California views traveling to meet a minor as a crime if you travel because of a sexual interest in the minor that you intend to act on in any way. The state considers this a violation of California Penal Code 288.4 PC, which prohibits “arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes.” It is also a crime to arrange for the minor to travel to your location according to this code.
Under this law, you do not have to successfully meet with the minor in order to face charges. Merely setting up a meeting with the intent to engage in lewd acts is enough for the state of bring charges against you.
What Are Lewd Purposes Under California Law?
The state of California typically considers lewd and lascivious acts with minors to include:
- Touching or fondling a minor’s sexual organ.
- Carrying out an act of child molestation.
However, in some cases charges may be brought if the minor did the touching, if the touching was kept over top of clothes, or even if no sexual organs were touched. Exposure of the genital or rectal area by either the party can also be legally actionable.
In general terms, if the touching or exposure was carried out to bring about arousal, it counts as a lewd action in California.
What Penalties Are There If ‘For Lewd Purposes?’
Setting up a meeting with a minor with lewd intent can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony in California, depending on the circumstances. A misdemeanor is the lighter charge. If you are convicted in this way, you may face:
- No more than a year in jail.
- A fine of no more than $5,000.
- A requirement to register as a tier one sex offender for a minimum of 10 years.
Arranging to meet with a minor to carry out lewd acts may be bumped up to a felony if you actually meet with the minor or if you were previously convicted of an act that required registration as a sex offender. Individuals convicted of a felony for this action may be subject to harsher terms, including:
- 16 months to 4 years in state prison.
- A fine of no more than $10,000.
- A requirement to register as a tier three sex offender for life.
Are There Any Additional Penalties For Meeting With A Minor?
Depending on the acts carried out when meeting with a minor, individuals can face a variety of other charges in California. Some possible charges include:
- Lewd acts with a child under 14: 3-8 years in state prison.
- Lewd acts with a child under 14 accompanied by threats or force: 5-10 years in state prison.
- Lewd acts with a child under 14 that cause bodily harm: 25 years to life in state prison.
Additionally, defendants may be required to pay restitution to the affected minor in order to cover their treatment needs for recovery. Some professional licenses, such as those needed to practice medicine, may be lost if an individual is convicted of these acts.
Be aware that you may also face misdemeanor or felony charges if you fail to register as a sex offender after a conviction. A misdemeanor charge could lead to an additional year in jail and fines of up $1,000. Being charged with a felony could carry prison time of 16 months to 3 years, along with $10,000 in fines. Working with a seasoned lawyer may be able to help mitigate some of these penalties.
Are There Any Defenses For Meeting With A Minor In California?
Facing a conviction for arranging to meet with a minor in California can pose serious challenges, but there are defenses against these charges. You may be able to argue that a sexual interest in children did not motivate you to set up the meeting, or that you had no plan to perform any lewd acts.
The court may accept that you were unaware of the minor’s age. Additionally, California does allow for an entrapment defense if no minors were actually involved and the charges were part of an undercover investigation.
The experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at Simmrin Law Group can examine your case and may be able to help you apply one of these defenses. We have extensive experience working with California’s legal codes and practice dealing with both misdemeanor and felony offenses. Learn more about your options by setting up a FREE consultation by filling out our online form or calling us directly at 310-997-4688.