Police officers, elected officials, and other government employees are not above the law. While on-duty government employees may be able to enjoy certain rights and privileges, but they are still expected to be law-abiding citizens on their own time. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Earlier this year, a 14-year-old girl reported that she had been touched inappropriately while standing in line at a Vista restaurant. After a thorough investigation, police have arrested Timothy Wilson, a Vista detention deputy with more than 10 years on the job, for the crime. Wilson, who is tasked with taking care of the inmates at the Vista jail, has been charged with one felony count of lewd acts with a child.
Lewd Acts With a Child
While all sexually-based crimes in San Diego are taken very serious by the state, those involving children and young people tend to receive extra attention. Children, including young teenage girls, are often not equipped with the physical strength and emotional courage necessary to thwart sexual predators. The young woman who was the victim in this case never even saw her attacker coming. After the incident, she admitted that she lived in continued fear that he would strike again. Even though Wilson did not engage in sexual activity with the girl, his actions have likely scarred her for life.
Penal Code Section 288 PC
California has crimes like “lewd acts with a child” on the books to punish this kind of behavior. California Penal Code Section 288 PC makes it a crime to “willfully and lewdly commit any lewd or lascivious act…upon or with the body, or any part or member thereof, of a child…with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child.”
In other words, it is a crime to touch a child in a lewd or sexual manner with the intent to arouse or gratify sexual desires.
Age of the Child
Penal Code 288 PC generally refers to lewd acts with children under the age of 14, but can also apply to lewd acts with children under the age of 16. However, if the victim 14 or 15, the defendant must be at least 10 years older than the child they are accused of molesting. This helps to prevent prosecution of young romantic partners for engaging in minor acts of sexual behavior.
What is a Lewd Act?
A lewd act can be defined to mean:
- Touching a child for a sexual purpose
- Having the child touch themselves for your own sexual gratification, or
- Having a child touch you for your own sexual gratification.
Simply put, a lewd act is sexually-charged touching between an adult and a child. There is no requirement that a lewd act with a child involve a sexual organ, such as the genitals, anus, or female breast. The fact that the touching is done for sexual arousal or gratification is enough.
Consequences for Lewd Acts With a Child
Lewd acts with a child can be a felony or misdemeanor in California. However, the penalties that can be imposed will depend on the very specific circumstances of each individual case. Factors that will affect the penalty include:
- The child’s age
- Whether force was used to commit the act
- Whether the child suffered great bodily harm
- Your prior convictions and/or status as a habitual sex offender.
Felony Lewd Acts With a 14 Year Old Child
Here, Wilson is facing charges for one felony count of lewd acts with a child under the age of 16, which is a violation of 288(c)(1) PC. It is important to note that this specific crime can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The state has indicated that this is a very serious matter, perhaps due to Wilson’s status as a government employee, by choosing to pursue felony charges. If convicted, Wilson can face up to 3 years in prison and be required to pay $10,000 in criminal fines.
Sex Offender Registration
Anyone who is convicted of lewd acts with a child will be required to register as a sex offender in the state of California. This can make it incredibly difficult to get a job, rent or buy a home, and travel freely. The social stigma of being a convicted sex offender is enough, on its own, to destroy your future.
San Diego Criminal Defense Attorneys
Anyone who is charged with a crime in San Diego has the right to defend themselves. This is true regardless of the type of crime you’re accused of committing. If you are facing criminal charges in San Diego, do not hesitate to contact the San Diego Criminal Law Center for help.
Our attorneys understand that your future is on the line and will fight to protect your legal rights. We will aggressively defend you against any allegations of criminal wrongdoing and work to secure the best possible outcome in our criminal matter. Call us today to schedule a free case evaluation with our skilled San Diego criminal defense attorneys.