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How Are Sex Crimes Determined To Be Either Misdemeanors Or Felonies In California?


All crimes including sex crimes are broken up into misdemeanors and felonies.  Most sex crimes, because of the serious nature of them are felonies.  But there are lists of misdemeanor sex crimes.  For example, sexual battery — you touch somebody in a sexual manner but it’s not necessarily penetrating them — that could be a misdemeanor sex crime pursuant to California Penal Code Section 243.4.

But, if you look at the list of sex crimes, just about all of them are felonies — crimes like lewd conduct and more innocuous crimes — solicitation of prostitution is typically going to be a misdemeanor.  Prostitution is a wobbler and can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Type of Behavior

So, really what you need to do is look at the behavior involved and exactly what happened and that will typically dictate whether the case is going to be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony.   A lot of people come into me before the case is filed.  We talk about what the alleged behavior and we can usually get a pretty good feel as to whether or not the case might be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

There are very few wobblers in sex crime cases.  Another wobbler example would be Penal Code Section 261.5 which is consensual sex with minor someone under the age of 18.  Really where you start to get in trouble is when the age of the victim is close to below 14 years old.

A lot of those cases now are not only straight felonies but they’re being charged and the person’s looking at 15 to life.  So, sex crime cases have really gotten to a point where it’s simply not worth being anywhere near them — anywhere involved with them — because of the fact that you’re looking at many years in prison should there be a bad situation related to a sex crime.

Sex Crime ‘Wobblers”

So, as far as figuring out whether a case is a misdemeanor or a felony or a wobbler which can be charged as both, the vast majority of sex crimes are felonies.  A very small percentage are misdemeanors and also a very small percentage of sex crimes are wobblers.

So, really what you need to do if you’re in a situation where you or a loved on is charged with a sex crime or going to be charged with a sex crime and you’re trying figure out whether it’s going to be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, go and sit down with an attorney like me who’s been doing this for twenty-five years who’s handled a lot of sex crimes.

We should be able to give you a pretty good feel based on what the allegations are, what the person’s prior criminal record is and what the scenario is surrounding the facts and circumstances of the sex crime — as to whether or not the sex crime will be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Call our California sex crime defense attorneys to review your case.

Obviously, the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony as it relates to sex crimes is huge because if it’s a misdemeanor, you’re typically only looking at jail time or county jail time.  If it’s a felony you’re looking at many years in prison usually.  So, it’s a huge difference.  Also, now with the new three-tier system, most misdemeanor you’re not going to have to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life; whereas a lot of the felonies you will.  So, that’s another issue that you have to consider and think about when dealing with a sex crime case in Los Angeles.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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