Sex crimes can range from minor offenses, such as briefly touching an unwilling adult person on a clothed intimate area of their body, to major felonies such as forcible rape. Regardless of the offense, the consequences can be severe and cling to you for a lifetime.

With three admonitions, I will describe some of the more frequently prosecuted sex crimes. First, is that the following is not a complete list of all the possible state and federal sex crimes that are on the books.

Second, I have paraphrased, condensed and simplified the descriptions of the crimes. Therefore, some portions of the definitions have been omitted-this means that you cannot fully rely on these condensed descriptions to guide you or to determine if you have broken the law or might break the law. Only a qualified attorney can fully explain the law to you.

Third, I have described some of the punishments that could be imposed for particular sex crimes. The list is not complete. I have described these punishments so that the reader may be aware of the seriousness of a sex crime conviction.

My intention is not to frighten anyone. But if I could chose between having any reader retain me as a result of reading this website-or not having the reader as a client because he or she read this material and abandoned the intention to commit a crime, I would much prefer the latter. If I have diverted at least one reader from engaging in conduct that could destroy the reader’s life, I would feel a deep sense of accomplishment.

Here is a list of the most frequently prosecuted sex crimes:


Lewd conduct is an extremely vague term, but it partially includes receiving or giving oral or genital sex in public, exposure of genitals in public or public masturbation. Exposure of genitals is also a separate offense.

Cops hang out in rest rooms at parks and beaches in search of lewd conduct. In fact, many times the undercover officer is the only other person in the restroom at the time the alleged act is committed. It’s a good practice to avoid these restrooms, especially if you see a person who just seems to be hanging out. It’s a wise practice not to enter a public restroom if an unaccompanied child is using the facilities.

At a lewd conduct trial, it is the cop's word against yours. And some cops will commit perjury because they know that some jurors can’t accept the fact that a law enforcement officer might falsify evidence. However, perjury by police officers does happen- and that is why you need an aggressive lawyer.

Lewd conduct offenses are misdemeanors with a maximum sentence of one year in the county jail. The judge may also require that the defendant register as a sex offender. This label would constitute a lifetime chain around your neck.

To prove a crime of soliciting lewd conduct, the prosecution must establish that the defendant requested another person, who is in a public place, to engage in an act that includes the touching of genitals, buttocks or female breast. Further, the prosecution must prove that the defendant intended that the offending conduct occur in a public place and that the act was done intentionally to gratify themselves or another person, and that a third person who is present might have been offended by the conduct.


California Penal Code Section 243.4 describes several types of sexual battery. A touching of an intimate part of another person while that person is restrained or unconscious can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Intimate parts are described as the sexual organ, anus, groin or buttocks of any person, and the breast of a female. A medical doctor who touches an intimate part of a patient where the touching is not reasonably related to the medical treatment not only can be sent to prison, he or she can have their medical license revoked.

The most common type of sexual battery arises out of conduct which many people don’t realize is a crime until they are faced with prosecution. For example, I have represented a number of people who did little more than touch a woman’s buttocks over her clothing. Often this occurs in the workplace. Little did they understand that what they thought was innocent or playful behavior not only could land them in jail, but could also result in lifetime registration as a sex offender! The California appeals courts have upheld the lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender.

To be convicted of sexual battery, the prosecution must prove that the touching was against the will of the person touched and that the specific purpose of the person doing the touching was for sexual arousal or sexual gratification.


If a person knowingly exposes his or her genitals or her breasts in public, offending others, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor. Notice that this, and most sex crimes, applies to both men and women. Nude sunbathing can result in being branded as a sex offender.


Both a man or a woman can be convicted of prostitution. Most arrests are conducted under what is referred to as the “solicitation” statute, California Penal Code Section 647b. If a person agrees to engage in an act of prostitution, or solicits an act, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor. If a person agrees to engage in an act of prostitution and takes steps to carry out the agreement, the crime is complete-regardless if the person with whom he or she agreed is a police officer. Money or other things of value must be offered in exchange for the sexual act.

