Lewd Acts with a Minor in California - Penal Code 288 PC
This is one of the charges that the police, prosecutors, judges, and society frown upon to a high degree. There are different levels of severity, depending on what you are alleged to have done and the age difference of the parties. This is a widespread charge, believe it or not, in Los Angeles County, and you must get an attorney who has experience handling these types of cases.
California Penal Code 261.5 defines the crime of statutory rape. Penal Code 288(a) defines the offense of lewd acts with a minor. Penal Code 288.3 defines the crime of contacting a minor to commit a felony.
Suppose the subject person is close in age to the alleged victim and the sexual contact was consensual. In that case, the person will be in a much better position, and the case will be much easier to deal with than a circumstance where the victim is underage, has a vast age difference, and uses force.
Find yourself in a situation where you are either being investigated or charged with a sex-related offense related to sexual contact with a minor. It would help if you got to an attorney immediately. Say nothing, do nothing and let your attorney dictate your next steps.
It is almost always unwise for a person to deal with the police or prosecutors without the benefit of an attorney when it comes to a sex crime case. The police and prosecutors are in the competitive business of ferreting out crime, and when it comes to a sex crime case, they have a one-track mind that does not have any mercy for someone they think is involved with this subject matter.
What About Chat Room Charges?
This is a relatively easy question to answer…of course, the answer is yes. However, authorities sometimes have one problem: proving who the person is actually on the chat.
Law enforcement typically poses as an underage person and attempts to engage persons in the chat room to engage in illegal activity. Whether meeting face-to-face to engage in sex or sending pictures back and forth, the police have tactics to try and trap unwary chatters poised to engage in illegal activity.
Once law enforcement believes that something illegal has taken place or believes that the person on the other end of the computer has illicit photos or video on their computer, they will figure out whose IP address is involved and pay that person a visit in person with a search warrant.
One of the biggest weapons the police typically have is the element of surprise and authority. They successfully get people to incriminate themselves when they show up at their homes in force with guns drawn.
In my experience, most people are so rattled and surprised that they tell the police everything they need to know to prosecute them. Suppose you have been arrested and given a statement. In that case, your best bet is to find a seasoned local criminal defense attorney and hire them to begin turning the tide in your favor and taking the necessary damage control steps to deal with your complex legal situation.
If you go into a chat room to be involved in any illegal activity, you play “Russian Roulette” with your rights and freedom. Law enforcement knows that many individuals who prey on those under 18 go into these chat rooms.
I have seen clients chatting with FBI agents and giving them all they need to prosecute them. I have also seen parents of young minors finding conversations between clients and their children on the computer.
The parents then alert law enforcement, who traces the offender's IP address and later shows up at their home armed with a search warrant and seize all their computers, phones, etc. Chat rooms are like shooting fish in a barrel for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. In today's modern world, law enforcement is becoming more sophisticated in pursuing the criminal activity.
Can the Police Lie to You in a Chat Room?
Yes. The police lie in chat rooms about who they are and why they are there. One significant objective that I see them trying to accomplish is to get the person they are talking to out of the chat room to meet them so they can show their level of danger level to the public and arrest them for a more severe crime than one related to a chat room conversation.
The police lie all the time in the pursuit of trying to catch those people they deem as sexual predators. They make up stories and use images to catch their prey, and they will even pursue someone they believe is predisposed to commit a sex-related offense inside or outside a chat room.
Under most circumstances, their tactics are permitted because they fall under the auspices of trying to do their job. However, there are circumstances where the police go too far in the pursuit of trying to catch what they believe are sex offenders.
Suppose the person they are talking to is not predisposed to commit a sex offense. It is the police who initiate everything and create a crime where none would generally have existed. In that case, it is the police who start everything and commit a crime where none would generally have lived; this is a scenario where the entrapment defense can be used quite effectively.
An excellent example of creating a crime on the Internet where none would have existed is when the police tell a person on Craig's List that if they bring ecstasy to meet with a woman, the guy will get lucky. This will sometimes cause the guy to get a drug he would have never messed with to be with a woman. I have seen many scenarios like this one and have successfully defended them.
Chat rooms are tools people may use to draw minors into sexual engagements. Using chat rooms to distribute or display sexually arousing material to a minor is illegal.
Most people are caught through government sting operations, where undercover law enforcement poses as a minor and sees the perpetrator committing a sex crime through the use of chat rooms.
Facing such charges can be intimidating and also humiliating. If you or someone you know is facing such orders, we, as your attorneys, will be aggressive and persistent in the defense strategies we use to get results in your favor.
Evaluating the Evidence Against You in PC 288 Cases
I guess the first thing we're going to consider is whether we can defend the case. In other words, can they prove the case against you? Are you going to take the case to a jury trial and let a jury decide whether you're innocent or guilty, or will we handle it somehow?
That's one of the biggest things we're going to talk about because many times if it involves a child, we're in a position where we may not have the most solid witness from the prosecution standpoint.
What the prosecutors try to do is try to get other corroborating evidence to support the child's version of what happened if that's a situation we're facing.
I've had cases where an adult walks in on another adult doing something with a child, and now you've got the child and the other adult. So, it depends on the circumstances of what we're talking about. In other words:
- What exactly happened?
