When it comes to soliciting minors for sex, California law is strict and comprehensive. Many people think that you must engage in a sexual act with a minor (someone under 18 years old) in order to commit a crime. Not true.
You can be charged and convicted if you arrange a meeting with a minor – or simply believe a person to be a minor – if your actions were “motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children,” for the “purpose of exposing your genitals or rectal area, having the child expose his or her genitals or rectal area, or engaging in lewd or lascivious behavior” (Penal Code section 288.4).
Using the Internet for Sexual Encounters
In today’s fast-paced and technology-driven world, the Internet is being used to “hook up” with a sex partner. Either through a “casual encounter” ad posted on sites such as Craigslist, in online chat rooms and sex/dating websites, or through social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Myspace.
Child predators use these online locations as well to hunt for underage victims. Anyone who’s watched Dateline NBC’s television show “To Catch A Predator” knows about police sting operations set up to catch those who use the Internet to arrange for sexual encounters with people they think are underage teenagers and children under the age of 14. Once the suspect gets to the arranged meeting location, it’s too late. He or she will be arrested.
You Only Have to Believe the Victim was a Minor
In a recent California Court of Appeal case, People v. Hanna (2013), the defendant claimed:
- Court error for failing to instruct the jury on mistake of fact regarding the victim’s true age;
- Prosecutorial misconduct;
- No instruction on entrapment; and
- Cumulative error which requires the court to reverse his convictions.
He lost on every challenge and was sentenced to three years, four months in prison and lifetime sex offender registration.
The defendant argued that he thought the victim was not a minor because her Myspace profile said she was 18. In reality, Hanna had been unknowingly soliciting sex from the father of a 13-year-old girl posing as his daughter. Because the prosecution was able to establish that, through chat texts, the defendant acknowledged the so-called victim’s age as 13 (even though the victim was really an adult man), the defendant believed the victim was a minor.
Thus, he was guilty of attempted lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under 14 years old. Additionally, the defendant went to the arranged meeting place. Therefore, he was guilty of attending the meeting in addition to arranging it.
Prosecution for Arranging a Meeting with a Minor for a Lewd or Lascivious Purpose PC 288.4
A prosecutor must prove each of the following three elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you arranged a meeting with a minor or a person you believed to be a minor;
- That you were motivated to arrange the meeting by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children; and
- That you had a specific intent to expose your genitals or rectal area, or have the child expose his or her genitals or rectal area, or engage in lewd or lascivious behavior. (“Engaging in lewd or behavior” includes any touching of the body of a child with the specific intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of either party).
Penalties, Punishment and Sentencing for Violating Penal Code Section 288.4
California Penal Code 288.4 is a misdemeanor if you have no prior criminal record for a sex offense. If you are convicted of arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd or lascivious purpose as a misdemeanor, you face:
- Informal or “summary” probation;
- Up to one year in county jail;
- A maximum $5000 fine
- A requirement to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life under Penal Code section 290.
If you are convicted of arranging a meeting with a minor for a lewd purpose as a felony, you face:
- Three to five years of formal or felony probation and up to one year county jail; or
- 16 months, two or three years in prison; and/or
- A maximum $10,000.00 fine; and
- A lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code section 290.
In addition, if you are convicted of attending a meeting with a minor for a lewd or lascivious purpose (meaning you not only arranged the meeting with the minor, but you actually went to the arranged meeting place at or around the arranged time), the maximum prison sentence increases to two, three or four years.
Contact a California Sex Crimes Attorney at Wallin & Klarich Immediately
If you or someone you care about has been accused of an unlawful sex crime such as arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd or lascivious purposes, you need to contact an experienced sex crimes defense attorney right away. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully representing our clients facing sex offenses.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, the skilled sex crimes defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich can help you no matter where you are located. We will help you get the best possible result in your case. Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.