Is Mistake of Age a Valid Defense in a Child Molestation Case?
When charged with a sex crime against a minor, many people will attempt to use the fact that they believed the victim was an adult as a defense. Is this a valid legal defense you can use to fight these charges?
If you are charged with statutory rape, your attorney may be able to claim that you had a reasonable belief that the alleged victim was 18 years old or older. However, if you are charged with lewd acts with a minor under 14 (California Penal Code Section 288), this defense is not available to you. So why is a defense concerning the age of the victim available in some crimes but not others?
Why the Defense is Not Available
To understand why mistake of age is not a valid defense to a lewd act charge, you need to understand how these laws apply to real-life situations. When a particular law is unclear, the court will try to determine what the intent of the law was.
In a 1984 case, the California Supreme Court interpreted the law and decided that it was never intended for the mistake of age defense to apply to PC 288.1
When determining this, the court questioned the intent of the law. California Penal Code Section 1203.066 allows a court to sentence a defendant to probation in cases where a lewd act is performed on a minor age 14 or older and the defendant had a reasonable belief that the victim was an adult.
However, the same language was not applied to laws regarding minors under the age of 14, so the court reasoned that the mistake of age defense was not meant to apply to PC 288 cases.
Defenses to Child Molestation Charges
Although mistake of age is not a valid defense to PC 288 charges, there are some defenses an experienced attorney may be able to use to defend you against these charges.
Some valid defenses your attorney can use against lewd acts with a minor under 14 charges are:
- The accuser is not a credible witness and his/her claims are false,
- Your touching of the accuser was accidental and not intentional,
- You had no intent to cause the sexual arousal of yourself or the alleged victim, and
- The alleged victim does not fit within the age criteria for the crime.
Contact the Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you are charged with a sex crime against a minor, it is crucial that you consult with a knowledgeable attorney who has experience successfully defending people against these charges. At Wallin & Klarich, our team of attorneys has been successfully defending clients like you in child molestation cases for over 35 years. Let our knowledgeable attorneys help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, West Covina, Victorville, Riverside, and Ventura, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich sex crimes defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.
1. People v. Olsen (1984) 36 Cal.3d 638, 647 href=”#ref1″>↩