Sex offenses in California span an extremely broad spectrum of crimes, and can include something as relatively innocuous as misdemeanor indecent exposure, as well as forcible rape in concert, which virtually guarantees a life sentence upon conviction.
But even a comparatively low-level sex-crime conviction can have devastating consequences for you, not least of which can include sex-offender registration. And if you are required to register, then any member of the public – including potential employers – can quickly look you up online.
Emergency Bulletin re Non-Violent Sex Offenders Currently in Prison
As part of the much-needed and long-time-in-coming wave of criminal justice reform in this state, the California Supreme Court recently ruled that non-violent sex offenders currently in prison will now be eligible for early offender.
Specifically, on December 28, 2020, the Court held that denying parole for such individuals was unconstitutional, thereby finally approving a four-year-old ballot measure that was approved by more than two-thirds of California voters for the purpose of reducing the state’s prison population.
The Court explicitly criticized the California Department of Correction (DOC) for excluding from parole consideration this entire class of imprisoned individual. (The lower Courts of Appeal in the state had ruled in the same manner.)
As a result, up to 20,000 imprisoned individuals will now be eligible for early parole.
In other words, if you or a loved one is currently in prison because of a conviction for a non-violent registerable sex offense, you should have an attorney petition for early release based on the foregoing. Such convictions include Pimping, Incest, Indecent Exposure, and Possession of Child Pornography. Conversely, “violent” sex offenses include Rape, Sodomy and Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child.
(FYI, one of the main backers of the ballot proposal has been the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws. See: all4consolaws.org.)
For example, you could be eligible for early parole if you completed your underlying “basic sentence” for the non-violent sex crime, but before you complete an addition sentence for, say, being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm, Committing a Felony for the Benefit of a Street Gang, or any other non-violent sentencing enhancement.
New Statutes of Limitations for Sex Crimes (California Penal Code section 801.1)
is the California code which determines when a Deputy DA is required to file a criminal complaint for specific sex offenses. Specifically, pursuant thereto, he or she must now file charges:
- by the purported victim’s fortieth birthday if the latter was age 17 or younger at the time of the alleged crime; or
- no later than a decade after the alleged crime if the latter was age 18 or older.
The following are the only two exceptions to this statute, meaning that the Deputy DA can prosecute after the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations (“SOL”):
- the prosecutor has “independent corroborative evidence” as defined in California Penal Code section 803(f)(1);
- the evidence falls under the so-called “DNA rule”, as set forth in Penal Code section 803(g); or
- the purported victim claims he or she was victimized as a minor, which thereafter triggers a one-year SOL (from the date of the reported allegation) so long as the alleged crime consisted of “substantial sexual conduct.” Code § 803(f)(1).
Registerable Sex Offenses (California Penal Code section 290)
The state’s “Sex Offender Registration Act” is codified in this statute. In addition to the foregoing violent sex offenses, the following are also registerable sex offenses under California law:
- Human Trafficking (“Sex Trafficking”) (California Penal Code section 236.1);
- Possession of Child Pornography (California Penal Code section 311.11(a));
- Distribution of Child Pornography (California Penal Code section 311.1(a)); and
- Sexual Battery (California Penal Code section 243.4).
Sex Crimes – “Wobblers”
In many sex-crime prosecutions, the Deputy DA has the discretion to charge you with either a felony or a misdemeanor (a.k.a., a “Wobbler” -- California Penal Code section 17(b)).
For example, Sexual Battery (Penal Code section 243.4) can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances, as well as your prior criminal record (if any).
The specific sex crimes that fall under this category are discussed in more detail in the respective sub-practice area articles contained in this website.
Sex Crimes – “Strikes”
Conversely, as discussed above, many sex crimes are considered to be violent offenses and are, therefore, charged as Strike Offenses (California Penal Code section 667(a)&(b) and California Penal Code section 1192.7), which carry significant penalty enhancements. These, too, are discussed in the articles relating to the specific offense.
Sex Crimes – Pre-Files/Early Dismissals
The Los Angeles Defense Attorney Law Firm (LADALF) has enjoyed unparalleled, extraordinary success in having cases rejected by either the investigating detective or prosecutor before they are filed, or even after they are filed. Please see the sub-practice areas articles for examples of our successes.
Sex Crimes – Registration Requirements
Most sex-crime convictions, including those involving violence, will require you to register as a sex offender and thereby appear on the state’s Megan’s Law website (see: meganslaw.ca.gov).
Assuming you were convicted of a registerable offense, the length of time that you have to register depends on the classification of your conviction. Specifically, as of the first of this year (2021), classifications will fall into one of the following three categories and respective registration terms:
- Tier One – one decade;
- Tier Two – two decades;
- Tier Three – lifetime.
See Sex Offender Registration (California Penal Code section 290).
See also Sex Offender Registration Act: Penalties for Violation (California Penal Code section 290.018).
