Police have arrested a man they believe is responsible for a series of recent sexual assaults in Los Angeles. According to reports, 32-year-old Carlos Vazquez Castro attacked and inappropriately touched several women along Olympic Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard last week. Police also believe some attacks occurred at women’s nearby homes. Castro is facing felony criminal charges for sexual battery.
Sexual Assault Laws in California
Touching another person in a sexually explicit way without their consent is sexual assault. In California, sexual assault is also known as sexual battery. Under Penal Code 243.4 PC, it’s a crime to restrain and “touch the intimate part of another person” against their will “for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse.”
What does the state have to prove when a person is accused of sexual battery? Prosecutors must prove that the defendant:
- Acted intentionally
- Touched the intimate parts of another person
- Did not have the victim’s consent, and
- Wanted to sexually gratify, arouse, or abuse themselves or the victim.
Sexual Battery Requires Specific Intent
Sexual battery is what is known as a specific intent crime. Specific intent means that you perform an act and hope that there is a very particular outcome or result. The state has to prove that you had this very specific intent when you engaged in unlawful conduct.
Sexual battery only occurs when you touch another person in a sexually explicit way for the purpose of:
- Gratifying, or
yourself or the victim.
You can’t be convicted if prosecutors can’t prove that you acted with one of these intentions beyond a reasonable doubt.
What Are Intimate Parts?
Sexual battery involves touching the intimate parts of another person. The law is very clear about what parts of the body are considered to be “intimate.” These include:
- Sexual organ (e.g., penis, scrotum, vagina)
- Female breast, and
Contact can be direct (directly on the skin) or indirect (through clothing or fabric).
Is Sexual Battery a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
In California, sexual battery can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The charge will depend on several factors. These might include:
- The number of victims
- The victims’ ages
- Degree of harm suffered by those victims
- Criminal record and history of sex crime convictions, and
- Abuse of a position of power.
As a misdemeanor, sexual battery is punishable by up to 12 months in a Los Angeles jail, $2,000 in fines, and probation.
As a felony, sexual battery is punishable by up to four years in a California prison, $10,000 in fines, and formal probation.
A court can also issue a restraining order and mandate sex counseling classes.
You Must Register as a Sex Offender After a Sexual Battery Conviction
Sex crimes are considered to be some of the most severe offenses. Most sex crime convictions require mandatory registration as a sex offender with the state. California recently reorganized its sex offender registry into three tiers.
If you’re convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery, you will be considered a tier one sex offender. You’ll have to register for a minimum of 10 years.
After a felony sexual battery conviction, you’ll be considered a tier three sex offender. Tier three offenders are required to register as a sex offender for life.
Failure to register as a sex offender, as required by law, carries harsh penalties.
Anyone charged with a crime, especially a sex crime, should seek help immediately. A strong defense, preferably led by an experienced criminal defense attorney, is critical. Your future could be in danger without one.