According to court filings, a man in American Canyon was recently charged with four counts of lewd acts against a teenager in Napa County Superior Court. The defendant, William Edgar Smith, Jr., is currently being held on a $250,000 bond, according to representatives of the Napa County Sheriff's Office. Smith did not deny the allegations.
Like many sex crimes, the phrase “lewd acts” does not convey a precise understanding of what exactly a person must do to be charged with this crime. The statute explains that the crime consists of touching a child under 14 anywhere on his or her body for sexual purposes. It carries a possible penalty of up to 16 years in prison if the defendant is a repeat offender. The precise amount of time for which the defendant would be sentenced would be up to the judge presiding over the case, unless the defendant and the prosecution worked out a plea deal beforehand.
Many sex crimes are complicated by the fact that the police must rely on the word of the victim and sometimes do not have any corroborating evidence, and lewd acts is no exception. A person could be arrested for an incident involving touching that was non-sexual in nature, perhaps because of a misunderstanding or false accusation.
If this occurred, a defense attorney could work to create reasonable doubt in the jury's mind that there was sexual gratification present. This defense could lead to an acquittal and might work for other sex crimes as well, depending on how the statute was worded. Other common defenses include that the victim was lying or mistaken or that another adult committed the offense and the victim is accusing the wrong person. Because most victims of this crime would be under the legal age of consent, the victim's consent to the touching would likely not be a valid defense in this particular instance.