Penal Code 288.4 PC - Arranging a Meeting With a Minor For Lewd Purposes
California Penal Code 288.4 PC makes it a crime to arrange a meeting with a minor under 18 with intent to engage in sexual conduct, a "wobbler" that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. If convicted, you could be sentenced to up to four years in state prison and required to register as a sex offender.
Notably, you can be convicted of PC 288.4 arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes even if you never actually meet with the minor or engage in any sexual conduct with them. This common crime is often called solicitation of a minor.
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 they believe to be a minor for the purpose of exposing their genitals or pubic or rectal area, having the child expose their 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."
The intended sexual conduct for Penal Code 288.4 PC charges can include exposing genitals, rectal area, or touching the minor anywhere on their body for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal. This law is often enforced through police sting operations involving undercover officers who are pretending to be minors in chat rooms.
What is the Definition of PC 288.4?
The legal definition of Penal Code 288.4 PC arranging to meet with a minor for lewd purposes includes some crucial “elements of the crime.” In other words, a prosecutor must prove all these factors beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you. They include the following:
- You arranged a meeting with a minor under the age of 18, or
- Someone you believed was a minor, and
- You were motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in minors and
- You had the intent to expose your genitals, pubic or rectal area or have the minor expose themselves or
- Engage in lewd or lascivious behavior.
Proving an unusual or abnormal sexual interest in minors is often accomplished through showing emails, texts, chat messages, or phone calls with the minor. Suppose you arranged a meeting with a minor without any sexual motivation. In that case, you did not commit the crime of arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes.
Lewd or lascivious behavior includes touching any part of the minor's body, having through their clothes. It also includes causing the minor to touch their own body.
Suppose you go to meet the minor for lewd purposes. PC 288.4 defines the crime of arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes. Also, it imposes enhanced penalties if you actually attended the meeting you arranged at the planned time. Notably, the enhanced penalties will apply even if you never engaged in any sexual activity at the arranged meeting. Simply put, just showing up can trigger enhanced penalties.
What Are the Related Offenses?
Several California crimes are related to Penal Code 288.4 PC. These are often charged in addition to, or instead of, arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes, including the following:
- Penal Code 288 PC - lewd acts with a minor. This law makes it a crime to touch a minor anywhere on their body for sexual purposes. Suppose you arrange a meeting with a minor and then engage in lewd acts with them. In that case, you could face charges for PC 288 lewd acts and PC 288.4 arranging the meeting.
- Penal Code 288.2 - sending harmful material to a minor. This law makes it a crime to send explicit or obscene material to a minor, such as through email or the internet, with the intent to arouse yourself and the minor sexually and to seduce the minor. Many allegations of arranging a meeting with a minor involve allegations that you shared sexually explicit material with them.
- Penal Code 311 PC - child pornography laws. If you possess, develop, duplicate, or exchange obscene material depicting minors engaged in sexual activity, you could face charges for PC 288.4 arranging a meeting with a minor and child porn, which carries harsh penalties as a wobbler or felony.
- Penal Code 261.5 PC - statutory rape. This crime involves engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 18. Suppose you are engaged in an ongoing sexual relationship with a minor. In that case, you could face charges of PC 288.4, arranging a meeting, and PC 261.5, statutory rape.
- Penal Code 288.3 PC - contacting a minor to commit a felony.
- Penal Code 288.5 PC - continuous sexual abuse of a child.
- Penal Code 288.7 PC - sex with a child under the age of 10.
What Are the Penalties for PC 288.4?
Suppose you are convicted of violating Penal Code 288.4 PC by arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes. The penalties will depend on the case details and your criminal history, but most cases are misdemeanors with the following penalties:
- Up to one year in county jail,
- A fine of up to $5,000,
- Summary probation.
Suppose you are convicted of felony PC 288.4, arranging to meet a minor for lewd purposes, because you have a previous conviction for a sex crime requiring registration under California's Sex Offender Registration Act. In that case, you are facing the following penalties:
- 16 months, two or three years in a California state prison,
- A fine of up to $10,000,
- Formal felony probation.
