It seems like every day there is a new story about how a Hollywood superstar or producer and sexual assault. George Takei is the latest star to be accused of engaging in unsavory (and illegal) sexual behavior. According to a former male model and actor, Takei forcefully groped him while they were at Takei’s Los Angeles home nearly 40 years ago. Takei has adamantly denied these allegations. At the moment, the case remains a “he said, he said” battle. If these allegations are true, can Takei face any criminal charges for sexual misconduct?
Groping and Sexual Assault
In Los Angeles, it is a crime to touch another person’s intimate parts without his/her permission for sexual gratification. This crime, which is legally defined as “sexual battery” in California Penal Code 234.4(a) PC, can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Most cases of sexual battery that are limited to groping will most likely be charged as misdemeanors.
Statute of Limitations for Groping in California
Is it possible for Takei to face misdemeanor charges for sexual battery for groping a man nearly 40 years ago? No. The statute of limitations for sexual assault in California is ten years. This means that the crime of sexual assault must be charged within 10 years of an incident. Since Takei’s alleged victim remained silent for nearly four decades the statute of limitations has been long expired.
Purpose of the Statute of Limitations
Why does California have a statute of limitations for sexual assault cases? Why can’t alleged victims get justice after ten years have passed? The main reason that California imposes a statute of limitations is to protect the rights of the accused. The statute of limitations has three distinct purposes:
- Imposes a sense of urgency on the state to investigate and charge crimes;
- Protects defendants from being prosecuted after a long period of time, after which valuable evidence could have been lost; and
- Protects defendants from answering for a crime that they committed during a different part of their life.
Statute of Limitations As a Problem for Victims
The statute of limitations can put victims of sexual assault in a tricky situation. Victims often report feeling hesitant and afraid to come forward after an assault. This is especially true when their alleged abuser holds a position of power or celebrity. Failing to come forward, however, can mean that their abusers will not be held criminally responsible for their acts.
Evidence in Sexual Assault Cases
Many sexual assault cases exist because a victim comes forward an accuses another person of sexual misconduct. These cases often lack hard physical evidence and are forced to rely on the testimony of the victim, defendant, and witnesses. While circumstantial evidence does not preclude a conviction, it can be difficult to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on testimony alone.
Even if Takei were to face criminal charges for groping a man 40 years ago, it is unlikely that the state would be able to find the necessary evidence to support a case. Evidence that may have existed years ago has likely be lost or forgotten over the past four decades. The memories of the parties involved – including the alleged victim and Takei – would also probably not be the best basis for a case. Memories fade with time, and the way we remember events of our past become distorted. A prosecutor would have a difficult time proving that Takei was conclusively guilty of groping someone 40 years ago unless solid photographic, physical, or video evidence existed.
Sexual Assault Allegations in Los Angeles
It seems as though most of the allegations that have been made recently are about events that happened years (or decades) ago. In most cases, the men who have been accused of sexual assault will not face criminal charges for their acts, simply because they happened so long ago. However, sexual assault tends to be a habitual act, meaning that these men may have continued their sexual misconduct in recent years. Allegations about recent acts of sexual assault could potentially result in criminal charges. These men will undoubtedly hire an experienced Los Angeles sexual assault defense attorney if allegations of recent incidents are made.