Example of a Misdemeanor Sex-Crime Case
Actor Paul Reubens (“Pee-Wee Herman”) Sentenced after Arrest for Possessing Child Pornography
On or about March 3, 2004, actor Paul Reuens – aka, “Pee-Wee Herman” on the TV series Pee-Wee’s Playhouse – received 36 months of probation after accepting a guilty plea to misdemeanor possession of obscene materials with intent to distribute after evidence of the same was allegedly discovered by detectives who searched his residence. See Possession of Child Pornography (California Penal Code section 311.11(a)).
The search had occurred more than two-and-a-half months earlier (in November 2001) and allegedly provided detectives tens of thousands of incriminating images. As part of his probation, he was prohibited from having any unsupervised contact with anyone under 18; was fined a hundred dollars; required to complete 52 weeks of sex-offender counseling; and register as a sex offender for three years.
Example of a Felony Sex-Crime Case
Former University of Nebraska Football Star Takes a Plea after He was Charged with Felony
In 2019, the Santa Clara Co. DA’s Office charged San Jose resident and University of Nebraska Cornhuskers’ football star Maurice Washington III with felony Revenge Porn (California Penal Code section 647j4).
According to the prosecutor, Washington had videotaped himself having intercourse with the purported victim when she was 15 and he was under 18, then posted it on the internet several years in retaliation for her spurning his continued advances, and sent the video to their former fellow high school classmates (one of whom was criminally prosecuted for sending it to another third party).
As a result, he was also charged with Distribution of Child Pornography (California Penal Code section 311.1(a)).
In January 2020, the Cornhuskers cut him from the team as a result of the allegations. Two months later, he pled nolo contendere to several misdemeanor counts and was sentenced to a month in jail and two years’ informal probation.
A Small Sample of Sex Crimes Cases Handled by the LADALF
The “South Bay Rapist”– Facing Two Life Sentences – 1st Day of Trial: All Charges Dismissed
People v. Corey Stewart: By the time Corey had hired Ninaz Saffari in early 2014, he had been incarcerated for 14 months after being falsely accused of Forcible Rape (California Penal Code section 261) by two women. Thus, he was looking at two life sentences if convicted.
However, Ninaz was convinced of Corey’s innocence, as wasn’t impressed by the blanket negative media coverage that labeled him the “South Bay Rapist", and eagerly quoted the investigating detectives who believed he was a serial sexual predator.
Ninaz retained over half-a-dozen experts to testify at the jury trial – each was prepared to testify that the DA’s evidence was highly flawed and inaccurate. would be able to refute the DA’s allegations. Most importantly, Ninaz’s GPS expert witness (a former NSA employee with ultra-top-secret clearance who trained Edward Snowden), was able to prove that the primary accuser had flat-out lied to detectives about where Corey had supposedly taken her when he allegedly raped her.
On the day before the trial was to commence, Ninaz received documentation proving that based on the primary accuser’s cell-tower pings, she was nowhere near the area where she claimed she had raped. In addition, the second accuser’s social medial postings proved that she, too, had wrongfully accused Corey.
The detectives carefully reviewed this evidence and realized the primary accuser had made up the entire story. This was confirmed when they re-interviewed the night before the trial where she provided them an entirely different account of the incident.
Result: The following morning, on the first day of trial, the prosecutor dismissed all charges.
Client Charged with Kidnapping & Gang Raping Minor – Facing Multiple Life Sentences – After Preliminary Hearing: All Felonies Dismissed
People v. J.C.: Client was prosecuted for a dozen violent felonies, including “Gang Rape” (Rape Act in Concert) (California Penal Code section 264.1), Aggravated Kidnapping – Robbery, Rape, Other Sex Offenses (California Penal Code section 209(b)), and Oral Copulation by Force or Fear (California Penal Code section 287).
Fortunately, Ninaz obtained iPhone footage of the entire incident which proved the accuser had been lying to detectives in order to avoid her parents’ shame. (Ninaz also discovered she had made similar false allegations in the past to cover up her disappearances from home.)
At the preliminary hearing, Ninaz cross-examined the accuser and forced her to repeat every single lie she had made to the detectives and Deputy DA. Ninaz then played the video disproving every one of those lies. At that time, Ninaz filed and argued a Motion to Dismiss (California Penal Code section 995) based on a lack of evidence to sustain the charges.
Result: Before the judge ruled on the motion, the Deputy DA dismissed all counts and allowed our client to plea to a single misdemeanor count of Unlawful Consensual Sex with a Minor (“Statutory Rape”) (California Penal Code section 261.5).
With time served while awaiting trial, the client was released two days later, along with his five co-defendants (three young men and two teenage boys), who also had all of their charges dismissed as a result of Ninaz’s efforts.
Two Counts of Forcible Rape – Facing Almost 50 Years in Prison – After Two Jury Trials: Reduced to Misdemeanor, No Jail
People v. R.T.: Ninaz’s client was facing a 47-year prison term after being charged with two counts of Forcible Rape (California Penal Code section 261) with each one charged as a Strike Offense (California Penal Code section 667(a)&(b) and California Penal Code section 1192.7).
