Livermore law enforcement officials are in the midst of investigating yet another sexual assault on the Arroyo Trail. These assaults have become more frequent as of late, this is the third in so many years. The 5-mile path is a popular hiking and biking spot for many people in the area. However, attacks such as these give trial-goers pause. In this last instance, a woman (29) was sexually assaulted as she walked the trail; her attacker, described as a man in his early to mid-30’s and about 6 feet tall with dark hair and an unkempt appearance, grabbed her, assaulted her, and then took off.
California Penal Code 243.4 addressed the crime of sexual assault. A person could be found guilty of sexually assaulting another individual if it can be proven that they purposefully touched the intimate parts of that person for the express intention of sexually abusing them, sexual arousal, or sexual gratification. Of course, one of the key elements of the crime is that the alleged victim was not a willing participant in the sexual activity that occurred.
The law provides for 2 types of sexual assault, simple sexual assault (a misdemeanor) and felony sexual assault. Understanding the difference between them is important. Misdemeanor sexual assault is considered to have occurred when there are no existing ‘aggravating factors’ (such as the assault taking place in an inherently coercive environment like a nursing home or prison and the victim having been unlawfully restrained). Misdemeanor penalties include a $2,000 fine and up to 6 months in county jail.
In cases with ‘aggravating factors,’ the crime becomes a ‘wobbler’ and prosecutors must decide whether the facts of the case dictate that they should treat it as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If treated as a felony, a convicted individual must prepare for a $10,000 fine, up to 1 year in state prison, and required registration as a sex offender.