Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

In Alameda county, California lawmakers are considering a contentious bill that would end lifetime registration for certain sex offenders. The lawmaker who introduced the bill, Nancy O’Malley, and the District Attorney of Alameda County’s intent is to save the state money, since it is extremely expensive to monitor sex offenders.

Senate Bill 421 would reorganize the sex offender registry into a tiered system and group existing registered offenders into three categories based on the severity of their crimes. A certain number of offenders would be dropped from the list as soon as 2018. “There are people who are still registering who are now 80 years old and they register every year because when they were 18 years old they exposed themselves, there’s injustice in some of that,” says Ms. O’Malley.

The bill passed the state Senate’s Committee on Public Safety on last month. Proponents of the new bill say that lightening the work load of law enforcement will give them more time to focus on high-risk offenders that actually need monitoring.

Currently, a state tax force has 2,500 sex offenders to keep track of. There is currently an estimated 104,000 registered sex offenders statewide.

Potential Changes in California’s Sex Offender Registry

Most U.S. states already have a tiered system for sex offenders. But under current California law, all sex offenders have to register with law enforcement for the rest of their lives, no matter if they committed a nonviolent misdemeanor crime like indecent exposure (ie. urinating in public) or a violent felony rape.

If passed into law, S.B. 421 would create a tiered system for sex offenders:

  • Tier 1: Misdemeanor or non-violent sex offenders would have to register for 10 years.  This encompasses situations like when a young college student has too much to drink and exposes him or herself publicly.
  • Tier 2: Convicts who committed serious or certain violent offenses would have to remain on the list for 20 years.
  • Tier 3: Violent high-risk sex predators will remain on the list for the rest of their lives.  This includes sex offenders who violated Megan’s Law.

A sex offender’s removal from the registry would not be automatic. Offenders who qualify for removal would still have to petition the court and have their application reviewed by their local district attorney, who has to consider factors like the risk of re-offending. Continue reading

Saturday, March 7th marked the seventh anniversary of the Balboa Park “Chelsea’s Run” to commemorate the 17-year-old Poway High School student who was sexually assaulted and killed in 2010 by convicted sex offender John Gardner. Chelsea King was abducted while running in a Rancho Bernardo park by Gardner, the same man who admitted to killing Amber Dubois of Escondido. Garner pled guilty and was sentenced to life without parole.

Six months later, “Chelsea’s Law” was passed after being signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The law sharply increased penalties for those convicted of sexual assaults on minors (including the sentencing of life without parole). It also included reforms to increase outreach to paroled sex offenders most likely to re-offend, and made GPS monitoring mandatory for child sex offenders. It also barred sex offender parolees from being near where children congregate.

A report released five years after the enactment of Chelsea’s Law concluded that at least 332 defendants were charged statewide under various aspects of the Law. In San Diego County, 22 people were charged under the law between September 2014 and August 2015, including two who received terms of 25 years to life.

Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child

Aggravated sexual assault of a child is an extremely serious crime. It is a felony punishable by 15 years imprisonment to life, along with a fine of up to $50,000. The sentence will increase if there is multiple victims. See CA Penal Code § 269. Additionally, those convicted will be required to register as a sex offender.

One will be charged under § 269 if s/he allegedly sexually assaults a minor under the age of 14, or if the victim is a minor (under 18 years old) and seven years younger than the defendant.

Aggravated Kidnapping

The crime of aggravated kidnapping occurs when someone:

  • Uses force, fear, or fraud against a minor under age 14; or
  • Demands a ransom;
  • Causes the victim bodily harm or death;
  • Violates California’s carjacking law under Penal Code § 215.

