In California, it is not only illegal to engage in a sex act with a minor, but even to attempt to meet with one for the purpose of sex. In fact, under California Penal Code section 288.4 (PC), the other person need not even be a minor for you to be charged with this crime. Because the laws concerning sexual acts with a juvenile are so complex, speak with a lawyer as soon as possible if you have been accused of attempting to have sexual relations with someone under 18.
Better Understanding Soliciting a Minor Charges
First, it’s important to recognize that thanks to 288.4 (PC), you need not even touch a minor to be charged with a sex crime. Arranging to meet with a minor when your actions are “motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children” for the purpose of “exposing your pubic or rectal area, having the child expose his or her genitals or rectal area, or engaging in lewd or lascivious behavior” is a crime.” You can even be charged if you never actually met with the minor in person but attempted to arrange a meeting with them.
Additionally, the person you made the arrangements with doesn’t need to be under 18 under this law. If you believe the person to be a minor, you can still be charged and found guilty of soliciting sex with a minor. The fact that the suspect doesn’t actually need to be underage is why so many people charged with 288.4 (PC) are caught in sting operations where law enforcement officers pretend to be juveniles so they can catch people attempting to arrange to meet a minor for lewd purposes.
Anyone Accused of this Crime Needs a Lawyer Immediately
Always insist on speaking with an attorney with experience defending those accused of California sex offenses, particularly those involving lewd acts against a minor or a person under 18, before discussing the crime with the police. Remember, anything you say to the police can be used against you, and officers use many different tactics to trick people into confessing to crimes.
Most cases involving accusations related to attempting to arrange a meeting for the purposes of sex with a minor occur online, so it is important your sex crimes lawyer also has experience handling computer crimes defense as well so he can protect you against illegal search and seizure of your property, including electronic devices. Your attorney should also understand the ins and outs of entrapment laws since many people charged with this crime are victims of police sting operations.
If you have been accused of this crime, avoid answering texts, emails, DMs, or phone calls with the minor or their parents. A common way police uncover evidence in these cases is by setting up conversations between the alleged victim and the person accused of arranging a meeting with a child for lewd purposes. Even saying something along the lines of “I’m sorry” can be used as evidence of your guilt in these cases, which is why you should never speak with the police, the victim, or the victim’s parents without your attorney present.
Penalties for Violations of 288.4 (PC)
Arranging to meet with a minor for a lewd or lascivious purpose is a misdemeanor under 288.4(a) (PC), punishable by up to one year in county jail. But while this offense may only be a misdemeanor, it is still a sex crime that can result in your being required to register as a sex offender for at least 10 years. If you solicited a minor prostitute for sex, you will face an additional $25,000 fine.
If you actually arrived at the meeting place or if you have a prior criminal conviction that requires you to register as a sex offender, then you will face felony charges related to 288.4(b) (PC). Under this provision of the law, you can face up to 4 years in state prison. If you have a prior conviction, you will be subjected to mandatory lifetime registration on the sex offender registry. If you appear at the meeting place, you can be required to register on the list for the next 10 years.
Arrival at the meeting place will also get you charged with attempted child molestation if you thought the minor was under 14 or if you thought they were 15 or under and you are at least 10 years older. As an attempted crime, you will face a sentence of up to half of what the offense normally carries. As child molestation is punishable by up to 8 years in prison, attempting to molest a child is punishable by 4 years instead. You will also be subjected to a 20-year registration on the sex offender registry.
With such serious consequences at play, it is easy to see why anyone accused of 288.4 (PC) or any other crime related to sexual interactions with a minor should always contact a defense attorney immediately. With over 35 years of experience, Peter M. Liss has a proven track record of helping people fight these types of charges, and he can help you too. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation.