Difference in terms pedophile and sex offender
It is important to know the differences between the two terms “sex offender” and “pedophile.”

Jacuzzi. Xerox. Photoshop. What do these words have in common? They are all trademark names of products that, over a long enough period of time, have become the everyday word not only for the original products, but also for similar products or services made by other manufacturers. These terms have become the verb associated with performing the task the product is used to perform.

Labels can be useful. A label can condense a number of complex ideas and concepts into a single word or short phrase, allowing us to communicate this set of ideas in shorthand that is easy to grasp. Labels allow people to make judgments and decisions about a person or a thing without having to examine that person or thing.

At the same time, when labels are misused or used interchangeably when they should not be, they convey ideas about the subject that might be incorrect. When the wrong label is applied to a person, the damage to the person’s reputation can be extreme.

Clearing Up Some Terms

“Sex offender” and “pedophile” are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they have vastly different meanings. A sex offender is a person who has been convicted of a sex-related crime, which may or may not involve a person who is considered a child under the law.

On the other hand, “pedophile” is a clinical term describing a person who has a psychological disorder (pedophilic disorder or pedophilia) that causes the person to have a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent boys and girls. 1 This term applies whether the person has committed a crime or not, and applies even in cases where the person has not acted upon his or her attraction to children.

Despite the distinction, many people believe that all sexual offenders are pedophiles and vice versa. To highlight the difference between criminal and non-criminal pedophilia, a group of self-described pedophiles with no criminal record have begun to adopt the label “virtuous pedophiles.” These men and women are attracted to children, but refrain from acting on their attraction. 2

Crimes Associated With Pedophilic Disorder

Many of California’s sex crime laws are specifically designed to punish adults who perform sexual acts involving children. Some examples of these crimes and their punishments for first-time offenses include:

California laws on sex crimes with children.
California has very strict laws on those who commit sexual crimes with children.

Lewd Acts with A Child Under 14 (Penal Code section 288): Punishable by three, six, or eight years in state prison, and up to 10 years if accomplished by force or fear.

Oral copulation with a minor (Penal Code section 288a): Punishable by up to eight years in prison, and up to 12 years if accomplished by force or fear.

Child pornography offenses (Penal Code sections 311.1, 311.2, 311.4, and 311.11):

  • Distribution (CPC 311.1): Either one year in county jail and a fine up to $1,000; or, if a felony conviction, three years in state prison, instead of county jail for this offense and be required to pay a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Distribution for commercial consideration (CPC 311.2): Two, three or six years in state prison, and a fine not exceeding $100,000.
  • Employing minors to participate in child pornography (CPC 311.4): Using a minor to assist you to distribute child pornography you can be punished by imprisonment for up to on year in the county jail or by imprisonment in state prison and a maximum fine of $2,000. Using a minor within any pornographic material can be punished by imprisonment in state prison for three, six or eight years.
  • Possession (CPC 311.11): Up to one year in state prison or county jail for up to one year, a maximum fine of $2,500, or both.

Note: In all of the above offenses, a conviction will also require the defendant to register as a sex offender under California Penal Code section 290.

Contact the Sex Crime Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich

At Wallin & Klarich, we understand that not all persons with a pedophilic disorder are criminals, yet may find themselves falsely accused of a sex crime against a child. If this has happened to you, you should not face the criminal justice system alone. Our skilled attorneys have been successfully helping clients facing these kinds of charges for over 30 years. We know that facing criminal sex charges can have a devastating effect on the rest of your life and your career, and we are dedicated to working tirelessly on your behalf to provide you with the best defense possible.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich sex crimes attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.


1. [See “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” 5th Edition American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2013.]
2. [Anne Schindler, “’Virtuous pedophiles’ work not to be real-life monsters,” First Coast News, April 17, 2015, available at http://www.firstcoastnews.com/story/news/2015/04/17/virtuous-pedophiles/25904675/.]

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