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Arrested for Child Molestation in Silicon Valley or the Peninsula?
California criminal laws regarding child molestation can be confusing and on this page we will explain some of the nuances of the laws surrounding this crime. There are different types of molestation offenses and some do not even include the term “molestation”. However, you should know that any allegations of a sexual crime involving a child has the potential to have serious and lasting consequences.
The attorneys at The Law Office of James Dunn have handled child molestation cases for almost 20 years. In these cases we’ve often found that it’s a “he said/she said” situation where the evidence is murky and false accusations are common. Whether or not you have been wrongfully accused, your first call after an arrest should be to a criminal defense attorney who has experience defending against charges of sexual crimes involving children.
These cases are sensitive and need to be handled with discretion. Prosecutors often go after the maximum possible conviction and sentence. For that reason, you need an expert litigator who will protect your rights in court and help you fight against a wrongful conviction or overly harsh penalties.
What is the Considered to be “Annoying or Molesting” a Child in Courts in San Mateo or San Jose?
The offense in California that actually mentions “molesting” a child may have a different definition than you may imagine. Most people may equate molestation with sexual touching or sexual abuse. However, in order to be charged and convicted of annoying or molesting a child, you never even have to touch the victim in question.
Instead, California Penal Code 647.6 PC (PC647.6) describes the offense as:
- Engaging in conduct with sexual motivations related to children; and
- The conduct is likely to be seen by the child or to irritate or disturb them.
For the purposes of this offense, “child” refers to anyone under the age of 18 years old. This type of annoying or molesting can involve asking sexually explicit questions of a child, performing sexual acts near a child, and similar conduct.
Generally speaking, this offense is prosecuted as a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in jail. However, if the prosecutor believes that you trespassed into a building or home to engage in this conduct, you may be charged with a felony offense. In addition, if you have a prior felony conviction of this offense or a related offense involving a minor, you can face felony charges and up to one year in California state prison.
As with any crime, however, there are many ways that an experienced defense lawyer can help you avoid these penalties or even avoid conviction altogether.
What Does it Mean if I am Charged with Lewd Acts on a Child?
The offense of “Lewd Acts on a Child” under Penal Code 288 PC is closer to what you may believe to be the traditional definition of child molestation. This offense involves:
- Touching a child on their body (does not have to be on their sexual organs and can be through their clothing);
- For a sexual purpose.
The penalties for this form of child molestation can be more severe and largely depend on the age of the child. For example, if the alleged victim was:
- A child under 14 – A serious felony charge with up to eight years in prison. The prison time can be extended if the offender used force (then up to 10 years) or if there was a pattern of molestation (up to 16 years).
- A child age 14 or 15 and the offender was at least ten years their senior – If these cases, the maximum penalty is three years in prison.
- For minors older than 15, the charges would likely be for a different offense, such as statutory rape.
It is important to realize that serious felony charges also come with an array of additional consequences, including counting as a strike for the Three Strikes Law and being ineligible for many professional opportunities. Because of the very serious potential consequences of a conviction, it is imperative that you contact a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer who knows how to defend against this charges of lewd acts on a child.
Will I Face Sex Crime Registration in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties?
If you are convicted of a California child molestation offense, in addition to imprisonment, you will further be required to register as a sex offender with the state of California for your lifetime. Sex offender register makes your name, convictions, address, photo, and other personal information publicly accessible online to anyone who conducts a search.
Not surprisingly, having to register as a sex offender can substantially impact your ability to get a job, be accepted to educational programs, obtain or maintain a professional license, or even to get an apartment. For these reasons, you want to avoid sex offender registration requirements whenever possible and our firm will do everything possible to help you avoid registration.
While registration will be required for all felony child molestation convictions, an attorney can request to have you excluded from the requirement is you are being convicted or pleading guilty to misdemeanor annoying or molesting a child under Penal Code 647.6 PC.
How Can a San Jose Child Molestation Defense Lawyer Help Me?
Helping you avoid sex offender registration whenever possible is only one of many ways a qualified defense lawyer can assist you throughout a child molestation case. There are different ways to defend against this type of charge, including the following:
- You were falsely accused of molestation by either the child or their parent;
- The child is confused about what happened or about which adult committed the molestation;
- The contact with the child was accidental;
- Any touching of the child was not sexually motivated.
Many cases involving children can also involve false allegations for a variety of reasons, including confusion on the child’s part or coercion by another adult. An experienced attorney will work to present any possible defense in your case to fight against wrongful conviction. Your attorney can also negotiate for a plea bargain with the prosecutor so you can have greater control over the consequences if you decide to plead guilty.
Overall, a criminal defense lawyer will work to minimize your consequences as much as possible and to have your case completely dropped whenever possible.