The Agreement & the Act

The prosecution must prove that the agreement was made and that steps were taken to carry out the agreement. What might those steps be? Well, if you make an agreement at the curb and then drive into a lot to take the other person into your car, driving into the lot constitutes “an act in furtherance of the agreement.”

A recent California appeals court case held that words alone can constitute an act in furtherance of the agreement. In that case, the guy told the woman (who was an undercover cop), to undress. That request was enough to be an act in furtherance of the agreement.

Must Agree to Engage in Certain Behavior

What constitutes an act of prostitution? The law defines an act of prostitution as any lewd act. And what is a lewd act?

A 1979 California Supreme Court case entitled Pryor v. Municipal Court, defined lewd or dissolute conduct as follows: The terms "lewd" and "dissolute" refer to conduct which involves the touching of the genitals, buttocks, or female breast for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or annoyance.

So a person can be convicted of prostitution if he or she agrees, for money, merely to touch the breasts of the other person. A conviction requires neither an actual sexual act nor an agreement to engage in genital, anal or oral intercourse.

California Penal Code Section 653.22 (a) states that it is illegal for a person to loiter in a public area with the purpose of engaging in prostitution. To be convicted of this offense, the prosecutor must prove that the person engaged in conduct intended to induce, entice or solicit prostitution. Examples include being dressed in provocative clothing, beckoning motorists to stop or engaging passersby in conversation.


California Penal Code Section 266 states that every person who inveigles or entices any unmarried female, of previous chaste character, under the age of 18 years, into any house of ill fame, or of assignation, or elsewhere, for the purpose of prostitution, or to have illicit carnal connection with any man; and every person who aids or assists in such inveiglement or enticement; and every person who, by any false pretenses, false representation, or other fraudulent means, procures any female to have illicit carnal connection with any man is guilty of either a felony or misdemeanor.

If a person fraudulently procures another person for prostitution, or takes the woman against her will for prostitution or for an illicit relationship, the offense is a felony. The purchase of a person for prostitution is a felony. Placing one’s wife in a house prostitution is a felony.

California Penal Code Section 266h makes it a felony punishable for up to six years in prison if the person derives support or maintenance from the earnings of the prostitute. The stakes increase substantially if the person taken is a minor. If the prostitute is under age 16, the maximum penalty is eight years in prison.

California Penal Code Section 266i defines pandering as procuring a person for prostitution, or does it by threats, promises or violence. There are other examples too lengthy to mention here that come under the definition of pandering. Pandering of a minor or procuring a minor for lewd or lascivious conduct can result in a state prison sentence of up to eight years.

Incidentally, every person who takes any woman unlawfully against her will and compels her to marry him or any other person is guilty of a felony. California Penal Code Section 265. With so many woman anxious to marry, it is difficult to understand why anyone would commit this offense.


Although the statute is silent on the reason for hanging around a school, one who does so could be convicted of a misdemeanor. California Penal Code Section 653b defines as vagrancy the act of hanging around a school during periods when children normally congregate. Generally, folks who loiter around schools with no legitimate purpose do so because they are sexually aroused by children. However, it is unclear if the law would apply, for example, to a person who wanted to see his estranged child, or if there was some other legitimate purpose. The statute goes on to define the term “loiter” as lingering around a school without lawful business for being present. Generally, the court cases state that the person must be around the school for some sinister purpose or with the intent to commit a crime. One case held that a person handing out political leaflets had a lawful purpose to be around the school.


A person who sexually assaults certain animals with the intent of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the person is guilty of a misdemeanor. California Penal Code Section 286.5.


If a person uses a verbal threat or harms another person to make them have sexual intercourse, and the victim does not consent, there may be a violation of Penal Code Section 289(a)(1). This is a serious felony which carries up to 8 years in state prison. Words alone can get you in huge trouble.


In California, oral copulation between consenting adults in a private place is not a crime. Recently, the United States Supreme Court struck down state laws that made such conduct a crime.

Oral copulation is defined in California Penal Code Section 288a as copulating the mouth of one person with the sexual organ or anus of the other person. Notice that this statute is gender neutral.

