If you have been charged with the crime of lewd acts with a child (PC 288) in Los Angeles or anywhere in Southern California, you are facing extremely serious consequences that could affect you for the rest of your life. Securing for yourself the best possible criminal defense is imperative in these kinds of cases, even more so than in most other types of charges.
At Leah Legal, we have a long track record of winning for our clients accused of committing lewd acts with a child. We know the details of the law on these matters, and we have deep experience with local court processes in Los Angeles and beyond.
When you entrust your case into our hands, we give you top-tier legal advice and representation that you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. And we handle your case at highly competitive rates and treat you with respect every step of the way.
To learn more or for a free legal consultation, contact Leah Legal anytime 24/7 by calling 818-484-1100.
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How Is Lewd Acts with a Child Defined Under California Law?
Under California Penal Code Section 288, the crime of "lewd acts with a child" is defined as touching a minor with the intent to sexually arouse or gratify either yourself, the child, or someone else.
PC 288 is also sometimes called "acts of lewd and lascivious conduct."
This crime typically involves the touching of a child's sexual organ(s) or some other obvious act of child molestation. However, it can also include even touching the clothes of a child (versus the bare skin) or touching a non-sexual part of a child's body, so long as it was done for sexual gratification of some sort to someone.
What Must the Prosecutor Prove?
To be convicted of PC 288, lewd acts with a child, the prosecution must prove the following elements of the crime beyond all reasonable doubt:
- The defendant did, in fact, touch the body of the victim, either directly or through the clothes.
- This touching was done "willfully."
- The touching was also done for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification, either of the defendant, the victim, or a third party.
Note that "willfully" does not mean you knew what you were doing was illegal or that you intended to harm another person. It simply means it was done "on purpose," that is - not by accident.
And it is not required that the prosecutor prove that sexual arousal or gratification actually took place, but simply that you had the intent of producing it, for whatever party.
The Legal Process in PC 288 Cases
It is not at all uncommon for people to be falsely accused of PC 288 (lewd acts with a child) in California, and yet, even a false accusation that is defeated in court can permanently damage one's reputation.
Nonetheless, losing in court would have far greater negative consequences. At Leah Legal, we can help you through the legal process from beginning to end - as soon as you are arrested, charged, or you know/suspect an investigation is being opened up against you.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Oftentimes, an accusation of lewd acts with a child is automatically assumed true by police, investigators, parents, and others. It is thought that a child would never make up such an accusation and that he/she wouldn't even know how to describe the acts testified about.
However, there are times when a child might invent a false story (on his/her own or after being coaxed by adults to do so) in order to get a step parent or other disliked adult out of their life. It could also be in retaliation to a parent's discipline of a child or ignoring of a child. Or, it could just be to get attention or to not have to be left with a babysitter anymore.
As to the content of the accusation, if it is very explicitly sexual, it is possible that TV, the Internet, friends at school, or other sources are involved.
As child molestation of all varieties is a very serious crime, and among the most despised in our society, every accusation is liable to be quickly investigated.
And police devote a lot of resources to these kinds of investigations. There are even special law enforcement agencies that follow up on molestation allegations, and there are specially trained police detectives who handle such cases.
Sources of accusations all normally go back to the child, unless it's obvious to an adult that something happened or if there was an eyewitness to the crime.
The child might report the molestation to police, to a parent, to a teacher, or to some other adult or older person, who then relays it to police. Or, it might be reported only many years after the fact, perhaps, by someone who is now a adult.
The next step is an interview of the alleged victim by police. A psychologist and/or detective will be present and the interview will be put on audio and/or video so it can serve as evidence later. The interview must not be one in which the child is coaxed or pushed into saying there was abuse, but it must truly be the "child's own story."
Unless the incident took place long ago, the next step will be to gather medical and any forensic evidence from the scene of the alleged crime or from the child's clothes he/she was wearing at the time. If body fluids or hair are found, a DNA test will be run on them.
Another element in an investigation is often a staged "pretext call" where the alleged victim calls the alleged perpetrator, while police are listening on the line.
Also, police will search for other victims of the accused, since it is rare for a pedophile to have only one victim. These child victims may also be interviewed.
Finally, the suspect him or her self will be interviewed. An attempt will be made to get a confession or to agree to submit to a polygraph machine test. Sometimes, the interview will take place at the suspect's home; other times, in the police station. Either way, police will seek a confession or evidence against you, even if they approach with friendly words and a smile on their face.
