California Penal Code 288.5 PC - Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child

California Penal Code 288.5 PC defines the felony crime of continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14. If convicted under this statute, you face up to 16 years in state prison.

Further, it will count as a strike under California's three-strikes law, and you will be required to register as a PC 290 sex offender for life.

To convict someone, the prosecutor must prove the crime's elements. These include that there were at least three or more instances of sexual abuse, the defendant lives in the same home or has recurring access to the child, and the abuse occurred over three months or longer.

PC 288.5 says, “(a) Anyone who either resides in the same home with the minor child or has recurring access to them, who over a period of time, not less than three months in duration, engages in three or more acts of substantial sexual conduct with a child under the age of 14 years at the time of the commission of the offense, as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 1203.066, or three or more acts of lewd or lascivious conduct, as defined in Section 288, with a child under the age of 14 years at the time of the commission of the offense is guilty of the offense of continuous sexual abuse of a child and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of 6, 12, or 16 years.”

In the context of this law, sexual conduct means oral copulation or masturbation of either the child or the defendant or penetration of the child's or defendant's vagina or rectum. The penetration can occur by the other person's penis or foreign object.

Oral copulation is any contact between one person's mouth and the sexual organ or anus of another. Penetration is not required for oral copulation to occur. To be charged with this 288.5, the person has to be having some sexual relationship with a minor under 14, and it has to happen more than one time.  It will have to occur multiple times to get that continuous sexual abuse of a minor.  So, they will have to have evidence through DNA or some admission.

The child can testify against the person – maybe a relative walks in and catches the individual in the act, and that's the main witness. Perhaps the child goes to the school and reports that they're being sexually abused. That happens often, and the school must report that to the authorities. The authorities interview the child and will try to question you or your loved one, depending on who's involved with the case.

Lewd acts on a child include willful touching of a child for sexual arousal, but the touching doesn't have to be done offensively. Our criminal defense lawyers will review this law in more detail below.

What is the Definition of PC 288.5?

To convict you of continuous sexual abuse of a child, a prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, several factors that are called the "elements of the crime," including the following:

  • You lived in the same home with or had recurring access to the minor,  
  • You engaged in three or more specific acts of sexual conduct with the minor,
  • Three or more months passed between the first and last sexual acts and
  • The child was under the age of 14 years when the sexual acts occurred. 

 As noted, “Sexual conduct” is defined as oral copulation or masturbation of the minor or yourself or penetration of the minor's vagina or rectum, which could consist of your penis or a foreign object. 

Lewd or lascivious conduct” means to willfully touch a minor or cause them to touch themselves or another person for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal. The touching could be on bare skin or through their clothes and includes any part of the minor's body, not just their private parts.

What Are the Related Crimes for PC 288.5?

In California, several statutes are related to child molestation and PC 288.5 sexual abuse of a minor, including:

PC 288 is the California statute that defines the serious crime of “lewd and lascivious acts with a minor child.” A “lewd act” means either touching a child under 16 for sexual purposes or causing them to touch themselves. 

What Are the Penalties?

California Penal Code 288.5 PC continuous sexual abuse of a child is a felony offense. If you are convicted, you face the following penalties:

  • Six, 12, or 16 years in state prison,
  • A fine of up to $10,000,
  • Victim restitution,
  • Sex offender registration,
  • A strike under California's three-strikes law.

Notably, a judge might issue a restraining order prohibiting you from having any contact with the victim. Child Protective Services might sometimes attempt to remove the minor from the home.

PC 288.5 is considered a "strike" because it is a serious violent felony. If you are a habitual sex offender with two or more convictions for qualifying sex crimes, you are facing 25 years to life in state prison. 

A conviction also means a lifetime sex offender registration requirement. You must register with local police every year within five days of your birthday or moving to another location. Sometimes, you might be prohibited from living near schools or parks. 

Defending PC 288.5 Charges in the CCB Court

What are the best practices for handling a California Penal Code 288.5 PC continuous sexual abuse of someone under 14 at the CCB courthouse?

The Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center at 210 West Temple in downtown Los Angeles courthouse probably handles the most PC 288.5 cases in LA county, and that is because they have most of the sex crime prosecutors there.

Defending Sex Crimes in Los Angeles Courts

The head prosecutor handling the sex crime cases office is across the street at the Hall of Justice.  They're mostly filed there, and these cases are severe because you can face life in prison depending on the victim's age, your prior criminal record, and what exactly you did in the case.

If you or a loved one is charged with PC 288.5 – continuous sexual conduct with an individual under 14, pick up the phone now.  Set up a meeting with me.  I've been handling these cases for 30 years now.  They are taken very seriously, and the prosecutors often try to get a life or sentence someone north of 20 years. 

So, what I have you do is come in.  If it's your loved one, many times the bail is over a million dollars, so you're loved one can't bail out; we can sit down and talk and go over the case. 

I worked for the district attorney's office in East Los Angeles in 1992, and then I also worked for a superior court judge. Finally, in the early 1990s, I became a criminal defense attorney, defending people like you and your loved ones in these severe cases. 

Fighting or Negotiating the PC 288.5 Case

You can fight continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14 with a legal defense. So, we must first determine whether or not the prosecutors can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. You need to understand that consent from the minor is not a valid defense as they cannot give consent under the law. There are some common defense strategies our California sex crime lawyer can use, such as the following: 

  • Contact with the minor was not sexual,
  • You did not have recurring access,
  • You are the victim of a false allegation. 

These laws only apply to sexual conduct with a minor. Perhaps we can argue that physical contact was not prohibited. PC 288.5 charges only apply if you lived with the minor or had recurring access to them, such as a babysitter. Perhaps we can argue there was no recurring access, and the charges should be dismissed.

Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child – Penal Code 288.5 PC

False allegations are common in PC 288.5 cases, as children might accuse someone for different reasons. Perhaps they were coached by another adult during a child custody battle. Maybe there is an ongoing ugly divorce, and the child is being used as a tool of revenge. Perhaps the child was confused or made up the story to get the adult to leave the home. Maybe the child was angry and lied to get some attention.

Suppose the prosecutor has the evidence to prove guilt. In that case, we may want to negotiate, work out a deal, and create a mitigation package. We will also get Penal Code 288.1 PC mental evaluation report, which is to determine whether you are a pedophile or possible recidivist, and a standardized test called a static 99 report to see whether or not they score high, moderate, or low for committing this type of offense in the future.

Also, a big thing in these cases is that the prosecutors will be looking at whether or not your loved one has ever done something like this before and what the surrounding circumstances are of the current case. 

Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges or drop the case. Maybe we can persuade them not to file formal criminal charges in the first place through prefiling negotiations (DA reject). Pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm offers a free case evaluation via phone or contact form.

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