Oral copulation between consenting adults in a place open to public view is a crime-generally prosecuted as lewd conduct. Public places include public restrooms (remember Senator Larry Craig who was accused of a minor sexual solicitation at the Minneapolis Airport)? Public places also include an automobile, a public bath house or a movie theater to name a few. It is not limited to homosexual activity. A heterosexual married couple who engages in oral copulation in their car on lover’s lane could be convicted of lewd conduct.

Matters turn criminal when the oral copulation is between an adult and a minor. If the minor is over 16, the offense can be either a misdemeanor or felony. The younger the child, the more severe the penalties.

Oral copulation accomplished by force, threats or fear have severe penal consequences. Oral copulation against unconscious persons, intoxicated persons, mentally disordered persons or while acting in concert with others carries harsh state prison penalties.


California Penal Code Section 286 defines sodomy as an act of a person inserting the penis in the anus of another. Sodomy was originally referred to as "the infamous crime against nature." Today, sodomy between consenting adults and done in a private place is not a crime. There are many exceptions to this general rule. Sodomy committed in a state prison or local detention facility, sodomy committed upon an intoxicated person or a mentally disordered person are a few examples. It is a crime to commit sodomy against a person by misrepresenting that it serves a legitimate medical purpose. There are many more exceptions too numerous to enumerate.


Until about 20 years ago, there were basically two classes of rape-forcible and statutory. Forcible rape is the act of using violence, threats, malice, fear tactics, and/or force to have sexual intercourse with an unwilling participant.

Today, things have changed dramatically. Force is not necessary. For example, a guy who brags, “I got her drunk and she put out,” may be admitting to the commission of a felony. Sexual intercourse with a person, who is intoxicated, unconscious or asleep, and therefore unable to resist, is also rape. This includes the use of date rape drugs.

Forcible rape is defined in California Penal Code Section 261. It can be accomplished by actual force, fear of force, fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury or duress. It can be accomplished against a person with a mental disorder, an unconscious or sleeping person, false pretense or threat. The slightest penetration will be sufficient for a conviction. There are many other examples too numerous to include here, that can constitute forcible rape.

California Penal Code Section 289 defines numerous crimes of other forcible sexual penetration by foreign objects. These crimes may involve actual physical force. It is also a crime to sexually penetrate another person against their will by use of threat either in the present or the future. Sexual penetration of a mentally disordered person or unconscious person is also a felony.

Sexual penetration is the act of penetration, however slight, of the genital or anal opening for the purpose of sexual gratification. It is also a felony to use a foreign object. A foreign object is any device or part of the body other than a sex organ.

It is possible to be convicted and sentenced for multiple rapes of one victim during one episode. If a person rapes a victim, then stops and, within a short period of time, rapes the person again, he or she may be convicted of two charges.

California Penal Code Section 261 (a)(1) states that it is a felony when a person has sexual intercourse with a person they are not married to, and the victim is not able to give consent because they have a mental disease or a developmental or physical disability and the perpetrator knew, or should have known, of the condition.

REMEMBER THIS! Suppose you are engaged in an act of sexual intercourse with a person who originally gave his or he consent. If, in the course of the activity, he or she says, “Stop, I’ve changed my mind,” you had better stop immediately! California appeals court cases have held that sex which commences with consent, but during the sex, the partner expresses a desire to terminate, continuation of intercourse constitutes forcible rape.

There is no argument that rape is a heinous crime. However, an experienced attorney can raise many legal defenses to a charge of rape. Also heinous is a false accusation of rape. As stated previously, there have been numerous cases where, for financial gain, men and women have made false allegations that they were raped by a person of wealth or by a celebrity. False accusations of rape are also not uncommon where the alleged rapist is some ordinary guy. An accusation is easy to make and difficult to disprove.

Date Rape

Date rape is forcible sexual intercourse between acquaintances during a voluntary social engagement in which the woman did not intend to submit to the sexual advances and resisted. Prosecutions for this offense have become very common. Date rape may or may not include the use of “date rape” drugs, which make the victim legally unable to either consent or object to the sexual conduct. Conceivably, a woman could commit date rape.