See CA Penal Codes § 207, 208, 209. A conviction of aggravated kidnapping carries a prison sentence of five years to life, depending on the circumstances. Continue reading

It is reported that legislation will be introduced that will update California’s laws criminalizing HIV.  It would make it so that a person could not be prosecuted for intentionally transmitting the virus if his or her sex partner tested negative for HIV. This comes at a time in which health officials throughout Southern California are reporting alarming increases in STDS, particularly syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, which are also part of a national epidemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STD rates reached a record high.  While officials do not know the definitive cause for such high rates, they include medical and social factors ranging from a lack of adequate screening to decreased fear of curable STDs.  Specifically, Orange County reported cases of gonorrhea were up 75% from 2011 to 2015.  Syphilis cases jumped 80%, and chlamydia increased 14%. The California Department of Public Health say the highest STD rates are found among young people, African-Americans, and gay and bisexual men, according to the state.

California Has Strict HIV Disclosure Laws

Under current California Law, it is a felony if you fail to disclose to your sexual partner that you are HIV positive with the specific intent to transfer the virus to him or her.

Pursuant to California Health and Safety Code § 120291(a),“Any person who exposes another to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by engaging in unprotected sexual activity when the infected person knows at the time of the unprotected sex that he or she is infected with HIV, has not disclosed his or her HIV-positive status, and acts with the specific intent to infect the other person with HIV, is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or eight years.”

Another law on the books targets sex workers who are HIV-positive. If a prostitute is convicted of solicitation, he or she faces up to 16 months in prison.

Legal Defenses

Proving intent to infect someone with HIV is extremely difficult. You cannot be prosecuted if you did not know you were HIV positive, or even if you have never even been tested. Criminal statutes punishing HIV transmission have been held not to violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause because these laws punish voluntary conduct rather than the status of being HIV positive.

Lastly, just because you are not criminally liable does not mean you cannot be held civilly liable for damages in civil court.    Continue reading

It recently made national headlines that a creepy clown craze has swept the globe. Across the nation, police have received reports of people in creepy clown costumes trying to lure children or scare people. While the state of California seems to have escaped it the past several months, creepy clowns have official hit Southern California. Through a series of Facebook and social media posts, it was announced that clowns would be visiting Los Angeles County schools, including Pasadena and Whittier.

In Fontana, California, a 14-year-old high school student was arrested on suspicion of making criminal threats against students on social media. The teen had taken “a scary clown picture” under the name of “FontanaKillerClown” and posted it on Instagram. He was arrested at school and booked into a juvenile detention center. In Glendora, California, police also arrested a 19-year-old man on suspicion of making threats against his old high school through social media accounts dedicated to clowns. The Temecula Valley Unified School District also suffered threats through social media that the schools in the region were going to be shot up by clowns. Lastly, the LAPD has reported that there have been pranksters that have threatened the general public with violence by dressing up as clowns and following/chasing them with kitchen knives.   

While some think dressing up as a scary clown and scaring people is a funny prank, law enforcement certainly does not think so. The wave of clown terror is affecting actual clowns who depend on their profession to pay the bills, and also has the potential to affect the way the nation celebrates Halloween. It is not recommended that you dress up as a clown or any other objectively scary character to threaten or scare people.

Laws that Pertain to Halloween Pranks

  • Criminal threats: You may not realize it, but even dressing up and chasing someone with a knife can constitute a criminal threat. All that is required is that the victim feared for his or her life or safety. See CA Penal Code § 422.
  • Vandalism: Vandalism does not have to involve breaking something or graffiti. Toilet papering and egging your neighbor’s house can still result in criminal charges. See CA Penal Code § 594.
  • Trespassing: If you enter someone else’s property with intent to damage that property (ie. throw eggs), you may also face criminal trespass charges. See CA Penal Code § 602.
  • Restrictions on Sex Offenders: Some states have restricted registered sex offenders from passing out candy, etc. on Halloween. California allows police to do checks to make sure some registered offenders are inside their homes with the lights out.

Continue reading

There are currently more than 800,000 people registered in the nationwide list of registered sex criminals, and that list is growing dramatically. Even some who had denounced convicted rapist Brock Turner’s actions had questioned whether he should have to spend the rest of his life as a registered sex offender.

In states like California, Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama it is impossible for people convicted of any sex crime to be removed from the online registries showing their pictures, addresses, convictions, and probation details. Critics have stated that an ex-offender will struggle with getting a job and place to live for the rest of his or her life. Advocates for sex crime victims insist that lifetime registries make the public safer by preventing offender recidivism and giving citizens and police access to information on the whereabouts of sex offenders and precluding them from places like schools.

