In Los Angeles, any adult can be convicted of a criminal offense if they arranged to meet with, or traveled to meet with a minor for “lewd purposes.” Police routinely use sting operations to catch people, and parents or the minors themselves can also inform authorities and lead to an arrest. If you have been charged with this crime, you need to know that you can be convicted even if you never touched the minor—and even if you never actually met with them at all. You need to talk to a Los Angeles sex crime defense lawyer.
The Simmrin Law Group is here to help you. We founded our firm on the simple belief that you are innocent until proven guilty. When you contact us, we will take your side, listen to your story, and help you build a defense—no matter how strong the case is against you. Our team of hand-selected lawyers includes some of the best defense minds in the state, and our attorneys have a long history of winning cases. Let us give you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
What counts as traveling to meet a minor in Los Angeles?
Traveling to meet a minor is covered by a law more often known as arranging to meet a minor for lewd purposes. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with meeting a minor for legitimate reasons—such as visiting a relative or mentoring a student. But when there is a suspicion of any sexual or romantic interest, even a simple meeting can be criminalized. In many cases, we see this charge brought forward on very flimsy evidence.
Strictly speaking, you can be convicted only if the prosecutor can prove three facts:
- You arranged a meeting with a minor (under 18),
- You arranged the meeting because of a sexual interest in children,
- You intended to engage in some type of sexual conduct with the minor at the meeting
Notice that this definition is based on intent. You can be convicted even if you never actually had sexual contact. If you arranged the meeting hoping or intending for sexual contact, that is grounds for a conviction—but only if the prosecutor can prove the rest of the case.
Other things you should know:
- You can be convicted even if the meeting never happened. If you “arranged” the meeting, that is sufficient.
- You can even be convicted if the person is not really a minor. As long as you believedthey were under 18, the crime is the same. Police exploit this loophole to conduct sting operations, creating fake profiles as “teenagers” online to lure people in.
What is the legal definition of meeting a minor for “lewd purposes”?
Arranging to meet a minor for “lewd purposes” is defined under a California law known as Penal Code Section 288.4. This defines the “lewd” or sexual conduct very broadly. For example, it includes:
- Exposing your genitals, pubic area or rectal area to the minor
- Having the minor expose any of those areas
- Touching the minor anywhere on his or her body for the purposes of sexual arousal
As you can see, you can be convicted even if no actual sexual intercourse happened—only nudity or touching (which can include kissing). And, as discussed above, you don’t have to actually do these things to be convicted. You only had to plan to do them.
If I’m convicted, will I have to register as a sex offender?
Yes. This may be the single heaviest penalty for a conviction. You will have to register with the local police once a year, plus any time when your personal information changes (such as when you move). Your picture, address and offender status will be made public to neighbors.
What defenses can I use against traveling to meet with a minor?
Although meeting with a minor is a serious charge, it is not unbeatable. In fact, it’s a very subjective charge—often, the police are only guessing at your sexual intention or the reason why you arranged a meeting. If the prosecutor cannot prove these subjective elements, you may not be convicted.
Some of the most successful defenses against meeting with a minor include:
- Entrapment. Unlike on TV, police are allowed to lie to you or say they’re not police. But they are not allowed to engineer situations where a law-abiding citizen is pressured to commit a crime. Police and FBI sting operations are often over-zealous and may overstep this line. If you were entrapped, your entire case could be thrown out.
- Not motivated by sexual interest. Remember that you must be motivated by a sexual interest in children in order to be convicted. That may not apply to your case. You may have wanted to meet the minor only out of curiosity or loneliness. You may have even felt some romantic feelings toward their personality, but would never have considered sex with a minor. Going to meet a person and get to know them better does not count as illegal, and can be a strong defense.
- No intent to commit sexual acts. Even if you used affectionate words with the minor, that does not mean you planned to go to the meeting to commit sexual acts. In fact, even if you did have a sexual interest, many people go on multiple dates or meetings without ever having sexual contact. If there is no evidence that you planned to have sexual contact or “lewd” acts, you may be able to win your case.
- Lack of evidence. Your attorney may be able to challenge evidence against you, especially if your rights were violated to obtain that evidence. If the remaining evidence is not enough to prosecute you, you could have your case dismissed.
It can also help if you did not know or believe that the person was under 18, although this defense has not been tested in courts. It is certainly a point in your favor if you reasonably thought the individual was a legal adult.
What are the penalties for arranging to meet/traveling to meet with a minor?
It depends on whether it’s charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Arranging to meet with a minor for lewd purposes is a felony if you already have a previous conviction that required you to register as a sex offender. Otherwise, it’s usually charged as a misdemeanors
- Misdemeanor penalties: Up to 1 year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 and mandatory sex offender registration
- Felony penalties: Either 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in state prison; up to $10,000 in fines and mandatory sex offender registration
Arranging to meet a minor is often coupled with other charges. For example, if police search your device and find child pornography, that is an extra charge. If the minor is very young (normally under 14), that may be an extra charge. And if you were in a relationship with the minor or had sex, you may face statutory rape on top of the arranging to meet a minor charge.
All of these offenses are severe—and life-changing. Don’t face them alone. You need to talk to a lawyer.
Talk to a Los Angeles “Meeting with a Minor” Lawyer for Free
Do not let one accusation ruin the rest of your life. The lawyers of the Simmrin Law Group are here to help you. Let us give give you a FREE consultation to answer your questions and help you get started. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.