Arranging a Meeting with a Minor for Lewd Purposes - Penal Code 288.4 PC
California Penal Code 288.4 PC makes it a crime to arrange a meeting with a minor while motivated by an abnormal interest in children and with the intent to engage in sexual activity with them during the meeting.
The “sexual activity” could include engaging in lewd and lascivious acts such as touching the child anywhere on their body for sexual gratification or exposing genitals or rectal area.
You don't have to actually carry out the planned sexual activity or even have a meeting with the minor in order to be charged under PC 288.4.
The act of arranging the meeting itself is sufficient to be arrested, charged, and convicted of setting up a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes.
For example, someone in a chat room starts conservation with a police decoy who is posing as a 14-year-old girl seeking friends. The decoy explains their age and will then express an interest in finding a boyfriend they could meet somewhere. Taking the bait, they set up the meeting and arrive at the location, where plain-clothes police officers immediately arrest them.
Those individuals who are charged with arranging a meeting in order to have some sort of sexual contact with a minor under the age of 18 are facing up to four years in prison for each count, plus registering as a sex offender. It is imperative that in order to properly defend yourself, you hire an attorney who has experience dealing with these types of cases.
The biggest factors that are looked at by prosecutors and judges in these cases are, your criminal record if you have any, how old the alleged victim was at the time of the incident, whether or not you have any prior sex-related offenses on your record and a host of other factors. They're really assessing your dangerousness level as a sexual predator. For more information, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are reviewing the law below.
What is the Definition of Penal Code 288.4?
Unlawfully arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes is defined under PC 288.4 as follows:
- “Anyone who is motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children, arranges a meeting with a minor, or a person they believe is a minor, for the purpose of exposing their genitals, pubic, rectal area, or having the child expose themselves, or engaging in lewd or lascivious behavior is guilty of Section 288.4.”
Put simply, it's illegal to just arrange a meeting with a minor if you are motivated by a sexual interest in children and have the intent to engage in sexual conduct with them.
Lewd or lascivious behavior means to touch a child's body with the intent of sexual arousal of either party. You don't have to touch bare skin. It includes any “touching,” even through their clothes.
What are the Penalties for Arranging a Meeting With a Minor?
Penal Code 288.4, arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes is a “wobbler” that can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony crime.
The decision is normally based on the circumstances of the case and the defendant's prior criminal record.
If convicted of a misdemeanor case of arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes, the penalties include;
- up to one year in county jail,
- a maximum fine of $5,000,
- summary probation.
If the defendant has any prior convictions requiring them to register as a California sex offender, or they actually show up at the location of the meeting, then a felony case will normally be filed, and the penalties include:
- 16 months, two or three years in a California state prison,
- a maximum fine of $10,000,
- formal probation.
Any misdemeanor or felony conviction could result in a defendant being ordered to register as a sex offender under California Penal Code 290 PC.
This means they will have to annually register at their local police station, and their information will be posted on Megan's Law website.
What are the Related Crimes for PC 288.4?
Several California crimes could be charged in addition to, or instead of Penal Code 288.4, such as:
- Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts with a minor,
- Penal Code 288.2 – sending harmful matter to a minor,
- Penal Code 311 PC – child pornography,
- Penal Code 261.5 – statutory rape.
Are Police Allowed to Pretend They're an Underage Girl to Catch People Committing Sex Crimes?
A lot of people don't realize that the police go into chat rooms, on Snap Chat, and all sorts of different venues where they know people are on trying to get together with underage girls to have some sort of sexual encounter in an illegal manner.
This is where the police are posing as underage girls, and they specifically tell the person that they're talking to that they're under the age of 18. They will talk in a manner trying to get the person to meet with them and say that they want to engage in some sort of sexual activity with them.
Clearly, they are attempting to catch that person and arrest them, and a lot of people say the police shouldn't be allowed to do that. They shouldn't be allowed to pretend to be somebody who they're not.
The reality is they are allowed to do that because they are in the competitive business of ferreting out crime.
So, as part of that business, they're allowed to do what's necessary to catch people who are committing these very serious crimes and who are going after underage people.
One big thing I see them do is they'll go on a site that is supposed to be for 18 and older, and they will pose as a young girl looking for a guy.
They'll start talking to somebody and agree to meet with that person to engage in some sort of sexual activity. Then, the next thing you know, they'll send them a text message telling them they're only 15 years old.
If the person continues to pursue the law enforcement officer, thinking that they're an underage girl and thinking that they're going to have some sort of sexual activity with that person, and they go and meet with that person, they're going to be arrested and prosecuted.
Yes, law enforcement is allowed to do it that way, whether people like it or not, whether people think it's fair or not. They really have pushed the bar when it comes to try to prosecute these sex crime cases and go after people who they think are involved in illegal sexual activities with young girls under the age of 18.
What are the Defenses for Arranging a Meeting with a Minor for Lewd Purposes?
We'll talk about what evidence the police were able to gather. For example, they typically will grab your phone so they can see what is on the phone. A lot of times, they're searching for child pornography.
They're also searching for any messages between you and any children, and finally, a lot of these arranging sex with minor cases, you're actually talking to law enforcement when you're making these arrangements, so they're going to look for that communication between you and law enforcement in order to prove that you are the one that they were talking to.
A lot of times, what we want to do in order to try to counter PC 288.4 charges is sit down and go over all of the facts and details of the case. A lot of times, I'll have you meet with a psychiatrist or psychologist who can author a report about you – your background – and whether or not you really are a danger to the community and a danger to minors in specific, really assessing whether or not you could be a recidivist.
They also will usually do a static 99 report which again is looking at your history, looking at the offense that you've committed, and making a determination of what the percentage is that you would do something like this again or even do something worse than this. That's really the biggest concern for the prosecutors and judges as they deal with these cases in criminal court.
What Are Some Specific Strategies?
There are things you can do — there are defenses. There are strategies that can be employed to limit your exposure when it comes to a sex-related offense on the internet, such as:
- you were not motivated by a sexual interest in minors,
- you had no intent to engage in sexual activity at the meeting,
- you had a reasonable belief the person was not a minor,
- entrapment by police.
We might be able to make an argument you reasonably believed the person with whom you were speaking was over 18 years old.
Further, we might be able to argue you are a victim of entrapment, where undercover police pressured you into committing a crime you would have otherwise not committed.
So, if you or a loved one finds themselves in a position where you're being charged with a sex crime, you've been arrested for soliciting a minor or some other crime related to that, pick up the phone.
Make the call. Sit down with Ron Hedding. I've been doing this for almost three decades, handling these types of cases since the internet has become a prevalent place for people to interact and since law enforcement has gotten into the internet and began to arrest people.
Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact our office for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.