San Diego SEX CRIMEs LAWYER
I am sex crimes attorney Peter M. Liss, and I can help you. I offer experienced and compassionate legal defense services for a wide variety of criminal offenses, and I have personally defended many individuals who have been arrested and charged with a sex offense in Vista and the rest of San Diego County, including:
- Child Molestation
- Child Pornography
- Attempting to Meet a Child for Sex
- Indecent Exposure
- Solicitation of Prostitution
- Forced Oral Copulation
- Penetration with a Foreign Object
- Forced Sodomy
- Human Trafficking
- Revenge Porn
I can also help if you are facing a potential “third strike” under the three strikes law. If you need a sex crime lawyer, please call me today for a free consultation and case evaluation. You will receive top-quality representation for a reasonable fee.
Sex Offense Charges in San Diego County
I have represented people accused of all types of sex crime allegations, including rape, statutory rape, possession of child pornography or other obscene material, internet sex crimes, lewd act with a child under age 14, molestation of a child over age 14, indecent exposure, lewd acts in public, solicitation of prostitution, pimping and pandering, prostitution, sexual battery, sex offender registry violations and more. I have even represented people accused of being sexually violent predators required to be confined after serving their sentence.
Penalties for California Sex Crimes
Penalties for these offenses can include jail or prison time, fines, being subject to mandatory sex offender registration under California’s Megan’s Law, and involuntarily confinement after a sentence is served (for violent crimes). In cases involving sex acts with a child, you may even lose the right to see your children or be in the presence of children.
Do all Sex Crimes Require Registration on the Sex Offender List?
Fortunately, no. Most sex crimes against minors and forced sex crimes require registration on the Megan’s Law list. However, a few offenses, such as prostitution and lewd acts in public, do not. In some cases involving less serious sex crimes, an attorney may be able to have the charges reduced to a crime that does not require mandatory registration.
Do Juvenile Offenders go on the Sex Crime Registry?
Yes, but not all juvenile sex offenders will be required to register. Those granted probation can avoid mandatory sex offender registration. Those required to register will not appear on the Megan’s Law website until they turn 18. Under California’s new tiered sex offender registry, minors are classified into one of two tiers, which carry a 5 or 10 year registry period. In contrast, adults are grouped into one of three tiers with registration periods of 10 years, 20 years, or life.
Sex Crimes and the Three Strikes Law
Additionally, many sex offenses are strikes under California’s three strikes law (California penal code section 667). Under this law, if you have one previous strike on your record, your sentence will automatically be doubled, and you will need to serve at least 80% of your sentence before you become eligible for parole.
If you have two previous strikes and are accused of a violent or serious felony (including rape), you will face 25 years to life imprisonment in state prison. Fortunately, a skilled San Diego sex offender attorney can often convince the judge to “strike a prior strike,” meaning they will ignore a previous strike for sentencing purposes.
San Diego Rape Attorney
Rape, covered by California Penal Code section 261 (PC), is the best-known form of sexual assault. It involves the act of sexual intercourse, or attempted sexual intercourse, with an unwilling, unknowing, or unconscious person, accomplished by force, threat, fear of immediate injury, drugging the victim, or other prohibited conduct. Sexual battery, California Penal Code section 243.4 (PC), is a related offense that is essentially unwelcome sexual touching. A rape conviction requires an automatic state prison sentence of at least 3 years, though you could face up to 8 years for each count.
Date Rape is Still Rape
California rape law does not require an offender to use physical violence. Rape can occur any time a victim says “no” or is unable to say “no.” Date rape charges are some of the most common sexual assault accusations filed in California. It doesn’t matter if you and the alleged victim had consensual sex in the past.
While a violent sexual assault will leave bruises and other marks that can be used as evidence, cases involving date rape may come down to whether or not the alleged victim was able to consent to sexual activity. These cases often get ugly because while both parties agree they had intercourse, the matter of consent is disputed. No matter the specifics of your case, choose a San Diego defense lawyer with experience defending various charges, ranging from non-violent acquaintance rape to sexual assaults that have left the victim in the hospital.
Statutory Rape Charges: Penal Code 261.5 (PC)
If a person has sexual intercourse with a minor under 18, they have committed statutory rape, regardless of their age and whether the victim consented or even initiated the activity. If both parties are under 18, it is still a crime, though these cases are rarely prosecuted in San Diego County. Under the law, even emancipated minors cannot consent to sex. It is only legal for minors to have sex if they are married.