The fact that the engagement was voluntary and the parties were acquainted is not a defense to this type of charge. There is no specific statute in California that defines date rape. But California Penal Code Section 261.6 states that the existence of a previous or current dating or marital relationship shall not be sufficient to constitute consent. Consent is defined to mean positive cooperation in act or attitude pursuant to an exercise of free will.

Spousal Rape

California Penal Code Section 262 defines spousal rape as an act of sexual intercourse accomplished against the spouse's will by menace, force, duress or fear of bodily injury to the person or another. It may also constitute spousal rape if the act is accomplished while the spouse is asleep or unconscious or is prevented from resisting because of some drug or other anesthetic substance. Spousal rape can also be accomplished by a threat to retaliate in the future, and there is a reasonable expectation that the threat will be carried out, or when the threat is to use the authority of a public official or to deport the spouse.

Statutory Rape

California Penal Code Section 261.5 refers to statutory rape as unlawful sexual intercourse. It is defined as an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator and who is a minor. The law applies to sex between a man and a woman or two of the same gender. A person less than 18 years old is a minor.

The penalties vary depending upon the difference in ages of the parties. For example if the adult is not more than three years older than the minor, the offense is a misdemeanor. If the minor is more than three years younger than the adult, the offense can be a felony. The penalties increase if the adult is over 21 and the minor is under 16 years old. Penalties are increased if the offender is a teacher or a clergyman.

It is no defense that the minor consented to participate. However, it is a defense if the adult had a good faith and reasonable belief that the minor was 18 years old.


There is a growing number of prosecutions arising out of sending seductive material to a minor. If a person sends, exhibits or offers to distribute material to a person under 18 years with the intent of arousing the lust, passions or sexual desire of the sender or the minor, the offense can be either a felony or misdemeanor. It is unlawful to send the material by any means of communication including, but not limited to, mail, telephone or internet. The person sending the material must exercise reasonable care to determine if the recipient is a minor. The burden is on the sender of the material to prove that he or she took reasonable steps to ascertain the true age of the minor. California Penal Code Section 288.2.


Every person who contacts or communicates with a minor (under 18 years), or attempts to contact or communicate with a minor, who knows or reasonably should know that the person is a minor, and who has the intent to commit a sexual act involving the minor, is guilty of a felony. The attempt alone, without actually meeting the minor, is sufficient conduct for a conviction. A second conviction demands a five year sentence to the state prison.

"Contacts or communicates with" shall include direct and indirect contact or communication that may be achieved personally or by use of an agent or agency, any print medium, any postal service, a common carrier or communication common carrier, any electronic communications system, or any telecommunications, wire, computer, or radio communications device or system. California Penal Code Section 288.3.

Obviously, law enforcement takes these crimes very seriously. There is a very strong chance that the “minor” you might be attempting to contact is a law enforcement officer. This is a crime that has destroyed many a life of otherwise law abiding folk.


Sex crimes against children are prosecuted vigorously. However, this is an area of the law in which false accusations of what is commonly referred to as “child molestation” are rampant. False accusations in divorce and paternity cases where there is a battle for custody of the kids are occurring with alarming frequency.

Unfortunately, some law enforcement officers and/or social workers who deal with child abuse accusations either are poorly trained or over-zealous. Some of these folks who interview the kids won’t stop until they get the answer they want-regardless whether the answer is truthful.

In some case, children acquire genital injuries or rashes that are the result of poor hygiene or an accident-or which may be innocently self-inflicted by a curious child.

Defending these cases requires an experienced attorney who possesses the talent to skillfully and gently cross-examine a child to get at the truth.

A vigorous and thorough defense of a child molestation charge can be very expensive. Not only is a superb team of attorneys required, a battery of experts is essential to a good defense. For example, we will employ expert physicians who can differentiate between a genital injury or a rash caused by criminal acts from one caused by a normal childhood injury or poor hygiene. We will employ experts to attack the method by which an interrogator forced a kid to “tell the truth.”

We have emphasized the importance of hiring a qualified sex crime defense attorney as soon as you are aware of an accusation. It is even more critical that you hire a sex crime defense attorney at the earliest possible stage of a child molestation investigation. This means when the first call comes from a police officer or an official with the county child protective services department who “want to hear your side of the story so we can clear this up.” What they really want to do is to get you to confess or to make statements that can be used against you in a future trial.

