Arrested? Suffering from a past conviction?

Call us or Click Here to schedule your free, in-person (weekends often available).

If our operators are busy, leave a detailed voice message.

Contact Us Now!

Sexual Battery under California Penal Code § 243.4

The California offense of sexual battery (commonly known as “sexual assault”) is defined in Cal. Penal Code § 243.4 as touching the intimate areas of another person without their consent for the purposes of sexual enjoyment, sexual arousal, or sexual abuse.

Statute on sexual battery states that:

“243.4. (a) Any person who touches an intimate part of another person while that person is unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, and if the touching is against the will of the person touched and is for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery. A violation of this subdivision is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, and by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000); or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, and by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000).”

Sexual battery charges can be either misdemeanors or felonies. Felony charges may be charged if the alleged victim was:

  • Not made fully aware of the true nature of the deed since they were duped into believing that the touching was for professional reasons (e.g., medical or therapeutic purposes);
  • illegally restrained, incarcerated and either medically incapable or severely crippled; or
  • In any of the situations listed above, being compelled to masturbate or touch one of his/her personal parts - or the intimate parts of another person. [California Penal Code § 243.4 PC. See also People v. Reeves (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 14. See also People v. Sommer (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 2021), 275 Cal. Rptr. 3d 872.]

Common Legal Defenses in Charges for Sexual Battery

  1. The victim consented to the act (that is, the putative victim truly agreed to the conduct)
  2. There is inadequate proof; and
  3. False claims / innocence

Penalties for Sexual Battery Conviction

Penalties imposed for PC § 243.4 conviction will depend on whether a defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony charge. If convicted for a misdemeanor sexual battery conviction, the defendant can be made to suffer six (6) months or (1) one year of county jail depending on the facts of the case and the gravity of the acts complained of. In addition, he/she can be fined up to $2,000 or even $3,000 if the victim is the defendant’s employee [Cal. Penal Code § 243.4].

On the other hand, a felony conviction for PC § 243.4 carries a more serious consequence because it involves incarceration in the state prison for a period of two (2), three (3), or (4) years and payment of a fine, which can be up to $10,000 [Cal. Penal Code § 243.4]

Sex Offender Registration for Sexual Battery conviction

Conviction for sexual battery charges will also lead to becoming a registered sex offender. The mandatory period of registration will depend on whether the conviction was for a misdemeanor or a felony charge. If convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery, the defendant will be classified as a Tier I offender subject to a 10-year minimum period of registration as a sex offender. But, if convicted of a felony charge, registration will be for a lifetime.

Sexual Battery Explained

Sexual battery (sometimes known as “sexual assault”) is defined in PC § 243.4 as:

  1. Touching another person's private parts;
  2. Without the victim’s consent;
  3. With the purpose of sexual stimulation, enjoyment, or abuse [Cal. Penal Code § 243.4]

Unlike rape under PC § 261, sexual assault does not require the perpetrator to engage in real sexual penetration or sexual intercourse [Cal. Penal Code § 261]. One may be convicted under California's sexual assault legislation even if he/she is engaging in an ongoing sexual relationship with the complainant.

Aggravated forms of sexual assault

PC § 243.4 handles more heinous kinds of sexual assault as well. Sexual Battery is committed when the preceding definition is satisfied and the alleged victim is:

  1. Improperly confined, either by the perpetrator of the sexual violence or by someone else [Cal. Penal Code 243.4 (e)(1)];
  2. A person who has been hospitalized for medical care AND is severely injured or physically incapacitated [Cal. Penal Code 243.4 (a)];
  3. Uninformed of the nature of the conduct because the offender falsely claimed that the touching was for a professional purpose [Cal. Penal Code 243.4 (b)]; or
  4. Under any of the aforementioned situations, made to masturbate or touch the intimate part of the culprit, an accomplice, or another person[Cal. Penal Code 243.4 (c)]

This is the only offense in California where a sexual battery is recognized if the complaining witness is compelled to touch the defendant’s personal parts.

Legal terms in Sexual Battery explained

The definition of “sexual battery” may come as ordinary. However, being a criminal offense, the courts have ruled exacting definitions of the terms as used under the Cal. Penal Code § 243.4.

1. Touching

Touching contemplated under PC § 243.4 pertains to physical contact with intimate parts of the victim. A distinction should be made in considering “touch” as an element for the crime of sexual battery as a misdemeanor or a felony. If prosecuted as a misdemeanor, the physical contact with intimate parts of the victim may be done directly or through clothing, which may be the defendant’s clothing or the clothing of the alleged victim [Cal. Penal Code § 243.4. See also People v. Dayan (1995) 34 Cal.App.4th 707.] On the other hand, “touch” charged as a felony refers to the physical contact with intimate parts of the victim which may be done directly or through his/her clothing. [Cal. Penal Code § 243.4 (f)]

2. Intimate Parts

Intimate parts under PC § 243.5 may be any of the following: a female’s breasts or anyone’s anus, groin, sexual organ, or buttocks [Cal. Penal Code 243.4 (g)]

3. Against the will of the other person

When one touches another person against his/her will implying that he/she did not consent to the conduct, it will be considered as a a violation of the California's sexual assault statute. To consent, a person must act freely and voluntarily while being aware of the nature of the act to which they are consenting [CALCRIM 938].

The reason why the defendant may be prosecuted with aggravated sexual battery despite consent from the victim is when the former falsely states that the touching was for a professional reason. This is because fraud nullifies consent. Individuals cannot agree if they have been misled about the nature of the conduct to which they are consenting.

4. Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse as an element of the crime under PC § 243.4 is present when the act committed was intended to injure, humiliate, intimidate, or cause pain in the victim’s private parts. Even if the defendant was not driven by a desire to enjoy sexual fulfillment or sexual pleasure, sexual contact with this as a goal may constitute a sexual battery [People v. White (1986) 179 Cal.App.3d 193; also see People v. Chavez (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 25].

5. Unlawful Restraint

Restricting another person’s freedom of movement can be attained either by words, acts, or authority and restricting them against theirs [CALCRIM 935]. Illegal restraint necessitates more than simply the physical force required to achieve sexual contact [People v. Pahl (1991) 226 Cal.App.3d 1651, 1661].

6. Accomplice

The prosecution can also be had against a person who comes to aid or abet another person in the commission of sexual battery. Note that the criminal liability of an accomplice is the same as that of the principal perpetrator. A person is deemed to be aiding or abetting when he/she is aware that the perpetrator’s behavior was criminal in nature and that he/she aids, facilitates, promotes, or encourages the commission of the criminal act or participate in the commission of sexual battery [ CALCRIM 935. See also People v. Verlinde (2002) 100 Cal.App.4th 1146; People v. Stankewitz (1990) 51 Cal.3d 72.]

Common Legal Defenses to counter Sexual Battery Charges


Since the crime of sexual battery is only committed when done against the will of the victim, proving that the victim consented may be used as a defense to refute the allegations. It is also possible that, to the least, there is a reasonable belief at the time of the incident that the defendant was not committing a crime of sexual battery given the circumstances.

Inadequate proof to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt

The acts penalized under PC § 243.4 usually does not result in physical proof. In most cases, there is just insufficient evidence to support a sexual battery complaint.

The prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a sexual assault happened. Without substantial evidence, this may be a challenging undertaking, and prosecutors are well aware of this.

As a result, in many circumstances, a qualified attorney may be able to get the defendant’s charges reduced or dropped without ever going to trial.

False Claims

There is sometimes inadequate proof because the purported victim made up the entire story or lied about not consenting to the action. In these situations, the prosecution frequently has little or no evidence to depend on. This is most especially true when the victim has an ill-motive of revenge or some other cause against the defendant.

If committed without the presence of any aggravating factors, the defendant may be convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery and suffer the following penalties: county jail sentence of up to six months, payment of a fine amounting to up to $2,000 (or $3,000, if the victim is the defendant’s employee), and/or undergo summary probation for a maximum period of five years.

However, the commission of the offense may be attended by aggravating factors such as the following: unlawful restraint, the victim was apparently institutionalized, incompetent or disabled, the act is done by means of false representations, orpersuading someone that the touching was for medical reasons. If convicted of felony sexual battery, the following penalties may be imposed:

  1. Formal probation;
  2. Imprisonment in state prison for a period of two, three, or four years [California Penal Code § 243.4]. However, penalty is increased to three to five years imprisonment if the victim suffers a great bodily injury (a significant or substantial physical injury) [Cal. Penal Code § 12022.7]

Being chargeable as either felony or misdemeanor, at the discretion of the prosecutor, the crime of sexual battery is deemed a “wobbler.”

In addition to the aforementioned penalties, it should be emphasized that conviction for sexual battery charges will lead to mandatory registration as a sex offender. Under Cal. Penal Code § 290, offenders who are found guilty of sexual battery are classified as Tier I offenders, subject to a 10-year minimum period of registration as a sex offender.

Civil Damages in Sexual Battery

Aside from being criminally charged for committing sexual battery, the offender can also sustain civil liability for damages. This type of legal action is instituted separately from the criminal charge. In civil cases for damages, it is the victim who has the burden of proof that the commission of sexual battery resulted in damages. Damages claimed under the civil suit may include, medical expenses, damage to property, mental anguish and suffering, and/or loss of earning capacity.

Offenses Similar to Sexual Battery

Some offenses listed under the Cal. Penal Code may be similar or related to the charge of sexual battery. Two of the most common offenses related to PC § 243.3 are Rape and Battery.

a. Rape under Penal Code section 261

Rape is defined as having sexual intercourse without the consent of the victim and was committed through threat, force, or fraud [Cal. Penal Code § 261]

As can be observed, both sexual battery and rape are committed without the consent of the victim. Distinction, however, lies in the presence of sexual intercourse in the crime of rape. Moreover, a conviction for rape is meted with a more serious consequence being punishable by up to eight years in state prison.

b. Battery under Cal. Penal Code § 242

California Penal Code defines sexual battery as unwanted or unsolicited touching, which may or may not necessarily be sexual. [Cal. Penal Code § 242]

Simple battery is charged as a misdemeanor and punishable by imprisonment in county jail for a period not exceeding six months and payment of a fine of up to $2,000.

These issues involving criminal charges for sexual battery can be complex and can generate unfavorable outcomes if an attorney not sufficiently focused in this area of the law is hired, or he/she is otherwise ill-equipped to represent the defendant.

Our firm has decades of experience in successfully representing people with legal matters same or similar in this case. It is a best advice to contact us early for an appointment with one of our attorneys to prevent the challenges and issues that may occur from choosing a lawyer at the last minute.

Get in Touch with Second Chances Law Group

Schedule Your Free Appointment with Our Award-Winning Court Attorneys
Freedom at your Fingertips
    • Please enter your name.
    • This isn't a valid phone number.
    • Please enter your email address.
      This isn't a valid email address.
    • Please make a selection.
    • Please enter a message.
  • Must be checked