- What type of witnesses do they have?
- Can they prove the case?
Another significant factor in these Penal Code 288 PC cases, depending on the circumstances, is that we will assess if there's any medical evidence. In other words, will they be able to get a medical doctor to come in and testify that after they've viewed the child, they believe that something sexual was done to the child?
Who Is Considered To Be A Child?
In California, anyone under 18 is considered a child for a sex crime. There are some states in which the period is lower than 18. Several sex crimes fall into different categories based on the child's age. The younger the individual is, the more likely the perpetrator of the sex crime will be sent to prison.
For example, if someone is under the age of 14 and there is some setback, then specific life sentences could apply. If the sex act was forced, then the charges are life offenses. This gives the prosecutor much bargaining power because much higher offers will be put on the table with a life hanging over someone's head.
Several factors aggravate sex crime charges involving children, one of the biggest being the child's age; the younger the child, the more likely the perpetrator will be sent to jail for a long time.
The next factor is the type of activity itself, such as touching or intercourse. Any act involving violent force or injury to a child is probably the worst and will carry the most severe punishments. The perpetrator's prior criminal record will also be considered, mainly if it involves acts of sexual deviance.
If the police contact someone regarding a child sexual abuse case, they should not agree to speak with them. Instead, they should set up a meeting with an attorney and prepare a list of questions and relevant information.
They should be honest with the attorney and tell them everything they know, even if they do not hire the attorney; whatever is said will be protected by the attorney-client privilege. An attorney will contact the investigator on the suspect's behalf and inquire about the investigation.
The attorney will then be able to go over everything with the suspect. Under certain circumstances, an attorney may have the suspect or defendant join the conversation with the investigator. However, providing the investigator with a statement is not a good idea in most cases. This is because words can be twisted, perceived as incriminating, and used against the person who spoke them.
Without the assistance of a criminal defense attorney who handles sex crimes, an individual who has been accused of a sex crime would likely have a difficult time defending themselves. These cases often refer to “he said, she said” situations, but the prosecutors will need evidence to convict someone. Once a skilled defense attorney has all the information about a case, they strategize and develop the best defense method.
There is a statute of limitations on all sex crimes in California, but it depends upon the age of the involved child. If the child was young enough, the statute of limitations might not begin until the authorities find out about the allegation. This allows prosecutors and law enforcement to go back in time and capture people.
If someone is being accused of a sex crime that was alleged several years in the past, they should speak to an attorney about whether or not the statute of limitations applies.
Penalties for Having Sex With a Minor in California
Having sex with a minor, often referred to as statutory rape, is a severe offense and can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. Penalties for misdemeanor statutory rape consist of probation, a year in jail, and $1,000 in fines. A felony conviction can result in probation, up to 4 years in state prison, and $10,000 fines.
There are defenses to assert on your behalf if you happen to be charged with having sex with a minor, and our sex crime defense lawyers are here to make sure that we claim any defenses that can be asserted.
We are aggressive in our fight for you, and our lawyers in Los Angeles place every effort to get you the best possible results.
As your sex crime defense lawyer, our duty to you is to use all our skills, knowledge, and experience to protect your legal rights. We understand how devastating and embarrassing it can be to be charged with a sex crime, and we truly do work hard for our clients to get them favorable results. To convict a suspect of Sex with a Minor, the government must prove that:
- The suspect had sexual intercourse with the other person. AND
- The parties were not married at the time.
- The suspect was at least 21 years old, and the other person was under the age of 16 at the time of intercourse OR
- At the time of intercourse, the other person was under 18 and more or less than three years younger than the suspect.
If the suspect was under three years older than the other party, yet the other party was under 18, this crime is charged as a misdemeanor. A genuine, good faith belief that the other party was over 18 is a defense to these crimes, and the government must prove that this is not the case.
Defenses for Penal Code 288 Lewd Acts with a Minor Charges
That gives you a pretty good feel for the type of evidence used in these types of cases to prove them. If we're going to do a jury trial, we're going to do a problem where we set it up:
- you're going to be prepared to testify;
- we'll get any applicable witnesses, and
- we'll get ready to challenge the credibility of any witnesses against you.
Once we get past that, if we try to resolve the case, we're going to look at what type of factors the prosecutor and judge would consider not sending you to prison?
How can we get you probation? We'll get some character letters that talk about you, who you are, and what you've done for the community, and if you have a family, we'll let them know about that.
Also, we'll probably get a report from a psychiatrist to assess you as a person and see why you did this and whether you might do it again because that's their most significant concern in these cases when they consider giving somebody a chance and probation. When we do that, we'll probably also get a Static 99 report, a generalized test to assess whether or not you might be a recidivist and whether or not you might get involved with something like this again.
If they think you're going to do this again based on what you did in this case or a record you might have, they're going to send you to prison; there's no question about it unless you fight the case and win.
So, if you need help, you've come to the right place. Let me put my experience to work for you. Pick up the phone. Ask to speak to Ron Hedding. We'll have a confidential meeting, and I'll do everything to help.
Hedding Law Firm is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm located in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact our office for a free case consultation at (213) 542-0979.