At times, these cases can be aborted or dismissed at the early stage. This certainly results in less stress, loss of time and money than a trial.

Child Crimes &Penalties

California Penal Code Section 288 describes many of the child crimes with which a person can be charged.

One who knowingly commits a lewd act on a child for the purpose of sexual arousal of himself or the child is guilty of a felony. The penalty is a prison sentence of 3, 6 or 8 years. California Penal Code 288.

The penalties are extremely severe. For example, if a person is convicted of one charge of California Penal Code Section 288(a) by touching certain parts of the body of a child under age 14, the maximum penalty is eight years in the state prison. This means touching even without any penetration!

If there is vaginal, oral or anal penetration, the penalties are even more severe and the judge is precluded from granting probation. Penetration is unlawful if it occurs with the penis or any foreign object such as a finger.

If multiple victims are involved, or if the offense with the child included circumstances such as rape, sexual penetration, continuous sexual abuse of a child-or if there are prior convictions, California Penal Code Section 667.6(b) specifies a punishment of 5 years to life!

An adult convicted of sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child who is 10 years old or younger shall be imprisoned for 25 years to life. If the adult is convicted of oral copulation of the minor, or sexual penetration by force, threats, or against an unconscious person or a mentally disordered person, he or she can be imprisoned for 15 years to life. Sexual penetration is defined as any slight penetration of the genital or anal opening of the minor with any device including a finger. California Penal Code Section 288.7.

It is true that there are many child predators. But there is also an alarming number of people who are wrongfully accused. I have spoken to a number of men who in no way are sexually attracted to children. Nevertheless, they will not date a woman who has minor children, nor will they allow themselves to be alone with kids. They will not get involved in such activities as little league or Boy Scouts. Are they paranoid? They just don’t want to take the risk of being wrongfully accused of a crime that could destroy their lives-even after they are acquitted.


California Penal Code Section 311 defines obscene matter as material, taken as a whole, which appeals to the prurient interest and depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and that, taken as a whole, lacks serious artistic, literary, political or scientific value. The definition is extremely vague. It is often a challenge to advise a person whether any particular material is obscene.

Child pornography refers to material depicting children in a state of undress, engaged in erotic poses or actual sexual activity. However, there have been cases which have held that it constitutes child pornography where there is sexually explicit conduct even though the child is dressed. The internet has resulted in a massive increase in the availability, accessibility and volume of child pornography. The production, dissemination, or possession of child pornography is illegal under both California State Law and Federal Law.

It is a crime to possess, distribute, transport, bring into the state or publish any material which depicts a person under the age of 18 years personally engaging in, or simulating sexual conduct. It is a felony to possess the material for commercial purposes. California Penal Code Sections 311.1 and 311.2.

Use or possession of the material is a crime regardless of what form it is in, such as a photo, a DVD, a CD, in the computer, a film or printed material.
As applied to the porno laws, "sexual conduct" means any of the following, whether actual or simulated: sexual intercourse, oral copulation, anal intercourse, anal-oral copulation, masturbation, bestiality, sexual sadism, sexual masochism, penetration of the vagina or rectum by any object in a lewd or lascivious manner, exhibition of the genitals or pubic or rectal area for the purpose of sexual stimulation of the viewer, any lewd or lascivious sexual act, or excretory functions performed in a lewd or lascivious manner, whether or not any of the above conduct is performed alone or between members of the same or opposite sex or between humans and animals. An act is simulated when it gives the appearance of being sexual conduct. California Penal Code Section 311.4 (d)(1).

Suppose a person unintentionally downloads child pornography. Or suppose an automated porno program or virus is placed on your computer without your knowledge. You could still face a criminal investigation or charges of child pornography. It is not unlike the scenario where a person at the airport secretly places contraband in your carry-on luggage.


There are many federal laws that make it a crime to possess, sell, transport or otherwise be involved with pornography.