To prosecute statutory rape, the prosecution must prove the parties were not married, did have sex, and that one party was under 18 at the time. Finding sufficient evidence to prove sex occurred is difficult, especially if the minor is uncooperative with the police and prosecutors. In some cases, a defense attorney may be able to have the charges dropped by showing the child or their parents have something to gain by accusing the other party of statutory rape.
Under 261.5 (PC), statutory rape charges can be either a misdemeanor or felony in California. In cases involving people who are no more than three years apart in age, the charges are always a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor statutory rape charges carry a penalty of up to one year of jail time and $1,000 in fines, while felonies carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison. The sentence could go up to four years if the defendant was over 21 and the victim was under 16 when the intercourse occurred. Statutory rape does not require mandatory registration as a sex offender, although this can still be added as part of the sentence.
Is There a Difference Between Sexual Assault and Rape?
Yes. While some states have replaced the word “rape” with “sexual assault” in their law books, the two terms are distinct in California. Here, sexual assault is an umbrella term for a type of crime that involves the unwanted touching of another person in their breasts, genitals, anus, groin, or buttocks. Rape, sexual battery, forced oral copulation, forcible penetration with a foreign object, and illegal sodomy are different types of sexual assault that involve physical penetration.
What is Aggravated Sexual Assault?
Cases that involve more than one attacker, a defendant with a previous sex crime conviction, a weapon, a juvenile victim, where the victim suffered great bodily injury, or that took place during a burglary or kidnapping are known as aggravated rape under California Penal Code section 269 (PC). Under California’s one-strike law, those convicted of aggravated rape can face 15 years to life in state prison. If the victim was a child under 18, the crime carries a life sentence.
Even those released from prison after a conviction for aggravated sexual assault must register as sex offenders for life. Many will be considered dangerous violent offenders, meaning they may be subject to mandatory confinement in an institution or chemical castration.
What is Considered Consent Under California Law?
Consent means someone agrees to a sexual interaction. Ideally, it comes in the form of a verbal “yes,” but as long as either party was free to say “no,” “stop,” or use a pre-chosen safe word at any point, that can still be considered consent. Being married is not considered consent.
When one party is unable to stop the activity before or after it starts (including being unconscious or too intoxicated to consent) or attempts to discontinue a sexual act they initially agreed to, but is ignored or forced to keep going, the other party may be charged with sexual assault.
Is the Victim’s Word Alone Enough to Convict me?
Yes. While rape cases may involve plenty of physical evidence, many come down to nothing more than one person’s story vs. another. For this reason, what you say can make or break a case. If you lie about an alibi or not knowing the victim and the prosecution can prove it, this may weaken your case. Never speak to the police without your attorney present, as this will likely result in you saying something that can be used against you. Police often trick suspects into confessing by lying about evidence.
The Victim Didn’t Fight Back, so I Didn’t do Anything Wrong, Right?
If a victim didn’t consent, sexual assault occurred, even if they did not resist.
If the Person I had Sex With Told me They Were 18, is it Still Statutory Rape?
If you legitimately believed the person was over 18, this is a defense, but this criminal defense is much stronger if you met somewhere like a bar than at a playground. This defense may not be as strong if the victim looks particularly young.
Fighting Sex Crime Accusations
These are serious offenses with complex defenses. It is vital to always work with a top sex offender lawyer in San Diego who has experience fighting crimes similar to the one you have been accused of. With over 40 years of experience, I have personally represented people charged with just about every type of sex crime in California. I am skilled at helping clients obtain the best results under the particular facts and laws of their cases.
What Should I do When Someone has Accused me of a Sex Crime?
First, try to remain calm. While these accusations can be very upsetting, you need to act rationally. Remind yourself that it is possible to fight these charges, and they don’t have to ruin your reputation. Next, call a lawyer as soon as possible and schedule a consultation. Before your appointment:
- Write down everything you can remember about the incident in question.
- Create a list of potential witnesses, including their contact information.
- Collect all physical evidence you may have, which may include clothing, videos, photos, or objects, and store any physical evidence in plastic bags.
- Put together all documents or other records related to the charges, including emails, phone records, texts, and other communications between you and the alleged victim.
- Gather any proof that could back up your alibi, such as GPS records, geotagged photos, event tickets, etc.
