the buttocks, anus, breast or sexual organ.

  • Without the other person’s permission or against their will

Consent or permission is doing so willfully and voluntarily and knowing the nature of the act. Falsely representing to the victim that the touching was necessary for a professional reason, usually for “therapeutic purposes,” does not mean the victim has consented. It can also be felony sexual battery.

  • Sexual abuse

Abuse refers to your intent to physically harm someone, intimidate them or to humiliate them. This circumstance is usually charged as felony sexual battery.

  • Unlawful restraint

Unlawfully restraining someone means more than tying someone up or handcuffing them. You can unlawfully restrain someone by your words, acts or by your position of authority. This includes law enforcement, prison guards, teachers, athletic coaches, therapists or others. You can restrain someone by blocking the person’s means of exit or escape from the situation or by threatening violence if the person does not submit. This situation can be charged as a felony.

Charged as an Accomplice

If you claim that you were not the perpetrator or did not participate in the battery, you can still be held as culpable as the true offender if you:

  • Knew the perpetrator was committing an unlawful act, and
  • You aided, facilitated, promoted, encouraged or instilled the commission of the sexual act, or
  • You participated in a joint act (conspiracy) to commit the sexual battery

This act was designed to punish persons who cheer on the assault, help restrain the victim or convince the victim to consent to the sexual battery by falsely representing that it was for a professional reason.

Difference between Misdemeanor and Felony (Aggravated) Sexual Battery

To be charged with felony or aggravated sexual battery, there are certain aggravating factors:

  • Unwanted touching of another’s intimate part on the bare skin
  • Sexually abusing the victim
  • Unlawfully restraining the victim
  • The victim is institutionalized for a medical reason and is medically disabled or incapacitated
  • The person is unaware of the nature of the act because of a false representation that the touching served a professional purpose

You could also be charged with felony or aggravated sexual battery if in any of the above situations, you forced the victim to touch an intimate part on you, to masturbate or to touch the intimate part of someone else.

Examples of misdemeanor sexual battery are brushing up against someone’s intimate part if clothed, or by fondling someone’s buttocks or breast over their clothing on a bus or office.

Legal Defenses to Sexual Battery

Similar to a rape charge, the most common defense to sexual battery is that the victim willingly and voluntarily consented to the touching. As the defendant, you must have had an honest and reasonable belief that the victim voluntarily consented. Victims have to prove that they clearly and unequivocally conveyed or communicated their lack of consent to the defendant.

The lack of evidence is another defense. Absent witnesses or signs of restraint, abuse or injury, it may be a matter of one person’s word against another.

Penalties for Sexual Battery

If charged as a misdemeanor, you face the following:

  • Up to 180 days in county jail
  • A maximum fine of $2000, or $3000 if the victim was the defendant’s employee
  • Summary probation for up to 5 years and including community service, completion of a batterer’s education program or a program for sexual abuse or compulsion issues
  • Possible registration as a sex offender

If charged with felony or aggravated sexual battery, the penalties are:

  • Formal probation
  • 2,3 or 4 years in state prison
  • If the victim suffered great bodily injury, an additional 3 to 5 years in prison
  • A fine up to $10,000
  • Registration as a sex offender

Because the offense is a wobbler, the prosecutor could choose to charge you with a misdemeanor even if one of the aggravating factors exists.

Consult a California Criminal Defense Attorney

Sexual battery is a serious crime. Even if you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you could still be required to register as a sex offender. As a result, you will face major obstacles in seeking employment, housing, enrolling in school, traveling, or obtaining a professional license. Promptly consult a California criminal defense lawyer if you are charged with sexual battery or any other sex-related offense.