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Arranging a Meeting with a Minor in California

Posted by Philip Israels | May 14, 2019

What is Arranging a Meeting with Minor for Lewd Purposes in California?

The internet provides people with a method of communicating anonymously and chat rooms are a frequent target of undercover police stings looking for unlawful sexual behavior. Specifically, police often set up operations to locate and apprehend men who are attempting to arrange a meeting with a minor (under 18 years old) while in a chat room.

All law enforcement agencies throughout California and Los Angeles County will aggressively pursue any allegation of someone who is trying to set up a meeting with a minor to engage in sexual activity.

These individuals are considered to be a sexual predator and they will lie and make up false stories to convince them to as come meet in person. In some cases, police behavior will fall outside the legal lines while they are attempting to catch someone who is they believe is a sex offender.

Our California criminal defense lawyers at Cron, Israels & Stark has experience defending clients facing these type of sex crime accusations.

If you are accused of setting up a meeting with a minor for sexual purposes, don't make any statements to police asking you questions. Rather, call our law firm to review the details of your case and to start preparing a strong defense strategy.  Let's take a closer look below at PC 288.4.

California Penal Code Section 288.4

Under California Penal Code 288.4 PC, it's illegal to set up a meeting with minor, or anyone they believe is a minor, if the meeting is sexually motivated. In other words, just setting up a meeting with a primary purpose to engage in lewd or lascivious conduct can lead to criminal charges.

This crime is commonly known as “arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes.”  Penal Code 288.4 defines it as:

  • "(a) (1) Every person who is motivated by an unnatural sexual interest in a child, arranges a meeting with a minor, or anyone they believe to be a minor, with the purpose of exposing their genitals or rectal area, or having the child expose theirs, or engages in lewd or lascivious behavior, shall be by imprisonment in county jail for up to one year, a fine up $5,000."

It is important to note it's a crime just to arrange a meeting with a minor if you are motivated by a sexual interest to engage in sexual conduct with the minor at the meeting. Yes, this means you don't have to actually meet the minor or even engage in sexual activity. It's unlawful simply to arrange the meeting.

In the definition above, lewd or lascivious conduct means touching a minor's body with an intent of sexual arousal. It's not required that you actually touch bare skin, but also includes any touching through their clothes.

Legal Penalties for Arranging a Meeting With a Minor For Lewd Purposes

California Penal Code Section 288.4 – arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes is a “wobbler.” The prosecutor can file the case as either misdemeanor or felony crime. They typically base their decision on the specific details of the case and your criminal history. A misdemeanor conviction will carry a sentence of up to a year in the county jail and a fine up to $5,000.

If you have a prior conviction that required you to register as a California sex offender, or you actually met with the minor, the case will normally be filed as a felony. The prior convictions include offenses such as statutory rape, sexual battery, and indecent exposure, among others.

If convicted, you will be facing up to four years in a California state prison and a fine up to $10,000. Any conviction, either misdemeanor or a felony, will subject you to mandatory registration as a sex offender under California Penal Code Section 290.

This would require you to annually register with the local police station so they can confirm where your are living. Additionally, this sex offender registration could be published on the California Megan's Law website where it would show your name, picture, and address on the internet.

Related Offenses 

California Penal Code Section 288 – Lewd Acts with a Minor
California Penal Code Section 288.2 – Sending Harmful Material to Minors
California Penal Code Section 261.5 – Statutory Rape
California Penal Code Section 311 – Child Pornography
California Penal Code Section 653b – Loitering at School

Legal Defenses For Penal Code 288.4

Every criminal case of arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes has it's own unique set of facts and circumstances. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers will need to closely review the details in order to develop an effective strategy to obtain the best possible outcome.

However, the most common legal defenses we could use to challenge the charges include the following:

  • Lack of motivation – We may be able to argue your primary motivation for arranging the meeting in the first place was not due to any sexual interest in the minor
  • Lack of intent – In some cases, our lawyers may be able to argue you had no intent to engage in a lewd act at the meeting
  • Lack of knowledge – In certain situations, we might be able to prove had no knowledge the person was actually a minor
  • Entrapment – We might be able to make an argument you are the victim on police entrapment and were induced to commit a crime you would otherwise not have committed

As stated above, criminal cases of arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes typically started after someone became engaged in an internet sting conducted by undercover police officers.

It's not uncommon for these police officers to aggressively flirt and make suggestions to actually meet somewhere. In certain circumstances, our criminal attorneys may be able present a successful argument that you are the victim of police entrapment.

Any allegation that you were involved in a sexual related crime with a minor will typically have life-changing consequences on your life. The social stigma can be overwhelming even if you have been falsely accused.

As you can see from the information above, a conviction for either a misdemeanor or felony offense of arranging a meeting with a minor might require you to register a sex offender. We also defend clients against any type of California internet sex crime charges.

If you have questions about California Penal Code Section 288.4, arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes, our criminal defense lawyers can discuss your situation in a confidential setting. We represent clients throughout Southern California, including Los Angeles County, Ventura County, and the San Fernando Valley. We offer a free case evaluation.

About the Author

Philip Israels

Phil Israels was raised in California's Central Valley where he still has family. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley where he was a member for Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and studied Economics, he continued his education...

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