Brock was released on September 2 after serving only half his jail sentence (three months) for good behavior. Brock moved back to his parent’s house in Bellbrook, Ohio. It is reported that protesters demonstrated in front of the home before and after his arrival and Turner’s parents reported to police eggs being thrown at the house.

In the ongoing saga of rape allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, California has become one of two states that has proposed a law that would extend the statute of limitations in the prosecution of rape cases. The proposed bill, which passed both houses of the Legislature, follows a new law in Nevada that increases the legal deadline for rape prosecution from four to 20 years. In California, the statute of limitations to prosecute a rape case is currently 10 years.  Almost three dozen states, including the District of Columbia, have statute of limitations on filing sexual assault charges or lawsuits.

The state’s governor, Jerry Brown, who has had a history of vetoing bills extending legal deadlines for filing lawsuits over child sex abuse, must approve or sign into law the bill by the end of the month.

This bill however, is not the only one Governor Jerry Brown must decide to veto or approve.  The California legislature, in response to the outrage over the six-month jail sentence for Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner also passed a bill that would mandate a minimum three-year sentence for those convicted of rape or sexual assault. The proposed bill would eliminate a judge’s discretion to sentence defendants convicted of such crimes to probation.  Brock Turner was released from jail earlier this month for ‘good behavior,’ after serving three months (half) of his sentence. Had this proposed law been in place, he would still be in jail.

What are Statutes of Limitations?

Every state has something called a statute of limitations, which is generally defined as the time limit for a criminal or civil action.  In other words, once a statute of limitations has passed, one may no longer be prosecuted or sued for his or her crimes. A statute of limitations typically begins to run from the date the injury or crime was discovered.

In California, the state’s code has specific time limits for specific crimes, such as fraud, injury to personal property, and malpractice. The current California statute of limitations on prosecuting felony rape and sexual assault cases is 10 years after the crime occurs, or for incidents involving minors, until they reach the age of 26. Continue reading

Riverside, California, is home to the West Coast terminal of trucking company CRST, located just off Interstate 215, where a woman named Cathy Sellars has filed a lawsuit against CRST for sexual harassment. Over the last 20 years, hundreds of women have brought gender discrimination lawsuits against the trucking industry. It is reported by the EEOC, that an average of one of six of those claims involved race-based harassment.

The trucking incident is still currently 95% male. The few women in the industry allegedly suffered from everyday harassment, from catcalling to rape. Sellars reportedly suffered instances of sexual harassment, assault, and intimidation from her trainer during her first few weeks as a truck driver for CRST. She says she reported the incidences of harassment with human resources for CRST on the phone, and called her trainer’s dispatcher, but failed to get the help she needed.  She also says she would be catcalled at the truck stop, with the on-duty terminal manager at Riverside ignoring the behavior of male drivers.

Catcalling and Sexual Harassment: Free Speech, or a Crime?

While it is obvious that sexual assault (grabbing, flashing) is a serious crime, most states vary on public comments and gestures. Some have considered catcalling protected under the first amendment if it does not arise to a true threat. Simply put, it is not a crime to be a rude person.  In other states however, behavior like catcalling is illegal under the broad legal definition of “lewd conduct.” In California, catcalling and verbal sexual harassment can still be considered a crime by way of different laws. The state has more protective laws against gender-based harassment, and currently has six laws that protect against verbal harassment:

  1. Disorderly conduct- this includes explicit sexual comments or solicitations or obscene gestures. See CA Code, Title 15, Chap. 2 § 647.
  2. Any harassment at adult education schools– including loitering or catcalling on campus. See CA Code, Title 15, Chap. 2 § 647(b).
  3. Harassment on public transportationSee CA Code, Title 15, Chap. 2 § 640.
  4. Vagrancy near a school- including loitering near campus. See CA Code, Title 15, Chap. 2 § 653(b).
  5. Public nuisance- this includes those who routinely harass passerbys at the same street corner. See CA Code, Title 10, §370-372.
  6. Unlawful assembly- California law defines this as whenever two or more persons assemble together for an unlawful or lawful act, in a boisterous or tumultuous manner.  See CA Code, Title 11, §407-409.

