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.
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.
How to Get the Best Result in a Sexual Battery Case?
If you or a loved one is charged with California Penal Code 243.4 PC sexual battery, you face ten years of registration under Penal Code Section 290 as a sex offender.
If you can avoid it, you do not want that particular charge because it's a sex crime and a registrable offense, even under the three-tier system in California.
So, if you want to get the best result, one thing you could do is get the charge changed to a simple battery, then you won't have to register as a sex offender, and you likely wouldn't get any jail time under that circumstance either. So, your first step is hiring the best attorney possible. I put myself out there because I've been doing this for 30 years.
Review of the Case Details
Some of the things that we look at and what prosecutors look at is whether or not you have any criminal record. So that's probably one of the first criteria. If you have no record, then you might have a chance to get rid of the sexual battery charge, even if they've got the evidence to prove that you're guilty.
Another thing that needs to be examined is whether you can assert some defense. For example, it could have been an accident if you touched somebody in their private part; that could be a potential defense.
Of course, it has to make sense under the surrounding circumstance. You can't have any other convictions for sexual battery. That makes it very difficult to assert a defense of a mistake or accident.
Fight the Case or Negotiate with the Prosecutor?
So, we need to do a sit-down and talk about the case and have you give me a rundown of precisely what happened so I can best assess whether you have a defense.
We need to decide whether or not this is the type of case where they've got the evidence against you, and we need to put together a mitigation package filled with character letters.
We also need to put in a Penal Code Section 288.1 report, which assesses whether you are a danger to the community or a threat to touch anybody else inappropriately. Also, a static 99 report can be helpful. That's an assessment that's done of somebody. It's a standard form, but it's looking at:
- whether you would be a danger to the community,
- whether or not you would be a recidivist and do some sexual crime in the future, and
- it gives a percentage of the likelihood that you would do that.
Obviously, the lower the percentage, the better position you are in.
Meeting to Determine Defense Strategy
So, we have to look at everything, but I think the first thing to do is meet, honestly talk about the case and then decide whether this is the type of case you want to fight or whether this is the type of case you want to negotiate.
Sometimes we do some fighting, and then we negotiate. So, we've got to look at what type of scenario you fall under based on your prior record, what happened in this current case, and several other factors that apply to your particular case.
So, if you need the best, you're charged with sexual battery, pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. We're going to look at whether or not they've got a good case against you, assess whether you should have registered as a sex offender, and evaluate whether or not you're facing any jail time under the circumstances of your case.