Arrange a Meeting with a Minor for Lewd Purposes - Penal Code 288.4 PC
California law is stringent against sexual predators, particularly those seeking sexual contact with minors. To that end, not only is it a severe crime to engage in lewd acts with a minor (PC 288) or to commit statutory rape (PC 261.5), but legislation passed in 2006 makes it a crime even to try to arrange a meeting with a minor for these purposes—whether or not such lewd conduct occurs.
Under Penal Code 288.4 PC, arranging a meeting with a minor, someone under 18, intending to engage in certain lewd or lascivious acts with them, also known as solicitation of a minor, is illegal.
This law was enacted to catch would-be child sexual predators earlier in the process of luring children. If you are convicted of this crime, depending on the circumstances of the case, you could face up to 4 years in prison. You'll also be required to register as a sex offender even if no sexual contact occurred.
Simply put, California Penal Code 288.4 PC is the statute making it a crime to arrange a meeting with a minor under the age of 18 with the intent to engage in sexual conduct at the meeting.
PC 288.4 says, “(a) (1) Every person who, motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children, arranges a meeting with a minor or a person he or she believes to be a minor for the purpose of exposing his or her genitals or pubic or rectal area, having the child expose his or her genitals or pubic or rectal area, or engaging in lewd or lascivious behavior, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both the fine and imprisonment.
(2) Every person who violates this subdivision after a prior conviction for an offense listed in subdivision (c) of Section 290 shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison.
(b) Every person described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) who goes to the arranged meeting place at or about the arranged time shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years.
(c) Nothing in this section shall preclude or prohibit prosecution under any other provision of law.”
What Does the Law Say?
According to PC 288.4, it is a crime for anyone to arrange a meeting with a minor under the age of 18 while "motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children" and with the intention of doing any of the following:
- Exposing one's genitals, pubic, or rectal areas;
- Having the minor expose their genitals, pubic, or rectal areas, or
- Engaging in actions that constitute "lewd or lascivious conduct" with the minor (per PC 288).
Other important points to note about this law:
- The criminal act applies even if no meeting occurs. All you must do is "arrange a meeting" to be guilty under PC 288.4.
- The criminal act applies even if no sexual conduct occurs during the meeting in the event an encounter occurs.
- The actual age of the intended victim is irrelevant. To be guilty under PC 288.4, you only have to believe the other party is under age 18. This provision of law enables law enforcement to pose as minors online, for example, to see if would-be sexual predators attempt to arrange a meeting with them.
- Your perception of the age of the intended victim IS relevant. This law does not apply if you believe you are meeting someone over 18, although other criminal statutes might apply. PC 288.4 only targets people intending to engage in sexual conduct with minors.
- Penal Code 288.4 PC is often enforced through sting operations involving undercover officers who are only pretending to be minors.
- This law also provides for enhanced penalties if you actually attend the meeting that you arranged.
What Are the Elements of the Crime?
To secure a conviction for this crime, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- You arranged a meeting with someone you knew or believed to be a minor;
- You did so while motivated by an "unnatural or abnormal sexual interest" in the minor and
- You intended to engage in lewd or lascivious behavior with the minor during this meeting.
The evidence for an “unnatural sexual interest” often comes from your prior relationship with the minor, such as texts, emails, phone calls, etc.
What Are the Related Crimes?
California has several laws that are related to Penal Code 288.4 PC arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes, such as the following:
- Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts with a minor;
- Penal Code 261.5 PC – statutory rape;
- Penal Code 288.2 PC – send harmful matter to a minor;
- Penal Code 288.3 PC – contact a minor to commit a felony;
- Penal Code 288.5 PC – continuous sexual abuse of a child;
- Penal Code 311 PC – child pornography;
- Penal Code 647.6 PC – annoying or molesting a child.
What Are the Penalties for PC 288.4?
General violations of PC 288.4 are charged as misdemeanor offenses, but this charge can be upgraded to a felony if either of the following are true:
- You have previously been convicted of a sex crime requiring you to register as a sex offender OR
- You actually attend the meeting you set up with the minor (again, regardless of whether sexual conduct occurred).
If you're convicted of a misdemeanor offense under PC 288.4, you could face:
- Up to one year in county jail and
- Fines up to $5000.
If you're convicted of a felony under PC 288.4, you could face:
- Between 16 months and four years in prison and
- Fines up to $10,000.
Sex Offender Registry Requirements
PC 288.4 is unique in that a conviction requires you to register as a sex offender even if no sexual activity occurred—in other words, you could be a registered sex offender just for arranging a meeting with the minor for sexual purposes.
- If convicted of a misdemeanor: You'll register as a Tier 1 sex offender with a 10-year minimum requirement.
- If convicted of a felony: You'll register as a Tier 3 sex offender registered for life.
What Are the Legal Defenses for PC 288.4?
While violating PC 288.4 is a serious offense, if you are charged with this crime, a skilled California criminal defense attorney can utilize several defense strategies to combat the charges, as discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that you did not know or believe the other person was a minor or that you did not have an "unnatural or abnormal sexual interest" in the child. Perhaps we can argue that you had no intent to engage in lewd or lascivious conduct during your planned meeting.
Perhaps you are the victim of entrapment. It's a common tactic of law enforcement to pose as minors to entice perpetrators to set up meetings with them.
If this tactic goes too far and persuades you to set up an illicit meeting that you would otherwise not have done, this may count as entrapment, and the charges must be dismissed.
Perhaps we can persuade the prosecutor not to file formal charges, known as a “DA reject.” If guilt is not in doubt, maybe we can work out a favorable plea agreement. Contact us for a case review. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, California.
- Meeting Minors for Lewd Purposes in Los Angeles
- Common California Internet Sex Crimes
- California Penal Code 288.4 PC
- California Sex Offender System
- CALCRIM No. 1125. Arranging Meeting With Minor for Lewd Purpose
- CALCRIM No. 1126. Going to Meeting With Minor for Lewd Purpose
- SB-384 Sex Offenders Registration
- Difference Between Sexual Assault and Abuse