Possible Penalties for a PC 288 Conviction
The possible punishments for a PC 288 (lewd acts with a child) conviction vary quite a bit depending on the age of the child-victim and other factors.
If the child was ages 16 or 17, the charge would not be PC 288 but would be either statutory rape (PC 261.5) or sexual battery (PC 243.4).
If the child was ages 14 or 15, and the perpetrator was ten or more years older than the victim, PC 288 can be filed. It can be filed as either misdemeanor or felony. If a misdemeanor, it is punishable by 12 months in county jail and a probationary period. If a felony, it is punishable the same as the misdemeanor OR more severely, with up 3 years in state prison being possible.
If the child was below the age of 14, lewd acts with a child (PC 288) is always a felony, punishable by probation and a year in jail OR by from 3 to 8 years in state prison. BUT, if force or fear was used to subdue the child victim, it is punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison. And if due to previous similar convictions for sexual crimes, the defendant is classed as a "habitual sexual offender," he/she could get 25 years to life in prison.
Also, realize that each act of molestation can be charged as a separate crime, even if done to the same child. This means long prison terms are not uncommon for those convicted of PC 288, because distinct acts "pile up the penalties."
Sex Offender Registration
Aside from the other penalties of a PC 288 conviction, registration as a sex offender is also required. This is a duty that, if neglected, carries its own penalties under PC 290.
Lewd acts with a child can get you either 20 years or lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Realize that the presiding judge has no authority to waive the duty of those convicted of lewd acts with a child to report to the California Sex Registry. But, the duration of the requirement can vary based on the details of the case, and a good lawyer might be able to get PC 288 reduced to a lesser charge that wouldn't require sex offender registration.
Defending Against a PC 288 (Lewd Acts with a Child) Charge
At Leah Legal, we have deep experience in effectively defending against PC 288 and other sex crime charges and crimes against minors charges.
Over the years, we have won victories in these types of cases where other attorneys failed or where they ran away from "the hard" cases out of fear of failure.
Here is a basic overview of the kinds of defense strategies we employ in PC 288 (lewd acts with a minor) defense cases:
- Credibility of the Accuser
First of all, if often is the case that there is no conclusive physical evidence and no confession by the accused. In that case, it's all about the credibility of the child-witness. We will run background checks, interview family, friends, and acquaintances of the accuser, and access email, medical, counseling, and other important records. If there is any reason that the child's credibility in making the accusation should be questioned, we will find it.
- Accidental Touching
Another approach is to show that while the touching, perhaps, did take place, it was purely accidental. Unless the touch was "willful," it was an accident and not lewd conduct.
- Lack of Intent
In some cases, the touch may have both occurred and not accidentally, but it may have had nothing to do with anything sexual. It may have occurred without any intent on the defendant's part in regard to sexual arousal or gratification.
- Child of Wrong Age
To be convicted of PC 288, the child must have been under 14 years of age or 14 to 15 years old while the defendant was 10 years older at the time. Otherwise, it is not lewd acts with a child, though another California sex crime charge might apply.
- Private Polygraph Tests
Not all polygraph tests are done by the police. Sometimes, a private polygraph exam can be done and if the defendant passes, it can be presented as evidence in your favor - not to the court (for it's inadmissible in court) but to the D.A. And sometimes, this is enough to convince the D.A. to drop an already weak case.
Mitigation to Win Probation
Though we at Leah Legal always fight first and foremost for a full acquittal or dismissal, but there are also cases where we have to resort to a "mitigation" strategy.
Mitigation has to do with fighting to get a lesser sentence for the same crime. We show that the defendant is well known to be of generally good character and that he/she acted "out of character" in this case. And we also show that the act is isolated and not likely to ever occur again.
This can often win you probation instead of years in state prison - so it's not at all a "lost" case.
Contact Us Today For Immediate Assistance!
At Leah Legal, we stand ready to assist you today, at a moment's notice, in building a solid defense against the PC 288 (lewd acts with a child) allegations you are facing.
We understand the gravity of this kind of a charge, and we know how to win the best possible outcome to your case, be that a dismissal, acquittal, or a reduced charge and/or sentence.
Contact Leah Legal today by calling us at 818-484-1100, anytime 24/7/365, and we can give you a free, no-obligation consultation and immediate attention to your case.