Sex Crimes Against Children

There are few topics grimmer than sex crimes against children, and few charges more serious. These charges can lead to more than jail time: they can lead to lifelong stigmatization and a loss of every major relationship in your life. Short of homicide, this is one of the most serious allegations any person will ever face. 

If you’re being charged with committing child sexual abuse, it’s vital for you to hire the best representation money can buy.

Here are answers to some of the most common questions our law firm gets about these charges. Some of this information will help you understand what you can expect in a case about sex crimes against children.

What defines child molestation?

Child molestation is defined as touching a person who is 18 or younger in a lewd manner or engaging in some other lewd conduct that is directed at a child or done in front of a child with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child.

In California, this is generally governed by CA Penal Code § 288

It can be aggravated by using force or violence to engage in the act.

What is a molestation example?

Examples of molestation include: 

• Touching the child’s genitals over or under clothing
• All forms of sexual conduct
• Conduct  directed  at a minor meant to sexually arouse the minor, or yourself
• Exposing yourself to a minor
• Having in your possession child pornographic images

What happens when someone is accused of molestation?

Much depends on whether you’re talking about a child protective services (CPS) case or a criminal case involving a district attorney who is charging you with a crime.

If it’s a CPS case then CPS will take action to investigate whether the complaint is founded or not. The child may be removed from the home. You could be asked to attend a treatment program.

Yet if it’s a CPS case, you should still reach out to a lawyer. Sometimes CPS reports the matter to the DA. If you’ve dealt with a CPS agent you should already be looking for a criminal lawyer.

If criminal charges are filed, the case will require psychological evaluations, private investigation, and expert assistance.  We will of course seek options for getting your charges dropped or dismissed or for getting them reduced.  When that isn’t possible, we will be prepared to defend you in a trial by jury.

How long is a sentence for molestation?

Penalties vary from probation and alternative house arrest to life in prison.

What is the least severe sentence for child molestation?

If there has been no prior criminal history and the conduct is minimal, then the crime may be charged as a misdemeanor. Usually, however, it is charged as a felony, which means you can receive a state prison term.

What is the most common sentence for molestation?

Unfortunately, there is no common sentence for child sex crimes.  The best result possible in these cases short of victory at trial is a reduction in the charge and a grant of probation without mandatory sex registration.

What’s considered inappropriate touching of a child?

Touching a child’s body in a way that anyone would view as being annoying, sexually motivated, or abnormal.

Is inappropriate touching of a child considered assault?

Yes. It is a form of sexual assault.

What is unwanted touching of a child?

“The child wanted it” is never a defense in these cases.

Under the law, no child can consent to sexual touching or activity. If there is conduct that is objectively sexual in nature or objectively disturbs a child, then it is illegal.

What is the common age for victims of sexual assault?

The most common age group is between the ages of 14 and 17. 

When the crime is committed upon a child who is younger than 14, the penalties are far more severe. 

What is statutory rape?

Statutory rape includes consensual sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 18  The prosecution must prove that you knew the other person was under the age of 18.  Depending upon the age of the other person and the age difference between you and the other person the charges can be minimal or serious.

How long is a statutory rape sentence in CA?

Much depends on the age difference between the defendant and the victim.

If the age difference is very small (less than 10 years) and there are no priors, the result is usually probation, with no need to worry about adding your name to the sex offender registry.

If the age difference is far greater, then you could spend time in county jail, and you could be ordered to register as a sex offender.

Difficult Questions

It’s important to realize that when you come to us for help and representation we will have to ask you some difficult questions. We ask not to embarrass you or shame you, but because we will need the answers in order to craft your defense.

  • Did you know this child was a minor?
  • Did you intend to annoy or molest them?
  • Do you think children are sometimes untruthful about these types of claims? 
  • Is the child telling the truth? 
  • Is this a situation where there is a custody dispute between parents? 
  • Does the child have discipline problems or mental health issues? 
  • Is the child in therapy?
  • Are there witnesses?
  • Did you make any statements or say anything to the police or the child’s parents that might tend to harm your case?

Please answer honestly. It is the only way to ensure that we can craft a useful defense. If you lie to us on any of these points there’s a good chance we’ll get blindsided by the DA later, which could result in you losing your case. 

Case Studies 

Here at the Cohen Defense Group, we’ve been highly successful in helping our clients resolve child molestation charges. Here are a few representative cases. 

Case Study #1

Sometimes what appears as an act of lust may be something completely different. 

Our client, an elderly man, was concerned that his twelve-year-old neighbor might be gay. He saw the boy as being like his own grandson. He touched him inappropriately, a minute-long clothed embrace from behind, but the intent was to “scare him straight.” 

This would normally be a misdemeanor offense, but in this case, the DA would not accept a plea bargain to classify it as a misdemeanor, nor would they permit the jury to consider a misdemeanor charge. 

The first trial resulted in a hung jury with no conviction.  Following that, the DA offered the misdemeanor and no jail time to avoid a second trial.

Case Study #2 

Our client is the mother of a minor female child.

It turns out her boyfriend was molesting her daughter. She was charged with aiding and abetting the abuse. 

In reality, she herself was the victim of a great deal of domestic violence. 

We were able to mount a defense: she wasn’t enabling the situation. She just couldn’t stop it because she was afraid for her own life. We helped her plea the case down to child endangerment. Meanwhile, the boyfriend was convicted for sex crimes against the child.  

Get Help Today

We empathize with the victims of childhood sexual abuse. We are aware that being a victim of such abuse sets a child up for lifelong and severe physical and mental health problems. 

 We also respect that claims of child sexual abuse can also be untrue.

You will need expert representation if you want a chance at avoiding conviction or resolving the case in a fair and equitable way. 

If you or a loved one are in trouble and require help from a criminal defense attorney, contact us today

About Barry Zimmerman

Barry Zimmerman HeadshotBarry Zimmerman has been a criminal defense lawyer in Placer County for more than 30 years. He’s handled thousands of cases, tried over 65 of them to verdict, and argued before the California Supreme Court. As a senior attorney with the Cohen Defense Group, he handles their most difficult cases, including sex crimes and murder. Barry works to ensure his clients get a brilliant defense and the support they need to move forward after the case is closed.