Earlier this month, an off-duty Arizona police officer was arrested in San Diego on suspicion of sexual assault. Specifically, the officer was accused of rape, forced oral copulation, and sexual battery. He has not been formally charged with any of these crimes. However, San Diego police are investigating the alleged crimes. If the officer is charged with any of these crimes he could face serious criminal consequences. A conviction may also result in the loss of his job as a Yuma police officer.
Sexual Assault in California
Sexual assault is a serious problem in California. The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) estimates that 5.6 million women and 3 million men in California have been the victim of a crime of sexual assault other than rape. When rape is concerned, CALCASA estimates that more than 2 million women in California have been victims.
As a result, California has put a lot of time and resources into investigating allegations of sexual assault. A person who is accused of a crime of sexual assault – regardless of their status or occupation – can face serious criminal consequences. California state prosecutors will aggressively prosecute sexual assault in an effort to (1) deter future sexual assault, and (2) punish illegal behaviors.
Rape and Sexual Battery Laws in California
Sexual assault is a broad term that really encompasses a wide range of illegal sexual acts. The Yuma police officer was arrested on suspicion of rape, sexual battery, or forced oral copulation. These are all acts that are considered to be crimes of sexual assault in California.
Rape is the crime of having sexual intercourse with another person without consent. Specifically, California Penal Code 261 PC defines rape as the “act of sexual penetration…accomplished against the victim’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of bodily injury.”
Sexual penetration is defined as “the act of causing penetration, however slight, of the genital or anal opening of any person…for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.” Sexual penetration can be done with “any foreign object, substance, instrument, device, or unknown object.”
The crime of rape requires sexual penetration without consent. Consent does not exist if a victim is unwilling or unable to consent. Examples of instances when consent may not exist include when the victim:
- Was unconscious or asleep;
- Was not aware, knowing, perceiving, or cognizant that the act occurred;
- Was not aware, knowing, perceiving, or cognizant of the essential characteristics of the act;
- Did not have a full understanding or comprehension of what they were doing;
- Mistakenly believed that the perpetrator was another person;
- Feared a threat of future retaliation for not complying;
- Was forced into the act because the perpetrator held a position of authority;
- Was drugged; or
- Suffered from a physical or mental disability.
Consent on exists when a person, equipped with full knowledge of a situation, makes a decision to affirmatively engage in sexual activity.
The crime of rape is one of the most serious offenses in California. It is always a felony and, depending on the circumstances, can carry a sentence of up to eight years in prison. If a child is the victim of rape the sentence can be extended to as long as 13 years in prison. If a victim of rape actually suffers bodily harm the prison sentence can be extended by up to five years.
Information has not been made available about the details of the Yuma officer’s alleged crime. If he is convicted he will likely face as little as three years in prison.
Sexual battery is the crime of touching another person’s intimate parts without consent while that person is restrained. Contact that is made through clothing can be sufficient to trigger charges for sexual battery.
Intimate parts include the vagina, penis, anus, groin, butt, or breast of a female. It must be established that the perpetrator engaged in the contact for the purpose of
- Becoming sexually aroused or gratified, or
- Sexually arousing, gratifying, or abusing the victim.
Sexual battery under California Penal Code 243.4 PC can be a misdemeanor or a felony. The specific charge will depend on the age of the victim, the extent of the contact, and the perpetrator’s criminal history. Misdemeanor sexual battery carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a fine of $2,000. Felony sexual battery carries a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a fine of $10,000.
Forced Oral Copulation
In California, it is a crime to force another person to engage in oral sex using violence, force, duress or threat of injury. California Penal Code 288a defines oral copulation as “the act of copulating the mouth of one person with the sexual organ or anus of another person.” Simply put, oral copulation is oral sex.
Forced oral copulation is a felony offense and carries a possible prison sentence of three, six, or eight years in prison.
The Difference Between Being Arrested and Being Charged With a Crime
The Yuma police officer was arrested for crimes of sexual assault, but San Diego has not formally charged him with a crime. Prosecutors who try sexual assault cases must prove that the defendant is guilty of each element of the crime(s) that they are accused of committing. This requires a lot of evidence and information. In some cases, law enforcement may have probable cause to make an arrest, but prosecutors may not have the evidence needed to satisfy their burden of proof. Criminal charges must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a much higher standard than probable cause.
If San Diego police and California prosecutors are unable to gather enough evidence against the Yuma officer he may not be charged with a crime at all. Since his arrest, he has likely spoken with a San Diego criminal attorney to prepare a potential defense.
Fighting Charges of Sexual Assault in California
If you have been accused of sexual assault in California it is important to find a good defense attorney. Just because you have been arrested does not mean that you will be charged. If you are charged, however, an attorney can help to get those charges reduced or dismissed. Contact our office today to set up your free consultation. We will review your case, determine which defenses may apply, and answer your questions.