Sex cases are among the most serious criminal cases. They always present the possibility of severe consequences, including sexual offender registration under Penal Code § 290 and lengthy incarceration. A mere allegation of committing a sex crime can devastate the accused’s reputation, career prospects, and personal life. Yet, defendants facing the drastic nature of these accusations are often people who have never been arrested before or otherwise had any exposure to the criminal justice system.
Sex crimes include rape (Penal Code §§ 261, 262), non-consensual oral copulation (Penal Code § 288a), non-consensual sexual penetration (Penal Code § 289), non-consensual lewd or lascivious act (Penal Code § 288), sexual battery (Penal Code § 243.4), assault with intent to commit a sex crime (Penal Code § 220), offenses against minors (Penal Code §§ 261.5, 269, 288a, 286, 288, 288.3, 288.4, 288.5, 288.7, 289, 647.6), offenses relating to harmful material (Penal Code §§ 288.2, 311.1, 311.2, 311.4, 311.6, 311.11), pimping, pandering, and prostitution (Penal Code §§ 266h, 266i, 266j, 647(b)), and indecent exposure (Penal Code § 314).
Conviction for a sex crime often results in a prison sentence, sometimes of many years. Conviction also results in sexual registration under Penal Code § 290 for a minimum of 10 years, or 20 years, or life. In certain serious sex cases, defendants, even those with no prior record, may also face a possible life sentence under the “One Strike Sex Crime Law” (Penal Code § 667.61).
Despite these potentially devastating consequences, sex cases are usually based primarily on the report of a single person, sometimes with little to no corroborating evidence. There is a standard jury instruction that states that “the testimony of one witness can prove any fact.” (CALCRIM 301.) A single person’s allegation can cause the arrest of another person and a serious sex crime filing against the accused. Another challenge for the defense is that the prosecutor is allowed to use any past allegation, even uncharged conduct, of a sexual offense by the defendant to prove guilt in this case. (Evidence Code § 1108.) Even when the defendant has no prior record or documented history, prosecutors do not hesitate to overcharge these cases, whether by loading up numerous charges based one accuser’s statement or using the One Strike Sex Crime Law to raise the stakes.
In the digital age, sex crime prosecutions are increasingly built on computer or cell phone evidence. Law enforcement will use search warrants to obtain private devices and data to build a case. They often cut corners, particularly when it comes to the requirements of the relatively recently-enacted California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (Penal Code §1546-1546.4), a law which is powerful tool for the defense but not used by most attorneys.
As both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, I have handled numerous sex crime cases, including those with life exposure. I have tried sex cases to verdict. I teach an upper-division law school course specifically regarding sex crime prosecutions. I understand how to analyze and approach sex crime charges.
When facing sex crime allegations, the stakes could not be higher. Contact me today for a free confidential consultation regarding a sex crime criminal matter.