In California, “arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes” is charged under Penal Code 288.4 pc. Arranging the meeting is a wobbler offense which means the government may elect to charge you with either a felony or misdemeanor.
However, if you showed up to the designated location, then the charge is a straight felony that cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor. In most cases, those arrested for this offense are usually communicating with an undercover police officer posing as a minor or as someone who has control of a minor via an undercover sting operation.
Elements of the Crime
In order to prove you’re guilty of arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes under PC 288.4, the government must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You arranged a meeting with a minor or someone you believed to be a minor;
- You were motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children;
- You intended to expose your genitals or pubic or rectal or have the minor expose their genitals or pubic or rectal area or engage in lewd and lascivious behavior at the meeting.
AND (If Applicable under PC 288.4(b))
- You went to the arranged meeting location at or about the arranged time.
What are the Legal Defenses?
Reasonable Belief / Not Minor
If you had a reasonable belief that the other person was not a minor or the other person is of the age of majority, then you are not guilty of this crime.
This crime requires that you were motivated by a sexual interest in minors. Therefore, if you’re motivates were merely for company, boredom, or socializing then you cannot be convicted of this offense. Perhaps the conversation with the minor or undercover police officer was mere “role-playing”.
Lack of Intent
The government must prove you harbored the requisite intent to engage in lewd acts with a minor. Thus, if you had no desire or intent to engage in such behavior, then you’re not guilty of this offense. For instance, if you arranged to meet a minor in a public place – e.g., a public library – then it will be more burdensome for the government to prove your intent.
Entrapment would be a viable defense if you were pressured, threatened, or harassed by law enforcement to commit a crime that you would not otherwise commit. For instance, you could be chatting online with an undercover police officer who is continuously harassing you to meet.
Showing up at the pre-arranged location is not precisely defined. In other words, the law is unclear as far as timing – i.e., you show up 1 day prior to the time scheduled. Additionally, you may have shown up half a mile away which is arguably not within the proximate location of the meeting. For example, you arrange to meet at a public park but instead, you go to a restaurant a few blocks away.
You may be the victim of false accusations. For instance, someone could be seeking revenge by filing a false report sparking an investigation. For example, you could be going to pick your children’s friends not knowing that someone falsely reported you as a sexual predator.
When arrested, you may have provided incriminating statements to police that will be used to prove the government’s case against you. If you were subject to custodian interrogation and you were not admonished of your Miranda rights, then the judge will order your statements inadmissible.
Search & Seizure Violation
If your arrest resulted in police discovering incriminating physical evidence – e.g., text messages or belongings in your care – then it could have resulted in a Fourth Amendment violation. If law enforcement violates your search & seizure rights, the judge will order the physical evidence suppressed and the government may not be able to proceed with their case against you.
Punishment & Sentencing for PC 288.4
The punishment for this offense will depend largely on a number of factors – i.e., your prior criminal history; whether you were convicted of this offense as a felony or misdemeanor; and whether you showed up at the designated place. In addition, a conviction requires you to register with local law enforcement as a sex offender.
- Under PC 288.4(a)(1), a felony conviction carries 16 months, 2, or 3 years in state prison. However, a misdemeanor conviction carries up to 1 year in the Orange County jail.
- Under PC 288.4(a)(2), a conviction carries 16 months, 2, or 3 years in state prison because you suffer from a prior conviction requiring you to register as a sex offender.
- Under PC 288.4(b), a conviction carries 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison since you actually showed up at the pre-arranged location.
What are Examples of Arranging a Meeting with a Minor?
- Messaging a 16-year-old to meet and engage in consensual sex at a local hotel.
- Emailing a 17-year-old that you want to meet up and take a nude shower together.
- Calling someone who you believe to be 17, and is actually an undercover police officer, and arranging to meet at a restaurant parking lot for the purposes of engaging in oral copulation.
Free Criminal Defense Consultation
If you’ve been arrested, charged, or are under investigation for arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes under PC 288.4, then contact an Orange County Sex Crimes Lawyer at the Law Offices of John Rogers for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.