Penal Code § 288.3 criminalizes the attempt to have sexually explicit conversations with minors even if those attempts are unsuccessful.
This law was enacted as part of the “Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act,” known as California Proposition 83.
One common scenario in which this could be relevant is where the individual on the receiving end of the communication is actually an adult member of law enforcement posing as a minor in a chat room.
In those circumstances, the defendant could still be charged just as if the receiving party was actually a minor.
Secondly, Section 288.3 provides sentencing enhancements for individuals charged with a second or subsequent offense of Penal Code § 288.2, sending harmful matter to a minor.
Violations of PC 288.3 are prosecuted aggressively in Los Angeles, and are designed to protect of children and minors in California.
Our California criminal defense lawyers are providing and overview below of contacting a minor to commit a felony to help our readers to understand the law.
Definition of Contacting a Minor to Commit a Felony
California Penal Code 288.3 describes the crime of contacting a minor with the intent to commit a felony:
- Anyone who contacts or communicates with a minor, or attempts contact, who knows or reasonably should have known they are a minor, with intent to commit a specific offense involving the minor will be punished by imprisonment in the state prison.
In context of PC 288.3, “contact” or “communication” means personal in-person, by phone, email, mail, internet, wire or radio communications, and even print ads.
In general terms, it's a crime to communicate with a minor, or attempt to communicate with them, when you know they are a minor with the intent to commit the following California felony crimes:
- Penal Code 207 – Kidnapping
- Penal Code 209 – Kidnapping for Ransom
- Penal Code 211 – Child Pornography
- Penal Code 261 – Rape
- Penal Code 286 – Sodomy
- Penal Code 273a – Child Endangerment
- Penal Code 266c - Unlawful sexual intercourse
- Penal Code 288 – Lewd Acts with Minor
- Penal Code 288a – Oral Copulation with Minor
- Penal Code 288.2 – Sending Harmful Matter to Minor
- Penal Code 289 – Forcible Acts of Sexual Penetration
It should be noted you can still have convicted of contacting a minor to commit a felony, under Penal Code 288.3, even in situations where you never actually did an unlawful act with the minor.
It would be considered an “attempted crime” meaning you took a direct step toward the commission of a crime.
In order for the prosecutor to convict you of contacting a minor to commit a felony, under PC 288.3, they must be able to prove all the elements of the crime listed in CALCRIM 1124 Jury Instructions:
- You contacted or had communication with, or attempted to contact a minor
- When you contacted them, you had intent to commit one of the crimes that are listed in California Penal Code 288.3, involving minor
- You knew, or should have reasonably known, they were a minor
A minor is anyone who is under 18 years old. It's important to note it's a crime to even attempt to communicate with a minor to commit a felony.
In many cases, defendants are actually communicating with an undercover police officer who is pretending to be a minor.
Related California offenses for PC 288.3 include:
- arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes under Penal Code 288.4, and
- statutory rape under Penal Code 261.5,
- employ minors for pornography under Penal Code 311.4,
- enticing a child to prostitution under Penal Code 266.
Legal Penalties for Penal Code 288.3
If you are convicted of contacting a minor to commit a felony under PC 288.3, it's typically a felony crime that carries imprisonment in a California state prison for the term listed for an attempt to commit the intended crime.
This means the penalties you could receive are any penalty available for the underlying offense you intended to commit against the minor, including:
- 16 months to 8 years for contacting minor for engage in oral sex
- 3, 6, or 8 years for contacting minor to commit lewd acts on a child
- 7 to 13 years for contacting a minor to commit forcible sodomy
- A fine up to $10,000
- Formal felony supervised probation
In addition, a conviction for PC 288.3 will carry a mandatory lifetime registration as a sex offender under California Penal Code 290. There is a three-tier sex offender registration system in California.
Fighting Charges of Contacting a Minor to Commit a Felony
Our criminal defense lawyers have a variety of potential legal defenses available to fight charges of contacting a minor to commit a felony in violation of Penal Code 288.3, including:
Lack of intent to commit a felony
In many cases, proving intent to commit a crime can be difficult for a prosecutor. Our criminal lawyers might be able to make an argument that your contact with the minor was not a criminal act or a felony. For instance, perhaps your contact was for a legitimate reason but was misunderstood by the minor, who in turn contacted law enforcement.
You didn't know you were contacting a minor
In some PC 288.3 cases, you may have been charged with communicating with a minor to commit a felony, but you had a reasonable belief the alleged victim was an adult. Perhaps they lied about their age. Perhaps you had a meeting with them in a bar where you would not expect to find a minor. Perhaps the minor looks much older than their actual age.
Entrapment by police
There have been many cases of people facing charges of contacting a minor to commit a felony due to an internet sting operation conducted by police officers. In these situations, law enforcement will pretend to be minor online.
Typically, the police officers will use aggressive techniques in an attempt to catch violators. An entrapment defense would argue that you only engaged in the unlawful behavior because the police persuaded you through pressure, fraud, or threats.
Contact Our Criminal Lawyers for Help
Penal Code § 288.3 is a serious California sex crime that could carry life-altering consequences and substantial time in a state prison if you are found guilty.
Our skilled Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at Eisner Gorin LLP will defend you through every stage of the process, including before the case goes to court through a prefiling intervention.
If you or a family member has been accused of contacting or communicating with a minor to commit a felony, or under investigation for unlawful sexual conduct involving a minor, call our law firm to review the details of your case.
We specialize in defending your rights before court in order to minimize the severe consequences of these serious felony allegations. Call us at 877-781-1570.