California Penal Code Section 288(a): Committing Lewd Acts on a Child

Generally, California Penal Code Section 288 governs the sex crime of committing a lewd act on a child. The statute defines a lewd act as any willful act committed with the intent to sexually gratify either oneself or another person, involving touching the body parts of a child under 14 years old or having a child touch an adult's intimate areas.

Potential Strategies to Defending Against a Penal Code section 288 Allegation

Several strategies, based on the circumstances of the case, are at a skilled defense attorney’s disposal when representing a client accused of such a serious offense.

Lack of Intent: A common defense strategy revolves around proving that the defendant lacked the specific intent to commit a lewd act. This could be accomplished by testimony that the defendant accidentally touched the child, and did not do so with any intent of sexual gratification. If the prosecution cannot establish that the defendant's actions were driven by a sexual intent, the charges might be reduced or even dismissed.

False Accusations or Mistaken Identity: In some cases, false accusations or mistaken identity can lead to wrongful charges. Any inconsistencies in the complaining witness’s testimony or otherwise unreliable evidence can be capitalized upon.

Coerced Confessions or Improper Police Procedures: If the defendant confessed to the crime, that confession may be suppressed at a motion to suppress if an attorney can demonstrate that the defendant's confession was coerced or obtained through improper police procedures, such as a failure to read Miranda rights.

Potential Penalties for Violating Section 288

This crime is always charged as a felony offense, and carries severe consequences upon conviction. These consequences depend on the level of force used, the relationship between the defendant and the victim, and the ages of the victim and the defendant. In most circumstances, the defendant faces a fine of at most $10,000.

If a defendant is found guilty of committing a lewd act upon a child under 14 where no force was involved, the defendant may face between three, six, or eight years in state prison.

If a defendant is found guilty of committing a lewd act upon a child under 14 with force, the defendant may face between five, eight, and ten years in state prison.

If a defendant is found guilty of committing a lewd act upon a child under 14 and causes the victim great bodily injury, the defendant faces life in state prison with the possibility of parole.

If a defendant is found guilty of committing a lewd act upon 14 or 15 year old child and the defendant is at least 10 years older than the victim, the defendant may face one, two, or three years in state prison and a $1,000 fine.

Collateral Consequences: Sex Offender Registration

One of the most enduring consequences of a conviction under section 288 is the requirement to register as a sex offender. In California, individuals convicted of lewd acts on a child must register as a sex offender for life.

If you have been charged with committing a lewd act upon a child, it is crucial that you discuss your case immediately with a knowledgeable and aggressive criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Michael Kraut has extensive experience defending clients who are accused of this type of sex crime and has successfully petitioned for clients to be removed from the sex offender registry.

For more information about the criminal justice process, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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