Unfortunately, he had also made statements to detectives which they misconstrued as a confession. But the client was actually innocent and, therefore, refused to accept even a reduced plea. Ninaz completed a jury trial during which she had several expert medical witnesses testify that there was simply not enough DNA evidence taken from the purported victim to identify the client as the culprit.
In addition, Ninaz thoroughly impeached the purported victim with her own contradictory prior statements she made to detectives and while testifying at the preliminary hearing.
The verdict was hung – evenly split between guilt and acquittal. The Deputy DA forced the client to go through a second jury trial. But now Ninaz was able to impeach the purported victim with inconsistent testimony she made during the first trial. Indeed, Ninaz’s cross-examination of her was so withering and brutal, that the Deputy DA immediately made the client an offer that was too good to refuse.
Result: Client plead to one misdemeanor count of Sexual Battery (California Penal Code section 243.4) with no jail time, and no sex registration.
Lewd Acts on a Minor, Facing Ten Years – Reduced Unlawful Sex With A Minor, No More Jail Time
People v. J.G.: Client was facing 12 felony counts for Lewd Acts with a Minor Child Under 14 (California Penal Code section 288) and was facing ten years in prison. His previous attorney did nothing except take his money and request continuances for approximately 12 months. During that entire period, the client had sat in jail.
After Ninaz was hired, she filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the client’s speedy-trial rights had been violated. (Both the judge and Deputy DA had both dragged their feet in moving the case along as required by the U.S. and California Constitutions.) Ninaz then announced ready for trial (less than two months after being retained).
Result: The Deputy DA suddenly dismissed the entire case and the client went home a free man after agreeing to a greatly reduced plea of unlawful sex with a minor with zero additional jail time.
Pre-File: Client Investigated for Sexual Battery – Result: DA’s Office Decided Not to File Charges
People v. J.K.: Client hired Ninaz to do a Pre-File investigation & negotiation after he had been investigated by sheriff’s department sex-crimes detectives who believed he had sexually battered a housekeeper of a West Hollywood hotel while they were both in his hotel room.
At the point Ninaz was hired, the detective had already forwarded the case for prosecution by the DA’s Office on a charge of Sexual Battery (Pen. Code section 243.4).
Ninaz first met with the lead detective and provided exculpatory evidence that the client was innocent, and that the incident stemmed from a misunderstanding involving language discrepancies. Ninaz also gave the investigator results from a lie detector test that supported the client’s claims of innocence. This convinced him that the client shouldn’t be charged.
Finally, Ninaz met in person with the Deputy DA who was about to file criminal charges and he also agreed with the detective that the no crime had been committed.
Result: The Deputy DA declined to file charges.
Pre-File: Client Arrested for Sexual Battery – Result: Prosecutor Declined To File Case
People v. D.R.: Similar Pre-File situation with client investigated for sexual battery by LAPD sex crimes detectives, followed by the latter sending the case to the DA’s Office for prosecution. But this time the client was actually arrested.
Shortly thereafter, Ninaz had her favorite P.I. gather help her in gathering the exculpatory evidence. She then met with the detectives who carefully went over the evidence and then reached out to the Deputy DA to explain that the client was innocent and they had made an honest error in referring the case for filing.
Result: The Deputy DA agreed and dropped the case, clearing the client of all charges.
Charged with Two Felony Counts of Failure to Register as a Sex Offender – Result: Reduced to a Misdemeanor
People v. W.S.: Client prosecuted for two felony counts for allegedly Sex Offender Registration (California Penal Code section 290).
Sex Offender Registration Act: Penalties for Violation (California Penal Code section 290.018) and was facing significant prison time. Unfortunately, charges had been filed in the Norwalk court, which has a reputation for being tough on defendants. Client’s previous attorney was only able to convince the prosecutor to offer a two-year
The client hired us after firing his prior defense counsel who was unable to convince the DA’s Office to offer anything better than two years in prison. The client rejected the offer, fired the lawyer, then hired Ninaz.
In typical fashion, Ninaz immediately went to work with her favorite P.I. and together they were able to compile a substantial package of exculpatory evidence (including sworn witness statements, which indicated that the accusing witnesses had been dishonest in their own statements to detectives.) She and her P.I. then met with the Deputy DA’s Supervisor and carefully went over the package with him.
Result: Deputy DA made the client a deal that was almost too good to be true – a plea to a single misdemeanor and 30 days in jail (though likely to be released in half that time).
The Los Angeles Defense Attorney Law Firm (LADALF)
LADALF founder Ninaz Saffari gained incomparable experience defending individuals accused of sex crimes while working as a Deputy PD for LA County. After going private, sex crimes became a particular specialty almost by accident.
Specifically, so many of her clients had their charges dismissed – including many which could have involved single or even multiple life sentences upon conviction – that word began to spread steadily through the county jails that she was a “miracle worker” (as many of these clients called her).