Penal Code 243.4 PC - Sexual Battery in California
California Penal Code 243.4 PC defines sexual battery as touching someone on an intimate part of their body, against their will, to achieve sexual arousal, gratification, or to inflict sexual abuse.
PC 243.4 sexual battery is also known as “sexual assault” and a separate, less serious crime from Penal Code 261 PC rape as it does not require sexual penetration.
Penal Code 243.4(a) PC says, “anyone who touches an intimate part of another person while unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, and if the touching is against their and for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery.”
Related Penal Code 243.4(d) PC defines the crime of forcing another person to touch you or another person in an unlawful sexual manner. Sexual battery is technically a wobbler that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony but is almost always filed as a misdemeanor. The touching of “intimate parts” include the genital area, buttocks, or female breasts.
Typically, prosecutors use this statute to file charges on someone for unwanted sexual touching of someone, such as when a man deliberately touches a female's buttocks over her clothes without her consent. Let's review this state law further below.
What Does the Law Say?
Under the law, “touching” can be either direct contact with the skin or through clothing. As noted, PC 243.4 sexual battery does not require an act of penetration or sexual intercourse. Notably, you can still be charged for violating this law if you are currently involved in a relationship with the alleged victim.
An “intimate parts” are female breasts, genitals, buttocks, anus, and groin areas of someone. The term “unlawfully restrained” refers to controlling another person's actions physically or verbally. “Against the will” means without someone's consent, meaning they are unwilling or unable to consent.
The “elements of the crime,” meaning what must be proven for a conviction, for PC 243.4 misdemeanor sexual battery include the following:
- You touched an intimate body part of another person without consent,
- Your intent was sexual gratification, sexual arousal, or sexual abuse.
The decision to charge you with misdemeanor sexual battery will depend on a variety of factors, including the following:
- Whether or not physical force was used to restrain the victim,
- Whether or not your intentions were clear,
- Defendant's prior criminal history,
- Prosecution's confidence in obtaining a conviction.
What Are the Related Crimes for PC 243.4?
There are some commonly related crimes for Penal Code 243.4 PC sexual battery, including the following:
- Penal Code 261 PC – rape,
- Penal Code 261.5 PC – statutory rape,
- Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts on a minor,
- Penal Code 242 PC – battery,
- Penal Code 287 PC – oral copulation by force or fear.
When is Sexual Battery a Felony Crime?
Sexual battery is a severe crime because it requires the person if they're convicted, to register as a sex offender.
It can be charged as a felony if there's what is called restraint – which means you hold the person down and sexually batter them in some way. So, it would fall short of rape, but it would be touching the person in their private area, obviously against their will.
If someone restrains or holds the person down against their will and sexually batters them, that will be charged with a felony. The person will be looking at much more prison time than in county jail.
So, if you or a loved one is charged with sexual battery, we need to look at California Criminal Jury Instructions 935, which gives all the elements of the crime for felony sexual battery.
What are the Penalties for PC 243.4?
A misdemeanor conviction for sexual battery can include the following penalties:
- Fines up to $2000 or up to $3000 if the victim was your employee;
- Up to 6 months in county jail;
- Information summary probation;
- Mandatory 10-year minimum on the sex offender registry (Tier 1 offense).
Notably, if you receive a reduced sentence for misdemeanor sexual battery through a plea bargain, sex offender registration is still mandatory.
This means you will be required to register with local law enforcement as a sex offender, and your information will be placed on a publicly searchable database.
Further, you will have to keep that registration current for a minimum of ten years, and when it expires, you'll only be able to have your name removed from the registry upon request and at the court's discretion. A felony sexual battery requires sex registration for life.
The penalties will be increased if there are any aggravating factors, such as when the victim was:
- mentally ill,
- forced, or
- fraudulently convinced the touching was for a professional purpose.
If the victim suffers a great bodily injury (GBI), the judge could impose an additional three to five years in prison.
What Are the Defenses for PC 243.4?
I have you come into the office, and we will review all the facts and details. I encourage you to be honest. Please give me the information step by step as to precisely what happened. You're going to be protected by the attorney/client privilege.
If you have been accused of a misdemeanor or felony sexual battery in violation of Penal Code 243.4, our California criminal defense lawyer can use the strategies discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that the alleged victim gave consent. To convict you of sexual battery, a prosecutor has to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the touching was against their will. Maybe we could argue that you reasonably believed that the touching was consensual.
Mostly, sexual battery cases do not have supporting physical evidence or an injury. Thus, perhaps we can argue that they have insufficient evidence to secure a conviction.
Perhaps we can argue that you were falsely accused and wrongfully arrested for sexual battery. But, on the other hand, maybe the alleged victim was motivated by anger or revenge. Perhaps we can persuade the prosecutor from filing formal charges before court, called a “DA reject.”
The critical thing is, we've got to decide exactly how we're going to handle the case – whether we're going to fight it; whether we're going to negotiate it; whether we're going to put together a mitigation package, and that's done through experience. The first thing we do is meet.
We go over everything, and I think you're going to feel a lot better and a lot more at ease once you see what you're up against and once we start to make the decisions on exactly how we're going to defend the case, what we're going to do step by step, what I'm going to have you do and what I'm going to do to defend you.
You can contact us for a free case evaluation via phone or the contact form. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, California.