Beginning in 2017, the “#MeToo” campaign exploded in the news media. Hollywood stars, politicians, and CEOs were (and still are) being accused of sexual assaults – everything from groping to forcible rape.

While it’s good to expose those who are genuinely guilty of crimes, not every accusation of sexual assault is true. Sex crimes attorneys and judges know that a sexual assault charge can be a false charge.

If you are the person who is falsely charged with sexual assault, how do you defend yourself and protect your reputation?

WHAT IS THE #METOO CAMPAIGN?

The #MeToo campaign more-or-less was launched by the charges against comedian Bill Cosby and Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, but it has expanded to touch luminaries including TV journalists Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer, actor Kevin Spacey, and ex-Senator Al Franken.

In fact, more than forty lawmakers in twenty different states have been accused of sexual assault over the last year. These allegations, often made years after any applicable statute of limitations has expired, have ruined careers and marriages.

Many of these accusations have been made in the media. The actual evidence in these cases is seldom examined, and the accusers face no cross-examination.

That’s why it is imperative to know your rights – and to exercise those rights – if you are falsely accused of sexual assault here in southern California.

WHAT KINDS OF ALLEGATIONS ARE CURRENTLY BEING MADE?

A lawyer looking at the #MeToo campaign would probably conclude that many of the accusations are vague, at least legally speaking.

Some of the accusers even admit that the incidents they are publicizing were consensual – but now, years later, they’re claiming they were confused or “tricked” at the time, and that the incidents were, in fact, sexual assaults.

Other allegations are about workplace behavior – groping, making inappropriate comments, or even asking someone for a date.

While certain behaviors may, in fact, be inappropriate, they are not criminal, and purported victims may take employers to civil court if the claim is sexual harassment or a hostile work environment.

HOW IS SEXUAL BATTERY DEFINED BY CALIFORNIA LAW?

In California, sexual battery is committed when someone is touched, without consent, for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse. Depending on the particulars of the charge, sexual battery may be prosecuted as a felony or as a misdemeanor.

Today, the slightest touch – what once was considered innocuous or flirtatious – might now constitute sexual battery. If you’re charged with sexual battery in southern California, you must arrange at once to speak with an experienced Long Beach criminal defense attorney.

Whether sexual battery is charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor will depend on how the purported victim was allegedly touched. For example, if a victim was physically restrained, the charge will be a felony.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR A SEXUAL BATTERY CONVICTION?

A misdemeanor sexual battery conviction is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. A felony sexual battery conviction is punishable by two to four years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the victim worked for the offender, another $1,000 may be added to the fine.

Rape is a separate offense in this state. California defines rape as nonconsensual sexual intercourse accomplished by means of threats, force, or fraud, or intercourse with a victim who is unconscious or who is incapable of consent.

A rape conviction in California can send the offender to prison for up to eight years, and if the victim is a minor, the sentence can be as long as thirteen years.

Sex crimes are among the most serious crimes that are prosecuted in the criminal justice system. In California, sexual assault, sexual battery, rape, and statutory rape law are punished without leniency, even for first offenders.

WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS IF YOU’RE CHARGED WITH A SEX CRIME?

If you are charged with any of these crimes in southern California, you have the right to remain silent and the right to speak with an attorney. You must exercise those rights at once and get the legal help you need.

Nobody wants to be convicted for one of these charges. If you are convicted, you’ll not only face prison, fines, and lifetime sexual offender status, you’ll probably lose the trust of your family and friends, and you may even have a tough time finding employment.

A sex crime accusation can wreck your life – fast – unless you get the right help right away. If you are accused of rape, sexual battery, or sexual assault in southern California, you must fight the charge with the advice and help of a skilled criminal defense attorney.

There is no such thing as a typical sex crime. Every charge must be considered without preconceived notions or prejudices. Any accusation of rape, sexual battery, or sexual assault requires a thorough examination of the facts by a defense lawyer.

HOW WILL A DEFENSE LAWYER HELP YOU?

A conviction – even for misdemeanor sexual battery – carries consequences that can last a lifetime. Still, if you’re prosecuted for any of these crimes, a prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and in many of these cases, that isn’t easy.

If you are charged with sexual battery, sexual assault, or rape, your attorney will launch an immediate investigation. Any physical evidence will be scrutinized, and any potential witnesses will be questioned.

Your defense lawyer will look for flaws in the evidence and for inconsistencies in the story offered by the alleged victim. If your rights were violated at any point during an investigation, interrogation, search, or arrest, your attorney will move to have any charges against you dropped.

It’s never a good time to be charged with a sex crime, but 2018 is a particularly bad time for defendants in these cases.

WHY IS HAVING A GOOD LAWYER SO IMPORTANT – PARTICULARLY NOW?

With the conviction of Bill Cosby and the prosecution of Harvey Weinstein, the “#MeToo” movement has created a sense that “old wrongs” are being righted. If you are innocent, it’s hard to be heard, and it seems that there are few who will listen.

That’s why you must have high-quality legal representation immediately if you are accused of rape, sexual assault, or sexual battery in California in 2018. You’re up against more than merely a prosecutor – you’re up against a social movement.

Working with a good criminal defense lawyer will be your best hope for justice if you are falsely accused of rape, sexual assault, or sexual battery now or in the future.

Your freedom, your family, and your reputation will all be at stake. You must get the legal help you need. That is your right.