CA Penal Code 288 – Lewd or Lascivious Acts with a Child

California’s child molestation statute is codified within section 288 of the California Penal Code (PC). Section 288(a) prohibits committing “any lewd or lascivious act” with a minor child under 14 years of age. “Lewd or lascivious” generally refers to acts of a sexual nature. Child molestation is an extremely serious offense, and even merely being charged with the crime can have personal and professional consequences. Continue reading for details on the law and its application, and contact an experienced San Bernardino criminal defense attorney with any additional questions.

Elements of California Penal Code (PC) 288(a)

To be convicted under PC 288(a), the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following:

  • The defendant willfully and lewdly touched any body part of a child under 14 years old, or caused the child to touch the defendant’s body or someone else’s;
  • The defendant acted with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the sexual desires of the defendant or the child; and
  • The child was under the age of 14 at the time of the offense.

The crime applies even if defendant touched over the child’s clothes rather than bare skin.

Other parts of section 288 define other forms of child molestation, which vary the available penalties. Harsher penalties are provided for people who either used violence or the threat of violence in committing the lewd acts, or who were a caretaker to the victim of the crime, such as a parent or guardian. The section provides a lesser penalty if the victim was 14 or 15 years old.

Punishment for Violating Pc 288(A)

Section 288(a) lays out the base offense of child molestation. A person convicted under the statute is guilty of a felony and is subject to a prison term of up to eight years. Alternatively, a person convicted under section 288 may be eligible for probation, with or without a jail term. A court will evaluate the factors under California Rules of Court (CRC) 4.414 to determine if probation is appropriate. The factors include, for example, the nature and circumstances of the crime, the vulnerability of the victim, and the remorse of the defendant.

If the court determines probation is not appropriate, it will assign a prison sentence of three, six, or eight years, based on any aggravating and mitigating factors as laid out in CRC 4.421 and 4.423. If either the aggravating or mitigating factors weigh heavier in a particular case, the court will impose the higher or lower sentence; if the factors weigh equally, the court will impose the middle sentence. The court may also impose a fine of up to $10,000, based on the circumstances of the offense.

Sex Offender Registration

A conviction under any part of section 288 mandates lifetime registration as a sex offender under CA Penal Code Section 290. Failing to register as a sex offender is a separate crime punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years where, as with PC 288(a), the underlying crime was a felony.

The Law Offices of John D. Lueck is a trusted Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense law firm with more than 42 years of service to clients in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. These cases are highly sensitive and require experienced representation to ensure your rights are protected. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a crime, contact Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense lawyer John D. Lueck for a free initial consultation.


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