Child Molestation Laws in California

Child molestation refers to many types of crimes motivated by a sexual interest against a child victim. The legal definition of a child in California is a minor under the age of 18. Dozens of specific acts meet the definition of child molestation and child sexual abuse under state law in California. Learning more about these laws can help you understand your rights as a survivor or the parent of a survivor. If you have additional questions after reading this post, speak with a Los Angeles child sexual abuse attorney at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.

Types of Child Sex Crimes in California

Under California’s criminal justice system, a set of laws known as the Penal Code lists several specific crimes that fall under the umbrella of child molestation. The definitions of these crimes are long and detailed. Summaries of some of the most commonly cited child molestation laws in California are:

Note that a perpetrator can be guilty of child molestation without ever touching a child. To prove a child molestation criminal case in California, a prosecutor must provide evidence that the defendant was motivated by a sexual interest in a specific child or all children in general, and that the defendant committed an act knowing it was likely to irritate, disturb, or be witnessed by the child and/or other children.

The conduct in question must be such that a normal person would immediately find it disturbing, irritating or harmful. The prosecutor must prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt for a successful criminal case against the perpetrator in California.

Criminal Penalties for Child Molestation in California

The criminal courts in California take sex crimes seriously. However, sex crimes against children are viewed as especially egregious. It is not a defense to this type of criminal charge if the child gave his or her consent. If a defendant is found guilty of child molestation, he or she can face serious penalties, including:

  • Probation
  • Mandatory psychological evaluation
  • Fines
  • Restitution paid to the victim
  • A misdemeanor or felony on the defendant’s permanent record
  • Time spent in jail or prison
  • A life sentence behind bars

These penalties increase if the perpetrator used a dangerous or deadly weapon to commit the sex crime. According to Penal Code Section 290, every person convicted of child molestation or another sex crime against children must also register his or her name on the Sex Offender Registry in California within five working days of coming into the state. Being on this list can affect where a person can live and work in California.

Statutes of Limitations for Child Molestation in California

A statute of limitations is a legal deadline for bringing a claim. All states have statutes of limitations for criminal and civil charges. If a prosecutor or plaintiff fails to file the legal paperwork by California’s statute of limitations, the courts may refuse to hear the case against the defendant.

In California, the statute of limitations on a child sexual abuse criminal case depends on the circumstances of the alleged crime. It can range from a few years to any time. According to Section 340.1 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure, anyone wishing to file a civil lawsuit against a person or party for child molestation or childhood sexual assault must commence the action within 22 years of turning 18 (the victim’s 40th birthday).

If the victim discovers his or her psychological harm occurring after the age of majority stemmed from sexual assault, he or she has five years from the date of discovery to file. For more information about California’s child molestation laws, contact an attorney today.