18 USC 2252 provides that it is a crime to knowingly transport or ship material that depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Receiving or distributing the material by any means of distribution (mail or internet, for example), is a serious crime. Possessing or accessing the material is also a crime. Selling, transporting, producing or distributing the material can result in a minimum prison sentence of five years or up to twenty years. Mere possession can result in a prison term of up to ten years.

Selling any obscene material or engaging in the business of obscene material is also a crime, even if the material does not involve minors. 18 USC 1466 provides that whoever is engaged in the business of producing with intent to distribute or sell, or selling or transferring obscene matter, who knowingly receives or possesses with intent to distribute any obscene book, magazine, picture, paper, film, videotape, or phonograph or other audio recording, which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or by a fine, or both.

Under 18 USC 2257, persons in the business of creating and/or selling pornography are required to keep records of how they established that employees and others were over the age of 18.

The question of what constitutes this kind of obscene material is a complicated one. A great deal of sexually explicit material involving adults is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. However, a number of United States Supreme Court cases, including the seminal case of Miller v. California, emphasize that many aspects of pornography are not protected by the First Amendment. You must consult an attorney who is experienced in this subject before you engage in the business of pornography-or before you decide to possess or download any questionable material.
I have mentioned only a few of the federal pornography laws. You may consult us for further information.


As mentioned previously, but worth repeating is the fact that enhanced penalties are imposed against certain sex offenders who have a record of prior sex offenses. Also, if certain sex crimes are committed against separate victims or the same victim on the same occasion, a separate prison term can be imposed for each separate act. THESE SENTENCES ARE IMPOSED CONSECUTIVELY! The test used in cases involving the same victim is whether the offender had a reasonable opportunity to reflect upon his or her actions and then resumed the sexually assaultive behavior. There is no specific period of time that the courts use as a yardstick. For example, if a person rapes a victim, waits a few minutes and rapes the victim again, a court could conclude that the few minutes in between were sufficient time to make the decision to resume or not.

The offenses to which these rules apply are rape, spousal rape, forcible sexual penetration, lewd acts with a child, continuous sexual abuse of a child and other offenses described in California Penal Code Section 667.6.


Under California Penal Code 1203.4, it is possible to have your conviction expunged. A conviction which has been expunged may permit you to state on some job applications that you have not been convicted of the crime. However, there is more that an expungment does not accomplish than it accomplishes. For example, if you are convicted of prostitution and have the conviction expunged, a second conviction will not spare you the mandatory penalty of 45 days in jail.


California Penal Code Section 4852.01 provides that, for certain crimes, a person can be granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation and a pardon. A person convicted of certain sex crimes, such as oral copulation of a child, is ineligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation.
Our office has successfully handled a number of Petitions for Rehabilitation.


California Penal Code Section 290 requires that persons convicted of most sex offenses must register as convicted sex offenders. In the majority of cases, registration is for life. If a registered sex offender changes his or her address, he or she must notify the local police department of the change of address within five working days of moving. Every registered sex offender must re-register annually. Students and employees of colleges and universities have additional registration requirements.

Failure to register, failure to re-register every year and failure to report a change of address constitute new crimes and can result in additional jail sentences.

For certain sex offenses, if a person obtains a Certificate of Rehabilitation, his or her registration requirement may be terminated.
The sex offender registration laws are extremely lengthy and complicated. We cannot describe the laws in their entirety on this website. As stated previously, registration, in most cases, lasts for the life of the convicted person. Records are kept for 75 years. This is true even for misdemeanors such as sexual battery. We are available for consultation on this subject.


California Penal Code §290.46 (e (2)(c) requires that individuals convicted of certain sex offense are obliged to have their names, photos and information about their convictions included on Megan’s Law Website. This burden is in addition to the requirement to register as a sex offender. Certain individuals are excluded from this requirement.

The California Attorney General determines who must be included on the Megan’s Law Website. If you are on the website, any person can, with a click of a computer mouse, open your record and view your picture and everything about your conviction.

We are presently appealing cases for clients who have been required to be included on the Megan’s Law Website. We contend that, in some cases the requirement to be posted on the website is unconstitutional.


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