Internet Sex Crimes

Internet Sex Crimes Attorney

There are several laws that relate to sex crimes committed using the internet but law enforcement agencies are concentrating on sex offenders who seduce minors in internet chat rooms.  California Penal Code section 288.3 makes it a crime for an adult to communicate with a minor for the purposes of engaging in certain sex acts, including communication over the phone or internet.  California Penal Code section 288.4 makes it a crime for an adult to arrange a meeting with a minor for the purposes of engaging in lewd and lascivious behavior. 

These crimes are the subject of the famous Dateline show “To Catch a Predator”.  These laws prohibit adults from communicating with minors in internet chat rooms in order to engage in certain sexual acts with the minors.

In a typical sex offender case of this nature, the defendant will engage in chat room discussions with a young girl who explicitly mentions that she is under 18.  Sexual communications between the two will occur culminating with the young girl inviting the defendant to her house.  When the defendant arrives and enters the home, he is first confronted by Chris Hansen, the host of the TV show “To Catch a Predator”.  After Chris Hansen interviews the defendant and the defendant leaves the home, the police are waiting outside to take the defendant into custody.

In some of these “To Catch a Predator” cases, the young girl is fictional.  It is an adult woman pretending to be a young girl in order to expose sexual predators.  Violations of these crimes do not require that there actually be a young girl.  A defendant can be convicted of Penal Code sections 288.2, 288.3 or 288.4 for communicating with a minor about sex acts, even if the minor never existed.

Elements of Internet Sex Crimes

In order for a defendant to be convicted of a violation of Penal Code section 288.3, contacting a minor through the internet for the purpose of engaging in certain sexual acts, the People must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. The defendant contacted or communicated with a minor;

2. When the defendant did so, he intended to commit (one of the enumerated offenses) involving that minor;

3. The defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a minor.

In order for a defendant to be convicted of a violation of Penal Code section 288.4, arranging a meeting with a minor for a lewd purpose, the People must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. The defendant arranged a meeting with a minor or a person he believed to be a minor;

2. When the defendant did so, he was motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children;

3. At that meeting, the defendant intended to engage in lewd or lascivious behavior.

A minor is person under the age of 18.

Defenses to Internet Sex Crimes

Belief that the alleged victim is not a minor is a defense for certain sex crimes, including statutory rape.  It is up to the individual judge to determine whether this defense applies to prosecutions for violations of Penal Code section 288.3.

Another defense to internet sex crimes includes showing that the defendant did not intend to commit a sexual act or engage in lewd or lascivious behavior with the alleged minor.

Sentencing for Internet Sex Crimes

A violation of Penal Code section 288.3 is always a felony, but the maximum punishment depends on the underlying crime that the defendant intended to commit with the alleged minor.  If a defendant has been previously convicted of a violation of Penal Code section 288.3, then a new conviction will have an additional and consecutive term of five years imprisonment in the state prison.

A violation of Penal Code section 288.4 is usually a misdemeanor but if a defendant has been previously convicted of a crime that requires sex offender registration under Penal Code section 290, then the a violation of Penal Code section 288.4 is a felony with a maximum punishment of three years state prison.

In addition to any jail time or prison time, a defendant who is convicted of either of these crimes must register as a lifetime sex offender pursuant to Penal Code section 290


Other Consequences

Not only can an internet sex conviction lead to criminal penalties and lifetime registration as a sex offender, but it can also have drastic employment, licensing and immigration consequences.  Any internet sex crime is considered a crime of moral turpitude.  Having an internet sex conviction can prevent a person from finding a job or lead to a person being fired from their current job.  Furthermore, many professions that require licensing from a state board, such as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, accountants, contractors, teachers, real estate agents and stock brokers, all require background checks.  A professional who has an internet sex conviction on their record risks losing their professional license, or never acquiring it in the first place.  In addition to registering as a sex offender for life, the most severe impact of an internet sex conviction involves immigration consequences.  Non-citizens who are permanent residents, with a green card, or temporary visitors, with a student visa or work visa, will be denied admission or naturalization or even deported, with a internet sex conviction on their record.

The Right Lawyer

Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer will be the most important decision someone can make when facing criminal internet sex crimes.  Many people who face internet sex crimes are good people who made a mistake or exercised poor judgment.  There are also some people who have been wrongfully accused of an internet sex crime, based on a misunderstanding or false evidence.  You need an attorney who will listen to your side of the story carefully, who will evaluate the evidence thoroughly, who will negotiate with the judge and the District Attorney’s office skillfully, and who will fight in trial aggressively.  You need attorney Fred Thiagarajah. 

As a former Deputy District Attorney, Fred Thiagarajah has the negotiating skills and trial experience necessary to get the best results for his clients, for criminal cases and immigration consequences.   Fred Thiagarajah has worked in the Sexual Assault unit of the District Attorney’s office and uses his specialized knowledge of sex crimes to defend his clients, including those accused of internet sex crimes.  For an example of his work, please see his case results and read his client testimonials.  With offices in Newport Beach, Long Beach, Riverside, Murrieta and Rancho Cucamonga, Fred Thiagarajah's team has criminal defense experience in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

Fred Thiagarajah – The Right Lawyer.  The Right Result. 

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