Your attorney may be able to arrange for you to be arrested away from your home or office to help you protect your reputation. He can also try to limit the publicity of the charges so you can minimize public knowledge of the alleged crime.
Defenses to Sex Offenses
When fighting sex crimes, the defense must be perfectly tailored to your specific circumstances. Common defenses against sex crimes include:
The Prosecution has Insufficient Evidence
Many cases come down to the word of the victim versus the word of the defendant, which is rarely enough evidence to convict the accused party. For this reason, police often attempt to coerce a suspect into confessing to a crime, so you should never speak to investigators or the victim without your defense attorney present.
The Encounter Was Consensual
The most common defense against rape charges is that the alleged victim consented to sexual intercourse. By arguing that the victim consented, you agree that sex did occur. By agreeing to this fact, you negate forensic evidence showing you were involved in a sexual encounter with the victim unless it shows force was used —and even then, it’s possible to argue that you engaged in consensual rough sex. Consent is not a defense against sex crimes where the victim is not legally able to consent, such as when the victim is under 18, too drunk to consent, unconscious, or mentally incompetent. Always speak to your San Diego criminal defense before speaking with any law enforcement agents so you do not say something that will hurt your criminal defense.
No Sex Actually Occurred
If a victim claims they were raped, but you didn’t have intercourse with them, you need to be clear about this. This defense can be particularly successful if the victim was raped while unconscious —just because they remembered being with you before passing out or someone saw you with the victim does not mean you had sex with them. Again, this is not a defense in all cases, as some sex crimes, such as child molestation, are still illegal even if no sex occurred. Additionally, oral copulation, anal penetration, and even penetration with a foreign object are still forms of sexual assault when performed without consent, so be cautious with this defense.
You’re the Victim of Mistaken Identity
Going along with the idea that no sex occurred is the concept of mistaken identities. Just because someone claims you were the one that raped them or that they saw you raping someone else does not mean you had anything to do with the incident. Eyewitness testimony is unreliable, and people are often subject to mistaken identity problems.
The Accuser has an Ulterior Motive
If you claim that no sex occurred or it was consensual, but the victim claims you violated them, your attorney might recommend questioning the alleged victim’s motivation for making the accusation. Could the supposed victim benefit financially from the allegations? Were you in an emotional breakup with the alleged victim? Is the alleged victim possibly trying to protect their reputation by claiming rape rather than admitting to consensual sex?
Any of these motives could bring the accuser’s testimony into question. Never attempt this defense without first speaking to your San Diego sex crimes attorney, as accusing someone of having ulterior motives can backfire in some cases, making you look more guilty.
The Evidence has Been Tainted
This concept primarily applies to child rape and molestation cases. Essentially, taint occurs when a child is subjected to leading and suggestive interviews by parents, teachers, police officers, or therapists. Children often want to please adults and answer affirmatively to questions even when the answer is “no.” Additionally, while it is possible to implant false memories into anyone’s mind, children are highly susceptible to the power of suggestion.
Between their desire to please and their subjectivity to the implantation of false memories, it’s easy for a question like “Did your teacher touch you there?” to not only result in a “yes” answer when the opposite is true but to actually create a memory in the child’s mind that isn’t real.
Unfortunately, many people asking children such questions aren’t aware of this problem, so they can plant deep, dark memories in the child’s mind that would not otherwise be there, possibly leaving innocent people behind bars.
Investigators Improperly Collected Evidence
Evidence collected from the sexual abuse victim of a rape and at the scene of the crime must be taken in a very precise manner and moved from one location to another using a strict chain of command. If the evidence is improperly collected or unaccounted for at any point, it becomes tainted and is inadmissible in court. Even if tainted evidence shows you had sex with the victim, this cannot be used against you.
You’re Guilty of a Lesser Offense
In many cases, your lawyer may argue that you committed an offense less serious than the one you are accused of to avoid more severe penalties. This tactic is commonly used in negotiating plea bargains.
Do Not Attempt These Defenses Without a Lawyer
You can hurt your case in many ways by improperly using one of these defenses, so you should never speak with the police or the victim without your lawyer present. For example, if you claim the victim consented, you cannot later say that there is a problem of mistaken identity. Similarly, if you try to say no sex occurred, but forensic evidence shows otherwise, the police and prosecutors will argue that the fact that you lied once means you are untrustworthy.