California “Sexual Battery” Laws | California PC 243.4

November 6, 2016

In California, sexual battery is codified under Penal Code 243.4 pc making it a crime to unlawfully touch the intimate part of another for the purpose of abuse, sexual arousal, or gratification.[1]  The charge is a wobbler, meaning the prosecutor holds discretion when electing to file misdemeanor or felony charges.

An intimate part includes a person’s sexual organ, anus, groin, buttocks, and female breast.[2]  And unlawful physical contact includes contact with the skin of another directly or through the defendant’s clothing.  The charge may become more severe depending on the state of the purported victim – i.e., if the accuser is seriously disabled, medically incapacitated, institutionalized, or a minor.

Those arrested or charged with sexual battery may also face additional related charges of assault, battery, false imprisonment, assault with a deadly weapon, stalking, rape, and lewd acts with a minor.


What is the Government Required to Prove?

In order to prove someone is guilty of sexual battery under PC 243.4, the government holds the burden to prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. You touched an intimate part of someone else’s body;
  2. The touching was accomplished against that person’s will;
  3. The touching was done for the purpose of abuse, sexual gratification, or arousal.

Defending Sexual Battery Charges

  • Intent: Intent is accomplished when someone commits an act with a designed purpose. However, someone does not commit an act on purpose when the act was done, for instance, by accident.  For example, bumping into someone and accidently touching an intimate body part.
  • Consent: In order for the purported victim to grant consent, it must be freely and voluntarily and they must know the nature of the act. In other words, sexual battery must be a non-consensual act.  But in many instances, the purported victim may be embellishing or exaggerating the circumstances.  And there may be instances where someone reasonably believed the purported victim consent to the act.
  • Specific Purpose: The statute requires that the touching be accomplished with the purpose of sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse. But the touching may be done on accident, jokingly, or perhaps to show non-sexual affection.
  • Intimate Part: As noted above, intimate parts are understood to be buttocks, breasts, anus, and sexual organs.  However, holding someone’s hand, arm, or foot do not constitute “intimate” parts for the purposes of this crime.

Punishment & Sentencing for PC 243.4


PC 243.4 is punishable in the county jail for not more than one (1) year or in the state prison for 2, 3, or 4 years.  A misdemeanor conviction carries a fine up to $2,000 whereas a felony conviction carries a fine amount up to $10,000.  In addition, a conviction carries a life-time requirement to register as a sex offender.[3]

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you’ve been arrested, charged, or are under investigation for sexual battery under PC 243.4, contact an Newport Beach Criminal Defense Attorney at the Law Office of John D. Rogers for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.  Our office handles all sex crime charges in Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties.



[1] Penal Code 243.4(a) – defined. (“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).”)

[2] See Penal Code 243.4(g)(1) and People v. Elam (2001) 91 C.A.4th 298, 309, 110 C.R.2d 185 [to be guilty of sexual battery under, defendant must have touched intimate part of victim’s body; hence, there was no sexual battery under PC 243.4(a) where defendant forced victim to touch his penis with her hand].

[3] See Penal Code § 290

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