Deciding If Sexual Battery was Accidental or Intentional?

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingJun 06, 2022

I see many people charged with California Penal Code 243.4 PC sexual battery, indicating that the contact with the victim in the case was accidental. 

The way the prosecutors have to prove a case like that is by using the evidence, and a lot of times, it is circumstantial evidence. So, how can a sexual battery charge be determined to be intentional or accidental?

PC 243.4 Sexual Battery was Accidental or Intentional?

If somebody is walking on a crowded street, they bump into another person and accidentally touch that person's private part. That particular individual has no criminal record. They have a pretty good argument that it was accidental. It would be challenging for the prosecutors in that scenario to prove a sexual battery. 

There has to be some intent involved.  In other words, someone has to touch another person in their private part intentionally. 

But if you change the scenario a little bit and it's not a crowded street, and someone bumps against a woman, for example, and touches her private area, and that person has prior sexual convictions for a similar type of conduct. That would be easier for the prosecutors to prove that case.

Because not only will they say, what are the odds you're going to bump into someone when there's nobody else around and touch them in their private part? This is especially true when they have these other cases.

They may even be able to get in under Evidence Code Section 1108 – prior incidents that a person has against them to show they tend to commit sex crimes. Our California criminal defense attorneys will examine this topic further below.

What is Penal Code 243.4 PC Sexual Battery?

California Penal Code 243.4 PC defines the sexual-related crime of “sexual battery” as touching somebody's intimate parts, without consent, for sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse. PC 243.4 says:

Penal Code 243.4 PC Sexual Battery
  • “Anybody who touches an intimate part of someone while they are unlawfully restrained by accused, and if the touching is against their will and is for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or sexual abuse.”

An “intimate part” is a female breast, groin, anus, buttocks, or sexual organs. “touching” means making contact with the victim's bare skin or clothing.

This sexual assault offense is a “wobbler” that the prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony. PC 243.4 misdemeanor sexual battery is an:

  • unwanted sexual touching of someone else, and
  • the lowest-level sex crime under California law, and
  • the offense prosecutors charge for the least sexual misconduct.

A misdemeanor sexual battery charge could be a severe warning that victims and witnesses have reported suspicious sexual conduct.

A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $3,000. A felony will carry up to four years in a California state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

What Are Some Other Types of Sexual Battery Laws?

The sexual battery statute of California Penal Code 243.4 PC adds other types of offenses that increase the potential penalties, either to a misdemeanor punished by up to one year in jail, instead of six months in jail, or a felony crime punishable by up to four years in imprisonment.

The fines for these more serious types of sexual battery also increase to a $10,000 maximum.  There are four more serious wobbler versions of sexual battery:

  • touching is accomplished while the victim is unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, Penal Code Section 243.4(a) PC;
  • victim is institutionalized for medical treatment and severely disabled or medically incapacitated, Penal Code Section 243.4(b) PC;
  • victim is unaware of the nature of the act because the perpetrator fraudulently represented that the touching was for a professional purpose, Penal Code Section 243.4(c) PC;
  • perpetrator caused an unlawfully restrained person to masturbate or touch an intimate part of themselves, perpetrator, or third person, Penal Code Section 243.4(d) PC.

Will You Have to Register as a Sex Offender?

I gave you two examples above, both to the extreme.  Some situations occur somewhere in the middle of that, and it's not that easy to tell whether or not somebody intended to commit a sexual battery. 

But you do have to get down to the nitty-gritty of some of these cases because if you're convicted of a sexual battery, you'll have to register under the three-tier system for ten years. 

Every year on your birthday, you'll have to register with local law enforcement, and you could potentially be put on a website (Megan's Law) where people can see that you're a sex offender. There are many other problems with being convicted of a sexual battery.

What Are the Best Defenses for Sexual Battery?

So, suppose you or a loved one is charged with sexual battery. In that case, you want to hire the best attorney to evaluate whether or not you actually could be proven to have intentionally committed the sexual battery versus whether it was an accident, it was a mistake, or you didn't do it on purpose.

Consent may also be a strong defense. The touching might not have been to an intimate part or may have been therapeutic or cordial rather than sexual.

Best Defenses for Sexual Battery?

You want somebody like me who has 30 years of experience defending people just like you, has done jury trials, has seen what it takes for the prosecutors to win the case and has also seen the other side of it and what it takes for the defense to win a sexual battery case. 

Once you do that evaluation, you decide whether or not it's the type of case that's going to go to trial or the kind of case that a resolution needs to be had between you, the prosecutor, the judge, and your attorney. 

If you're going to take that route, you want the best attorney possible on your side, fighting for you, doing everything they can to be sure you get the best result.

If you need the best for a sexual battery, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm offers a free case review by phone or by filling out the contact form.