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Sacramento & Placer County
Sex Crimes Attorney

What is a Sex Crime in California?

In California, sex crimes are taken very seriously.  Police agencies have special units to investigate those suspected of committing a sex crime. District Attorney Offices establish specific units to prosecute these crimes. While some of the crimes that fall under this label are obvious, many are not.  A sex crime can include: 

  • Child Pornography:  Possessing, distributing, duplicating, or advertising an image, video, or other material depicting a person under 18 years of age engaged in a sex act, is illegal.

  • Human trafficking:  Human trafficking involves compelling, coercing or forcing a person to engage in commercial sex acts.  California District Attorneys will often file this when a prostitute says her pimp forced her into the 'life'.

  • Prostitution: Soliciting or agreeing to participate in sexual conduct in exchange for money.  This includes both the one offering the sex and the one wanting to purchase it.

  • Rape: In California, if a person has sex with someone who did not consent to the act, they may be charged with this offense.

  • Spousal Rape:  If a person has sex with their spouse, without the spouse's consent, you can be prosecuted with spousal rape.  This includes engaging in sexual intercourse with a spouse who cannot resist due to intoxication or because he or she was asleep.

  • Lewd Acts with a Child: Touching a child under 18 with a sexual intent.  This act be as minor as touching the child's hair with a sexual intent.

  • Annoying or Molesting a Child under 18: A person does an act directed at a child under 18 and a reasonable person would be disturbed, irritated or injured by this act.

  • Sexual assault/battery: Making unwanted physical contact with another person's intimate parts.

  • Statutory rape: Having sex with a person of a specific age is unlawful, even if they gave consent.


These are just some of the sex crimes that can be charged in California, and not all require there to be any physical touching.  With over 15 years handling sex crimes as a prosecutor, Jeff Wood can provide a very effective defense.

Every case is different, but below is a general outline of how a typical case might unfold:

  1. The alleged crime is reported

  2. The accuser is interviewed, if a minor, they are often interviewed in what is knows as a Child Advocacy Center, where not only is law enforcement involved, but so is Child Protective Services.

  3. Forensic investigation

  4. “Pretext call” – In a pretext call, police have the accuser make a phone call to the suspect in order to secure a confession while the suspect is unaware that police are listening in. 

  5. Investigation of other misconduct

  6. The suspect is interviewed

What are the Penalties for a Sex Crime?

In California, sex crimes are charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.  If convicted, the sentence could include jail or prison time, as well as a fine, restraining orders, search and seizure provisions, and mandatory sex offender registration. The actual punishments depend on what was charged, and how the case ultimately resolved.  For instance, a misdemeanor sexual battery charge can be penalized by up to year in jail, whereas a felony can end up being 4 years in prison. A person found guilty of rape could be looking at up to 8 years in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (prison).

Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado, Nevada, Yolo Counties sex crimes criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Wood

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Sex Offender Registration and Removal.

Most sex crimes also result in a mandatory sex offender registration requirement, pursuant to Penal Code section 290. There are also instances where even if not convicted of one the listed sex crimes in Penal Code section 290, sex offender registration may be ordered if the crime was committed as a result of sexual compulsion or for purposes of sexual gratification. Registered sex offenders have to update their information annually and anytime they move.


Prior to January 1, 2021, any registrable sex offense required lifetime registration.  However with the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 384, this requirement was replaced witha three-tiered registration system that no longer requires lifetime registration for most offenses:

  1. Tier one requires registration as a sex offender for at least ten (10) years. This is for people convicted of the lowest level sex offenses including misdemeanor sexual battery or indecent exposure.

  2. Tier two requires registration as a sex offender for at least twenty (20) years. This is for people convicted of mid-level sex offenses including lewdness with minor under 14, and non-forced sodomy with a minor under 14 years old.

  3. Tier three requires lifetime registration as a sex offender. This is for people convicted of the most serious sex offenses including rape (in most cases), lewdness with a minor by force or fear, sex trafficking children, sex crimes against children 10 and younger, and repeated sex crimes.

Senate Bill 384

With the passage of Senate Bill 384 (SB384), a currently registering sex offender may be able to petition the court to have this requirement removed, and no longer have to provide law enforcement and the community your personal information, including where you live.   However, offenders will not automatically have their registration requirements removed from the registry once their tier-based term has been completed.  Registrants must continue to register until after their petition to remove the requirement is approved.  A person must go through a petition process for removal to even be considered.  SB 384 allows registrants to file a petition in the superior court or juvenile court in their county of residence for termination of their California sex offender registration requirement upon the expiration of their mandated minimum registration period.  It is up to the court whether to grant or deny the petitioner's motion to be removed from the sex offender registry. Upon receiving a petition, the state has 60 days to review it.  Call Placer County based attorney Jeff Wood to explore this option.

Sex Offender registration removal Senate Bill 384

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If you or someone you love has been accused of a sex crime or has experienced any of the items above detailing how a case might unfold, it is important to speak with a defense attorney immediately.  These are signs that you could be under investigation, and they mean it is time to begin building your defense.  Sexual misconduct is rarely witnessed by anyone other than the accuser and the accused. Evidence is usually sketchy, if there is any evidence at all.  Jeff Wood, a skilled criminal defense attorney can comb through the details of your case, raising critical pieces of evidence and witness testimony that can see your charges reduced or dropped entirely. 

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