Sexual battery involves touching another person’s intimate areas for purposes of sexual arousal and/or gratification, or sexual abuse, without the other victim's consent, or consent which was obtained falsely.
California Penal Code 243.4 can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the facts and circumstances of the offense. Any conviction for sexual battery as defined by 243.4 PC requires lifelong registration as a sex offender, which can result in difficulties with employment, housing, relationships, and other personal goals.
California Penal Code 243.4 defines the crime of sexual battery, sometimes also referred to as sexual assault. This offense involves touching another person’s intimate areas for purposes of sexual arousal and/or gratification, or sexual abuse.
This crime is characterized by a lack of consent, or consent which is obtained under false pretenses – for example:
- The victim was unaware of the nature of the sexual act because of the perpetrator’s fraudulent misrepresentation of the purpose of the touching, such as if a physician touches the victim inappropriately during a medical exam.
- The victim was unlawfully restrained.
- The victim was forced to touch his/her own or another person’s private areas.
- The victim had a serious mental or physical disability.
Sexual battery is considered a wobbler offense which means that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. That determination hinges upon the circumstances and facts of the offense, plus the prior criminal history – if any – of the defendant.
Elements of the crime of sexual battery
In order to convict a defendant of sexual battery under 243.4 PC, the prosecution must prove all of the following elements:
- The defendant physically touched the intimate part(s) of the victim. If the touching occurred through the defendant’s clothing then the offense is a misdemeanor; if the touching was to the victim’s bare skin, the offense may be charged as a felony. It is important to note that it doesn’t matter whether the defendant touched the victim with his/her own bare skin or through clothing. The important element is whether the defendant touched the victim’s bare skin.
- The touching occurred without consent or with fraudulently obtained consent. Consent means that someone agrees to something voluntarily and understands what they are agreeing to. Consent cannot be obtained from a person who is asleep, unconscious, mentally incapable of understanding, or severely intoxicated. Fraudulently obtained consent refers to a situation in which the defendant convinced the victim that the touching was necessary. This typically occurs in a medical or therapeutic setting.
- The touching was for the defendant’s sexual arousal or gratification, or for purposes of abuse.
Criminal penalties for sexual battery
A defendant who is convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery under 243.4 PC may be sentenced to any or all of the following consequences:
- Six months to one year in county jail
- A fine of up to $2,000. This fine increases to $3,000 if the victim was the defendant’s employee.
- Community service.
- Completion of a court-specified education program.
For a felony conviction, incarceration ranges from two to four years in state prison and the fine can be as high as $10,000.
Similar to other sexual offenses in California, either a misdemeanor or felony conviction for sexual battery requires lifetime registration as a sex offender under The Sex Offender Registration Act/Megan’s Law, California 290 PC.
Sexual battery is a serious offense, and a conviction carries a lifelong stigma that can result in difficulties pursuing employment, housing, relationships, and other personal goals. Anyone accused of this crime should seek the advice of a qualified attorney. There are a few possible legal defenses for an alleged violation of 243.4 PC, including:
- If the alleged victim consented or if the defendant could not reasonably know that the alleged victim did not consent, then no crime occurred.
- Similarly, if the victim told the defendant to stop and defendant did, there may be insufficient evidence of felony sexual battery.
- False accusations.
- Insufficient evidence.