Will I Get Jail Time if I Engage in Online Sexual Solicitation with an Undercover Police Officer in California?
In California, solicitation of a minor is a crime where someone engages in a conversation with a minor and then asks them to meet up for sexual activity.
While there are several statutes that could be used by prosecutors to charge someone with unlawful online sexual solicitation, this type of crime if often called meeting a minor for lewd purposes defined under California Penal Code 288.4 PC.
If you are convicted of this felony crime, it's punishable by up to four years in a California state prison and a requirement to register as a sex offender.
The internet allows people to communicate anonymously and chat rooms are a favorite target of undercover police stings looking for unlawful sexual solicitation.
Law enforcement will set up these stings in an effort to locate and apprehend men who are trying to arrange meetings with minors from chat rooms.
California law enforcement agencies consider these individual's sexual predators and often use overly aggressive and unlawful tactics to catch them.
For more information, our Los Angeles sex crime attorneys will review the most common laws below.
Arranging a Meeting with a Minor for Lewd Purposes – PC 288.4
California Penal Code 288.4 PC makes it a crime to set up a meeting with minor if it's motivated by an unnatural sexual interest in children.
This means just setting up a meeting with a primary purpose to engage in lewd or lascivious conduct could lead criminal charges, even if no sexual activity ever occurred. Penal Code 288.4 PC states:
- “Anyone motivated by an unnatural sexual interest in a child, arranges a meeting with a minor, or whom they believe is a minor, with intent of exposing their genitals or rectal area, or having the child expose theirs, or engages in lewd or lascivious behavior.”
In other words, PC 288.4 makes it illegal to just arrange a meeting with a minor if you are motivated by a sexual interest to engage in sexual conduct. The actual “meeting” does not need to occur.
PC 288.4 arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes is a “wobbler” that can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony.
A misdemeanor conviction carries a sentence of up to a year in the county jail and a fine up to $5,000. A felony conviction carries up to four years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
If you have a prior conviction that required PC 290 sex offender registration, then the case will normally be filed as a felony. The prior convictions include crimes such as:
- Penal Code 261.5 PC statutory rape,
- Penal Code 243.4 PC sexual battery,
- Penal Code 314 PC indecent exposure, and more.
You will also be required to register as a Penal Code 290 PC sex offender, which means annual renewal at the local police station to confirm where you are living.
Your information will be published on the California Megan's Law website where it would show your name, picture, and address on the internet.
Sending Harmful Material to Seduce a Minor – PC 288.2
California Penal Code 288.2 PC makes it a crime to send of distribute harmful material of a sexual nature to a minor, which could occur over the internet or by mail.
Harmful material includes depicting a minor engaged in sexual contact. PC 288.2 states:
- “Anyone who knows, or should have known someone is a minor, knowingly sends by means of electronic communication, or in person, any harmful matter that depicts a minor engaging in sexual conduct with the intent of arousing or gratifying the passions or sexual desires.”
Penal Code 288.2 PC is also a wobbler and a felony conviction carries up to three years in prison and a requirement to register as a sex offender.
Other related California sex crime related to online sexual solicitation include the following:
- Penal Code 288.3 PC – contact minor to commit a felony,
- Penal Code 311 PC – child pornography,
- Penal Code 647.6 PC – child molestation,
- Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts with a minor,
- Penal Code 646.9 PC – cyberstalking.
Undercover Police Officers
This is a very common trap nowadays that undercover police officers are on the internet.
They're chatting with people on a lot of these websites and applications, and basically posing as underage teenage girls and convincing people to set up meetings with them.
Of course, the meting is to engage in some sort of sexual activity, and then of course, they arrest the person and now the person has a criminal case pending against them.
So, if you or a loved one is charged with an online solicitation involving an undercover police officer, I think it's crucial that you get an attorney right away because you're definitely facing jail time. You're potentially facing prison time, depending on what you agreed to.
It's just amazing to me how somebody goes onto a website that says everybody has to be at least 18 years old, somehow, they start chatting with a person, set things up to meet with them, then all of a sudden, the undercover police officer tells them they're a 15-year old girl.
At that point, most people, you would think, would say, I can't do anything with you because you're underage, but instead, a lot of my clients are agreeing to meet with the person.
That's where you get into problems. Now, prosecutors are viewing you as somebody who is a predator — who's looking to try to be with someone who is a 15- or 16-year-old girl and it's just outlandish some of the things that the prosecutors are seeing that these agents are doing and people are accepting it.
I just shake my head that I can't believe that people agree to certain things and put themselves in a certain position that they probably normally wouldn't do.
What Factors Are Prosecutors Looking At?
I think you're definitely looking at custody time. You're looking at potentially having to register as a sex offender, but I think it's less serious in my opinion than if you actually are dealing with a 15-year old girl and you set up a meeting with that 15-year old girl and law enforcement gets their hands on you.
That, I think they perceive as much more dangerous because now you're actually dealing with a real person.
Even though there is an argument that you think it's a real person when you're talking to the undercover police officer, but somehow, the prosecutors seem to be a bit more lenient, especially if you don't have any criminal record and no prior sex-related offenses that have been alleged against you.
Defending Online Sexual Solicitation Cases
No matter how you slice it though, if you engage in some sort of conversation with an undercover police officer talking about any type of sexual activity with a minor, you should immediately pick up the phone and discuss the case with a criminal defense lawyer.
I've handled numerous sex-related offenses, and I've been involved since police officers were entrapping people on the internet, and that's actually not that long ago.
You have to know how to defend these cases, and if they have the goods on your client and they're going to be able to prove the case, you also have to be able to negotiate these cases.
So, you've come to the right place. Pick up the phone. Make the call. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you.
Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us at (213) 542-0979.