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Penal Code 288.4 PC | Arranging a Meeting with a Minor for Lewd Purposes

Arranging a Meeting with a Minor for Lewd Purposes – What You Need to Know About California Penal Code 288.4

California Penal Code 288.4 makes it illegal to arrange a meeting with a minor under 18 for lewd purposes or to engage in sexual activity. This law is meant to protect minors from adults who would take advantage of them sexually.

Arranging a meeting with a minor can lead to serious criminal charges. But the law also recognizes that sometimes there are misunderstandings or entrapment is involved.

This article will explain what the law says, what the penalties are, and what defenses you can raise if accused of violating PC 288.4.

What Does California Law Say About Arranging to Meet a Minor?

Penal Code 288.4 has two main parts that can lead to criminal charges:

  • Arranging a meeting with a minor under 18 or someone you believe is a minor, for lewd purposes (PC 288.4(a)).
  • Actually going to the meeting you arranged (PC 288.4(b)).

Let’s break these down further.

Arranging the Meeting (PC 288.4(a))

To be guilty of arranging a meeting with a minor under PC 288.4(a), the prosecution has to prove:

  • You arranged a meeting with a minor or someone you believed was a minor.
  • When arranging the meeting, you were motivated by an abnormal sexual interest in children.
  • You intended at the meeting to either:
    • Expose your genitals or buttocks to the minor,
    • Have the minor expose themselves to you,
    • Engage in otherwise lewd behavior.[1]

Some examples of how someone could violate this law:

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  • A 35-year-old man meets a 16-year-old girl online and arranges to meet her at a park to engage in sexual activity.
  • A 25-year-old woman starts chatting with a profile she believes belongs to a 14-year old boy and tries to arrange a meeting to expose herself.
  • A 40-year-old man using a fake social media profile pretends to be a teenager and sets up a meeting with a girl he believes is 13 so he can expose himself or engage in inappropriate touching.

The key is that the adult has to be motivated by an unnatural sexual interest in children and intend lewd acts at the planned meeting. Just arranging to meet with a minor is not enough.

Actually Going to the Meeting (PC 288.4(b))

If you actually show up to the meeting you arranged, you can face additional penalties under PC 288.4(b). The prosecution has to prove:

  • You violated PC 288.4(a) by arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes.
  • You went to the arranged meeting place at the arranged time.[2]

Some examples:

  • A man meets a girl online he believes is 15 and arranges to meet her at a hotel to have sex. He shows up at the hotel at the planned time.
  • A woman sets up a meeting with a boy she believes is 16 and exchanges sexually explicit messages about acts she wants to perform on him. She arrives at the agreed location for the meeting.

Showing up at the meeting shows you fully intended to follow through with the lewd acts discussed. It is not just talk anymore.

What Are the Penalties for Violating Penal Code 288.4?

The penalties you face for arranging a meeting with a minor depend on the exact violation:

Penalties for Arranging the Meeting (PC 288.4(a))

Arranging a meeting with a minor under PC 288.4(a) is a misdemeanor. Potential penalties include:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $5,000[3]
  • Mandatory sex offender registration for at least 10 years[4]

However, the charge becomes a felony with state prison time if either:

  • You have a prior conviction for a sex offense requiring registration, or
  • You actually went to the meeting.[5]

We will discuss the felony penalties next.

Penalties for Going to the Meeting (PC 288.4(b))

Going to a meeting with a minor under PC 288.4(b) elevates the crime to a felony. Potential penalties include:

  • 16 months, 2 or 3 years in state prison
  • A fine up to $10,000
  • Mandatory lifetime sex offender registration[6]

In addition to jail or prison time, the court can order probation, counseling, community service, and other terms.

Because this charge requires sex offender registration, it can seriously impact your life and future. You want to avoid a conviction if at all possible.

Legal Defenses Against Charges of Arranging to Meet a Minor

When facing charges under PC 288.4, it is critical to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. A skilled attorney can often get charges reduced or dismissed by raising legal defenses like:

You Did Not Think You Were Meeting a Minor

If you did not know or have reason to believe you were communicating with a minor, then you lacked the criminal intent required under this law.

For example, perhaps you met someone online and they convincingly lied to you that they were over 18. Or maybe they used photos of an adult.

As long as you had a reasonable, good faith belief the person was an adult, then you should not be convicted under PC 288.4.

No Lewd Intent

Recall that to violate PC 288.4, you need to have arranged the meeting with the intent to engage in lewd acts with the minor.

If you had no sexual interest and did not discuss or plan any inappropriate sexual activity, then you are not guilty of this offense.

For example, perhaps you legitimately wanted to meet a minor for innocent reasons, like offering music lessons or tutoring.


Entrapment is a defense that claims the police or their agents improperly lured or coerced you into committing a crime you otherwise would not have.

With PC 288.4 charges, a common scenario is the police posing online as a minor to bait adults into arranging meetings. Or they have an informant do this.

If the “minor” repeatedly tried persuading you to meet despite your hesitance, you may have a solid entrapment defense.

Proving entrapment can get the charges against you dropped.

False Accusations

Sometimes minors, informants, or even police officers fabricate accusations of arranging lewd meetings. Teenagers have been known to lie to get adults in trouble out of anger or revenge.

Your lawyer can investigate the credibility of the accuser and challenge their version of events. They may be able to uncover communication records, alibi witnesses, or other evidence to show the accusation is false.

Related Offenses

Arranging to meet a minor is often charged alongside other sex crimes, such as:

  • Lewd Acts with a Child – Committing lewd acts with a minor under 14.
  • Sending Harmful Material to Seduce Minor – Knowingly distributing harmful matter to a minor to seduce them.
  • Contacting Minor to Commit Felony – Contacting a minor with intent to commit child pornography, molestation, or other sex felony.
  • Indecent Exposure – Exposing your genitals to others in public.
  • Child Annoyance – Disturbing or irritating a child under 18.

The penalties for these offenses depend on the circumstances but may include fines, jail or prison time, and sex offender registration.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can advise which charges are most serious in your case and build the strongest defense. Often charges can be reduced or dismissed through effective negotiation.

FAQs About Arranging to Meet a Minor (PC 288.4)

Here are some common questions about arranging meetings with minors for lewd purposes:

Can I go to jail for chatting online with a minor?

Generally not. Simply communicating with a minor is not illegal. But once conversations turn sexual or you arrange to meet for sexual activity, you could face charges like contacting a minor to commit a felony or arranging a lewd meeting.

What if I was caught in a police sting operation?

Sting operations are common in PC 288.4 cases. This is when police pose as minors online to lure adults into arranging meetings. A skilled lawyer may be able to argue entrapment if the police pressured you into actions you otherwise would not have taken.

Can I be charged with this even if I didn’t go to the meeting?

Yes, even just arranging or planning a meeting for sexual purposes can lead to criminal charges under PC 288.4(a). However, the penalties are less severe than if you show up to the meeting under PC 288.4(b).

What if I was falsely accused?

Unfortunately false accusations happen, especially in the digital world where people can pretend to be someone they aren’t. An attorney can investigate the evidence to show the accuser is not credible and the allegations are fabricated.

Can I get the charges dismissed through a diversion program?

For first-time offenders, it may be possible to get charges dismissed through a diversion program like deferred entry of judgment. This involves meeting certain conditions like counseling in exchange for avoiding a conviction. An experienced lawyer can advise if this is an option.

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