California Internet Sex Crimes Lawyer
In the age of constant connectivity, a great deal of criminal conduct has shifted online. However, the ambiguity of the internet does not make these activities any less unlawful. The method of conducting certain offenses may have changed, but the law has not. Instead, law enforcement agencies are adapting their investigative techniques to seek out individuals who engage in criminal behavior online, particularly when it comes to internet sex crimes. The issue with some of these new approaches is that they are not as reliable as the authorities would have everyone believe.
When you face charges for a sex crime you allegedly committed online, you need to contact an experienced and knowledgeable sex crime lawyer. At Silver Law Firm, we will thoroughly review your case, including how law enforcement gathered the evidence of your supposed involvement, and build you the strongest defense available under the law.
Call us at (510) 995-0000 to schedule an initial consultation.
You Will Be Charged with a Crime If You Solicit Prostitution Online
Per Penal Code (PC) §647(b), California prohibits the solicitation of prostitution, which entails the exchange of a sex act for money or something else of value. In the modern age, solicitation for prostitution does not always happen on street corners and darkened alleys. Instead, individuals go online and search various websites for illicit services. Common sites known for this activity are Craigslist and Backpage.com.
For prosecutors to charge you with solicitation, they do not need to prove that you actually handed over compensation for a sex act. Rather, solicitation is the attempt to create an agreement for exchanging compensation for sex, or the apparent entrance into such an agreement. Prosecutors only need to prove you offered or agreed to participate in prostitution in some way. Nowadays, this often means copies of online exchanges. It could be comments on a messaging board, messages through a website, instant messages, and emails.
Solicitation is charged as a misdemeanor in California. If you are convicted of solicitation for the first time, then you face time in jail for up to six months and fined up to $1,000.
Solicitation of a Minor Online Can Lead to Criminal Charges
Soliciting a minor online can encompass a number of crimes. The specific offense you are charged with depends on the facts of the case, including the purpose of your online communications with the minor, the age of the minor, and the result of the communications.
Luring or Attempting to Lure a Minor Who is 14 Years or Younger (Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor)
Prosecutors can charge you with luring or attempting to lure a minor who is 14 years or younger under California PC §272 (b)(1). You could be found guilty of this if:
- You are 21 years or older and knowingly communicate with a stranger, who is a minor under the age of 14.
- You know or should reasonably know the minor’s age
- You intend to persuade or lure the minor away from home or their guardian’s location, without consent and with the intention of avoiding the minor’s parents or guardians
This offense is charged as a misdemeanor and the solicitation does not have to be for sexual contact. Any purpose you have for unlawfully luring a child away from where they should be without the consent of their parent or guardian can lead to criminal charges.
Soliciting a Minor for Lewd Purposes
Under California PC §288.4, you can be charged with soliciting a minor for lewd purposes if:
- You are motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in a child and arrange a meeting with a minor, or a person you believe to be a minor, for the purpose of exposing your genitals or anus
- Have the child perform the act or engage in lewd or lascivious behavior
If prosecutors find you’ve engaged in the above act, they will charge you with a misdemeanor or felony. If there is evidence you spoke with a minor online about meeting them to have sex, prosecutors will charge you with this crime. If your actions go further and you have any sexual contact with the minor, you will face a different criminal offense.
If you made the arrangement or attempted to make an arrangement to meet and engage in sexual contact with a minor, you face up to one year in county and a large fine. If you went to the arranged meeting place at the prescribed time, you will be charged with a felony, punishable by two, three, or five years in prison and a fine.
Contacting a Minor with Intent to Commit a Felony
Online solicitations can also lead to a charge of contacting a minor with intent to commit a felony. Per California PC §288.3, if you communicated with or tried to contact a minor when you knew or had reason to know they were a minor, and you did so with the intent to commit a certain felony involving that child, then you will be charged with a crime and punished by the term of imprisonment prescribed for the offense you intended to commit.
The felonies prescribed in the statute involve:
- Forcible sexual penetration with an object
- Child endangerment
- Lewd or lascivious acts with a child
- Sending harmful matter to a minor
- Distribution of child pornography
- Possession of child pornography
Sexting Becomes Illegal When It Involves a Minor
A significant portion of relationships nowadays happen online, and there may be situations that involve the sending or receiving of sexually explicit messages, photos, and videos over the Internet or through text. If you are an adult doing so with another adult, then this is likely legal and you cannot face any charges or criminal consequences. However, if you send messages to a minor or you send photos or videos of sexual content involving minors, then you can be charged with a crime.
Based on California PC §288.2, prosecutors will charge you with harmful matter sent to seduce a minor. According to the statute, you can be charged if you intentionally send an individual you know or believe to be a minor any harmful matter depicting one or more minors engaging in sexual conduct with the intent to arouse, appeal to, or gratify your or the minor’s sexual desires, with the purpose of engaging in sexual activity – or with the purpose of touching an intimidate body part of the minor – then you face misdemeanor or felony charges. A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail while a felony is punishable by two, three, or five years in prison.
You can be charged with the same offense if you send harmful matter, but it does not depict minors. This is a wobbler. As a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to one year in county jail. As a felony, you can be punished with 16 months, or two or three years in prison.
If you send matter that depicts minors in sexual contexts to another adult, prosecutors will charge you with distributing or possessing to distribute obscene matter showing sexual conduct by a minor (California PC §311.1), or possession of child pornography under California PC §311.11.
When you knowingly possess or control matter, such as film, photos, or electronically-stored information that depicts minors engaging in or simulating sexual conduct, prosecutors will charge you with a misdemeanor or felony. For a misdemeanor conviction, you face up to one year in county jail, and a fine up to $1,000. If you’re convicted of a felony, you could spend 16 months, or two or three years in prison, and fines reaching $10,000.
Most Sex Crime Convictions Require Sex Offender Registration
If you are convicted of an internet sex crime in California, you will likely be required to register as a sex offender. California is one of only a few states that requires lifetime sex offender registration for particular sexual offenses. A tiered system that permits low-level offenders from petitioning for removal after 10 or 20 years goes into effect in 2021.
A Tier One crime requires registration for 10 years. This is for many misdemeanor sex offenses. Tier Two requires 20 years of registration is for mid-level sex crimes. Tier Three is for the most serious sex offenses and requires lifetime registration.
Silver Law Firm Has Experience Defending Against Internet Sex Crimes
When prosecutors charge you with a crime that allegedly took place over the internet or was facilitated online, you need to work with an attorney who understands how electronic data will be used against you. Elliot Silver is that attorney. The more the prosecution relies on evidence that is not entirely sound, the greater the opportunity to poke holes in their case.
To learn more about the potential defenses you can use when charged with an internet sex crime, contact Silver Law Firm at (510) 995-0000 to schedule an appointment.