A San Diego-based driving school instructor has been arrested and charged with several sex crimes.
The instructor, Mohammad Mashal, 44, picked up the 16-year-old female victim at her school on September 30, 2021. He was to give the victim a behind-the-wheel lesson in the La Jolla area and then take her home.
Academic Driving School, licensed by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, employed Mr. Mashal.
According to the court documents, Mr. Mashal picked the victim up and had the victim drive around the La Jolla area for 15-20 minutes. He then instructed the victim to drive to the Mission Bay area.
On the way to Mission Bay, Mr. Mashal commented about the victim’s appearance, including her looking like an “Asian Barbie.” He also allegedly asked her personal questions about her relationships, sexual history, and age.
The court documents further allege Mr. Mashal massaged the victim’s hands and thigh under her skirt while in a parking lot near Mission Bay Golf Course. He later touched her back under her shirt, squeezed her thigh, and kissed her hand.
At that point, the victim allegedly flinched, and Mr. Mashal started to drive her home.
Court documents say that the victim did not want Mr. Mashal to know where she lived. Therefore, she asked him to drop her off at a local café, which he did. She texted a friend who met her at the café.
Mr. Mashal has been charged with child molestation, false imprisonment, and battery. He was arraigned on May 25th. His next court appearance is July 5th.
Mr. Mashal is being represented by Ari Lieberman of Sevens Legal, APC.
Below is a description of the charges facing Mr. Mashal.
Child Molestation Charges Explained
Penal Code 288 PC makes it a crime for a person to commit a lewd or lascivious act on a child under the age of 16. Touching a child for sexual purposes is a lewd or lascivious act.
Depending on the age of the child and the nature of the contact (which does not have to be on the child’s bare skin), the charges under this section could be misdemeanors or felonies.
If charged as a misdemeanor, conviction of violating Penal Code 288 PC could mean up to one year in county jail.
If convicted of a felony, the judge could sentence the defendant to life in state prison.
To defend against a charge of child molestation under this section, the defendant would have to show that any touching of the child was not sexual in nature.
Another common defense to this charge is that the victim made a false accusation.
False Imprisonment Charges Explained
Under California Penal Code 236 PC, false imprisonment is “the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another.” False imprisonment occurs when the defendant unlawfully restrains, detains, or confines a person against their will.
Prosecutors can charge false imprisonment as a felony or misdemeanor. They charged felony false imprisonment when the defendant uses violence or threats to detain the victim (that does not appear to have happened in Mr. Mashal’s case).
To convict someone of false imprisonment, the state would have to show that the defendant detained someone against their will.
There are several defenses to false imprisonment charges. These include consent, shopkeepers’ privilege, or legal authority to restrain.
Of course, the defendant can also argue that the alleged false imprisonment never occurred.
The penalty for conviction of misdemeanor false imprisonment is up to one year in the county jail. The judge can also fine the defendant up to $1,000.
If convicted of felony false imprisonment, the judge can sentence the defendant to up to three years in prison.
Additionally, the judge can enhance the sentence if the victim was elderly or a dependent adult.
Battery Charges Explained
Penal Code 242 PC defines battery as the unlawful touching of another person. It means any contact with a person without that person’s consent. A battery does not have to be violent contact; it is any contact to which is harmful or offensive.
Conviction of misdemeanor battery carries with it a sentence of up to six months in jail. And a fine up to $2,000.
Defenses to a charge of battery include that the contact with the victim was inadvertent and not willful.
San Diego Sex Crime Attorney
Ari Lieberman is an Associate Attorney at Sevens Legal, APC. He is a third-generation criminal defense attorney. He has committed himself to defending individuals accused of committing crimes and will fight to protect their rights and civil liberties.
After graduating California Western Law School, he became a prosecutor in the San Diego County District Attorney’s office. He gained valuable experience in that office, handling various misdemeanor and felony cases.
At Sevens Legal, APC, he now specializes in criminal defense law. His experience as a prosecutor gives him a keen insight into the ways police and prosecutors build cases against criminal defendants.
“Having to face charges of committing a sex crime can profoundly change your life,” according to Ari Liberman. “The police, prosecutors and judges take sex crime cases very seriously. However, every person charged with a sex crime is entitled to a vigorous defense. In my practice, I stand beside my clients to the very end. Prosecutors must prove every element of a sex crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That is a very high standard, and I hold prosecutors to that standard in every case I handle.”
The San Diego Sex Crime attorneys at Sevens Legal, APC, aggressively represent persons accused of sex crimes in the San Diego area. We will conduct our own investigation, locate witnesses, and press the police and prosecutors for exculpatory evidence as we prepare a case for trial.
In addition, in appropriate cases, we will negotiate a plea to lesser charges from a position of strength.
If you have been arrested and accused of a sex crime, you have the right to counsel by a San Diego Sex Crimes Attorney such as Sevens Legal, APC. Contact Sevens Legal, APC, today for a free consultation.