California views traveling to meet a minor as a crime if you travel because of 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 to 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
- Forcing a child to touch their own sexual organs or those of another
- Carrying out an act of child molestation
However, in some cases, charges may be brought even if no sexual organs were touched or the touching took place over the clothes. Exposure of the genital or rectal area by either 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.
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What Penalties Are There If Meeting ‘for Lewd Purposes?’
Traveling to meet 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 four 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: three to eight years in state prison
- Lewd acts with a child under 14 accompanied by threats or force: five to 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 to $1,000.
Being charged with a felony could carry prison time of 16 months to three years, along with $10,000 in fines. Working with a seasoned lawyer may be able to help mitigate some of these penalties.
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Are There Any Defenses for Meeting With a Minor in California?
Facing a conviction for traveling 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.
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Sex Crimes Involving a Minor Are Taken Very Seriously Under California Law
California has several laws on the books to protect minors from sexual predators. Children are incredibly vulnerable and need additional protection. Not only does the law look harshly upon sex offenders, but society does as well. Sex offenders, especially those who interfere with children, are considered pariahs.
Even worse than potential jail time or fines if you get convicted of a crime for traveling to meet a minor in California is the requirement to register as a sex offender. Even if you are convicted of a misdemeanor and only required to register as a tier-one offender for 10 years rather than a tier-three offender for life, this designation will likely haunt you forever.
If you have been falsely accused of a violation of California Penal Code 288.4, it is critical that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you avoid a conviction. You don’t want to risk your freedom and future on an overworked public defender. You need a lawyer with a proven track record of defending clients who have faced charges similar to yours.
Contact a Lawyer If You Are Facing Charges
The experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at Simmrin Law Group can examine your case. We 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 contact form or calling us directly. We will review your case and answer any questions you may have. There is no obligation to retain our services after your initial consultation, so feel free to contact us risk-free.