PC 288.4 cases will be filed as a felony case if you have a prior sex crime conviction that requires you to register as a sex offender, which includes the following crimes:
- Penal Code 243.4 PC - sexual battery,
- Penal Code 261 PC - rape,
- Penal Code 289 PC - forcible penetration with a foreign object,
- Penal Code 287 PC - oral copulation by force or fear,
- Penal Code 314 - indecent exposure.
Enhanced penalties for going to a meeting
As noted, there are felony penalties for actually going to a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes. In other words, if you show up at the meeting you arranged, the possible enhanced penalties include the following:
- Two, three, or four years in state prison.
- A fine of up to $10,000.
- Formal felony probation.
Will You Have to Register as a Sex Offender?
Suppose you are convicted of arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes. In that case, you will face a registration requirement on California's Sex Offender Registration Act defined under Penal Code 290 PC, as follows:
- A misdemeanor will be classified as a tier-one, with a minimum 10-year registration requirement.
- A felony will be classified as a tier-three, with a lifetime requirement.
Convicted sex offenders who live in California are required to register with the local police of the city or county where they are living. Their registration must be renewed every year within five days of their birthday and every time they move to a new location. PC 290 failure to register as a sex offender can be charged as a separate crime.
Can You Avoid Sex Offender Registration?
Possibly. To avoid the requirement to register as a sex offender, you must either be found not guilty or persuade the prosecutor to let you plead guilty to another sex offense that does not require you to register as a sex offender.
This means your sex crime defense attorney will need to negotiate and convince the prosecutor and judge that you are not a sexual predator and will not likely engage in any similar behavior in the future. When it comes to avoiding a conviction for arranging to meet a minor for sexual purposes, a psychiatrist familiar with these cases will examine and test you.
They must write a favorable report indicating that they are not a threat to children or a threat to repeat this behavior. We also need to get character letters from people who know you to be of good character and can speak to the likelihood of engaging in this sexual behavior again.
Suppose it can be shown that this behavior was an aberration, then you have a fighting chance to avoid sex registration. However, prosecutors and judges in these Penal Code 288 PC cases are ultra-conservative when protecting the general public and children.
What are the Defenses for PC 288.4?
A California sex crime lawyer could use several common legal strategies to fight allegations that you violated Penal Code 288.4 by arranging a meeting with a minor for sexual purposes, as discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that you were not motivated by a sexual interest in children. Recall from above that you can only be guilty of arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes if you were motivated by an abnormal sexual interest in children when you set the meeting. Perhaps we can show you were only lonely and would never have a romantic interest with a minor.
Perhaps we can argue that you did not intend to engage in lewd activity at the meeting. Suppose you are motivated by a sexual interest in the minors; you still cannot be convicted of PC 288.4 arranging to meet a minor for lewd purposes unless you intend to engage in sexual activity at the meeting. Perhaps we can show through the case circumstances, such as the meeting location, that you had no plans to engage in lewd behavior at the meeting.
Perhaps we can argue that you did not know that the person you were meeting was a minor under 18. Maybe we can show evidence that you reasonably believed they were over 18. Likewise, perhaps you are the victim of entrapment, where a police officer behaves in an overzealous manner and persuades you to engage in unlawful behavior you would not have otherwise done.
Entrapment occurs when a law enforcement officer convinces you to commit a crime using pressure, threats, harassment, fraud, or flattery. This often happens during an undercover internet sting operation conducted by police officers posing as minors online who will flirt with people to get them to suggest a meeting.
Perhaps we cast doubt on whether you were going to meet with the minor or whether you would have engaged in any sexual behavior with the subject minor. If problems can be pointed out to the prosecutor, they may consider altering the charge for fear that they will lose the entire case.
For more information about the sex crime of California Penal Code 288.4 PC arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes, contact our California sex crime defense lawyers for a free, confidential consultation. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, CA.
- Will I Go to Jail If Charged with Online Sexual Solicitation?
- Will You Go to Prison for Arranging a Meeting with a Minor?
- How California's Three-Tier System Applies to Sex Crimes
- CALCRIM No. 1125. Arranging a Meeting With Minor
- CALCRIM No. 1126. Going to a Meeting With Minor
- California Penal Code 288.4 PC
- California Penal Code 290 PC