Continue reading

In another bizarre legal ruling from a right-leaning state, a Georgia Court of Appeals ruled the state’s invasion of privacy laws does not prohibit taking a photo up a woman’s skirt (an “upskirt photo”) unless she is “behind closed doors,” with an expectation of privacy, like in a bathroom stall or dressing room. Otherwise, a secret photo taken without the permission of the woman in a public place like a supermarket or sidewalk is fair game.

In a 6-3 opinion, judges ruled in the recent case of Brandon Lee Gary, a Publix store clerk who was accused of taking upskirt photos of a female shopper, that criminal “invasion of privacy” laws only protect victims if the conduct takes place somewhere that is not “visible to the public.”  The problem, the judges note, lays in the language of the law, and that it is up to the state legislature to fix it in the next legislative session. However, the next session will not occur until Spring 2017.

The state of Georgia is not alone. Dozens of states do not have specific laws against sexual harassers taking upskirt photos of women in public. For example, a Washington, D.C. judge ruled in 2014 that a woman does not have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” if she were photographed “clothed and positioned in a public space, even if the photographs in question are incredibly invasive and demeaning.” Often, this kind of behavior is not considered illegal due to technicalities of the wording of laws that have not kept up with technology.

In lieu of the national outrage over the seemingly light sentence of Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, the state of California has just proposed a bill which would mandate a minimum sentence of three years for crimes of sexual assault. The legislation, Assembly Bill 2888, was introduced by Democratic Assemblymen Evan Low and Bill Dodd and co-sponsored by Rosen and Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill. Critics warn that while well intended, we forget about prosecutorial discretions and police discretions, which are the main barriers to rape convictions.

Brock Turner, 20, spiraled into fame when he was convicted of three felony assault charges: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. His sentence drew national outrage and increased dialogue on what it means to have White privilege, because he was only sentenced to six months. It is further projected he will only serve three months of that sentence, when he was facing 10 years imprisonment. The jury deliberated for less than two days over the eight-day trial.  

Turner was arrested after two male students witnessed him on top of a drunk and unconscious woman behind a dumpster on campus.  will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, but he still remains free on $150,000 bail.

Sexual Assault vs. Rape

Under California law, Turner was indeed convicted of sexual assault (aka sexual battery) rather than rape. Under the California Penal Code, the definition of rape includes “sexual intercourse,” whereas “forcible acts of sexual penetration” is a separate crime. See CA Penal Code § 243.4. In the Turner case, the foreign object under the statute was Turner’s fingers. In fact, California is one of many states that include body parts that are not sexual organs in its statutes on penetration with a foreign object. Thus, rape is a higher offense.

CA Penal Code § 243.4, also known as California’s sexual battery/assault law, specifically prohibits touching the intimate part of another person for purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse. It can be tried as a misdemeanor or felony. It is tried as a felony when the victim is unaware of the nature of the act (ie. unconscious), unlawfully restrained, or mentally incapacitated to consent. Continue reading

A tutor at Mar Vista High School is now facing criminal charges for having a sexual relationship with a 16 year old student at the school. Alejandro Rodriguez, 20, is accused of having a relationship with a student that lasted about a week. The victim in this case, has only been identified as “John Doe.” Evidently, he had told his cousin about the relationship, who then told the victim’s father. His father immediately contacted the police.   

Rodriguez has been charged with four felony counts of oral copulation and one count of sodomy of a person under 18 years of age. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison. It is reported that the DA’s office is prosecuting the relationship as a non-forcible sex crime. According to Rodriguez’s defense attorney, claims that if his client had been a woman, and not involved in a same-sex relationship, there would be a less restrictive charge available. It is because his client can only be charged with sodomy, the ‘crime’ of anal sex, with both parties being men.

California Statutory Rape Laws