California “Sexual Battery” Laws – Penal Code 243.4 PC

In California, sexual battery is charged under penal code 243.4 pc making it a crime to touch the intimate body part of another without their consent for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.

The touching may be accomplished directly, through the clothing of the defendant or the accuser. Moreover, there is no requirement that the touching require skin contact.[1] An intimate body part of another is:

  • a female’s breast,
  • anus,
  • groin,
  • sexual organ,
  • Buttocks.[2]

Sexual battery can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. If the defendant restrained the purported victim, then the prosecutor can charge the defendant with felony sexual battery. Misdemeanor sexual battery occurs when the defendant did not restrain their accuser.

What Is The Prosecutor Required To Prove?

To be found guilty of sexual battery under PC 243.4, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Defendant touch an intimate part of the victim;
  1. The touching was done against their will;
  1. The touching was done for the specific purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse.[3]

A felony charge requires the prosecutor to prove that the defendant unlawfully restrained the purported victim.

What Are The Legal Defenses To Penal Code 243.4?

  • Honest Belief: To consent, a person must act freely and voluntarily and know the nature of the touching. However, a defendant may assert a good-faith consent defense if they honestly and reasonably, but mistakenly, believed that the alleged victim consented to engage in a sexual encounter.
  • False Accusation: False accusations are common and often motivated by financial gain, child custody, or simply revenge. It is not uncommon for a party to fabricate charges and manipulate the criminal justice system against an innocent person. Our sex crime attorneys do not tolerate this conduct are we are prepared to defend anyone who is being held liable under these circumstances.
  • Sexual Gratification: A touch that was not done for the purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse will not meet the definition for sexual battery. For instance, wrestling and inadvertently touching your accuser’s intimate body part.

What Is The Punishment For California Sexual Battery?

Generally, PC 243.4 is a wobbler, which means that it’s punishable as a felony or misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor sexual battery under PC 243.4(e)(1) carries up to 6 months in the county jail and a fine not exceeding $2,000.[4] If the act occurred in an employer-employee context, then that will be a factor in aggravation.[5]

The following forms of sexual battery can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor:

  • Unlawfully Restrained: When the purported victim is unlawfully restrained, a felony conviction carries a sentencing range of 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison. A misdemeanor conviction carries up to 1 year in the county jail.[6]
  • Disabled or Medically Incapacitated: If the alleged victim is institutionalized for medical treatment and who is seriously disabled or medically incapacitated[7], then a felony conviction carries 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison. However, a misdemeanor conviction carries up to 1 year in the county jail.[8]
  • Unconscious: If the alleged victim is unconscious based on the defendant’s fraudulent representation of a professional purpose, then a felony conviction carries a state prison sentence of 2, 3, or 4 years. A misdemeanor conviction carries up to 1 year in the county jail.[9]

If any of the above are committed against a minor and you suffer from a prior felony sexual battery conviction, the charge becomes a straight felony carrying up to 4 years in state prison.[10]

Other sexual battery conviction consequences include:

  • Denial of occupational or professional license
  • Register with local law enforcement as a sex offender
  • Adverse immigration consequences for non U.S. citizens
  • A felony conviction carries life-time restriction from owning or possessing a firearm
  • A criminal protective order will be imposed barring all contact with your accuser
  • Payment of restitution to your accuser for any economic losses
  • A court fines between $2,000 to $10,000

What are Examples of Sexual Battery in California?

  • Dan was 14 years old. He called his 16 year old classmate his “ho,” told her to terminate her cell phone call, and when she failed to do so, Dan slapped her face, grabbed her arm, and pinched her breast. Here, Dan would be charged with misdemeanor sexual battery because touched his accuser’s breast, an intimate body part, without her consent and against her will.[11]
  • Paul was a school teacher who invited his student, 17 year old Suzy, to the stadium. Suzy willingly accompanied Paul. She was infatuated with Paul and thought Paul might kiss her. At the stadium, Paul kissed Suzy and touched her intimately. She pushed him away and told him to stop. Here, Paul would be charged with sexual battery because Suzy is a minor and is not capable of consenting to a sexual act. Furthermore, Paul would be charged with misdemeanor sexual battery because there is insufficient evidence of unlawful restraint.[12]

What Are The Related Offenses?

Contact Us to Schedule a Risk Free Consultation

If you have been arrested, charged, or are under investigation for PC 243.4, then contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers. Speak with an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney about your options and mounting your defense.

Sex crimes accusations are usually urgent situations that require swift legal intervention. Providing evidence to law enforcement can cause irreparable damage to defending yourself. We are here to help those in life-changing situations where the stakes are high.

Attorney John D. Rogers is a Board Certified criminal law specialist. A prestigious distinction that only a small percentage of California criminal defense lawyers have achieved. He has unmatched success in defending his clients is all types of sex crimes, especially when his clients are faced with a “must win” dilemma. He aims to dismiss the case or obtain an acquittal at trial.

Legal Footnotes:

[1] See People v. Dayan (1995) 34 Cal.App.4th 707.

[2] See Penal Code 243.4(g)(1) (“Intimate part means the sexual organ, anus, groin, or buttocks of any person, and the breast of a female.”)

[3] See CALCRIM No. 938.

[4] See Penal Code 243.4(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.”)

[5] See Penal Code 243.4(i).

[6] See Penal Code 243.4(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).”)

[7] See Penal Code 243.4(g)(4) – (“Medically incapacitated” means a person who is incapacitated as a result of prescribed sedatives, anesthesia, or other medication.)

[8] See Penal Code 243.4(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).”)

[9] See Penal Code 243.4(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).”)

[10] Penal Code 243.4(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).”)

[11] See In re Shannon T. (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 618.

[12] In People v. Arnold (1992) 6 Cal.App.4th 18, a 17-year-old high school student willingly accompanied a teacher to a stadium. She was apparently infatuated with the teacher and thought that he might kiss her. At the stadium he kissed her and touched her intimately, she pushed him away and told him to stop, and he did. The court held that the evidence was insufficient to show unlawful restraint. For purposes of PC 243.4, “a person is unlawfully restrained when his or her liberty is being controlled by words, acts or authority of the perpetrator aimed at depriving the person’s liberty, and such restriction is against the person’s will; a restraint is not unlawful if it is accomplished by lawful authority and for a lawful purpose, as long as the restraint continues to be for a lawful purpose.” (Id. at p. 28.) The prosecution need not affirmatively show unwillingness expressed in some form by the victim if the circumstances suggest that the restraint was unwelcome. Here, however, there was no showing that the student’s initial submission was against her will or that it was in any way compelled by defendant. (Id. at p. 29.)

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